WCA, Tlingit & Haida and Legion distribute back-to-school essentials

Last Friday and Saturday, WCA, Tlingit & Haida and the American Legion distributed backpacks and other school supplies to help prepare the community's youth for the academic year.

A long line of students and families snaked out of the WCA Cultural Center on Friday morning, Aug. 18, as parents and children geared up for the task of backpack selection.

"This is an important program to make sure that we're supporting our children and also our tribal families with school essentials," said Tribal Administrator Esther Aaltséen Reese. "It takes the pressure off the families because things are just getting more and more expensive." The program "(gives) parents the option and the ability to put funds elsewhere."

Susan Neff, who is entering the eighth grade, didn't have many stipulations for the backpack she would select - her top priority was "that it's not an ugly color." She is looking forward to the social aspects of the school year, since it allows her to "hang out with my friends in school without having to find time to socialize out of school," she said.

Trevyn Gillen had his eye on a Nike Elite or Jordan backpack since they "look the best and they fit the most stuff," he said. His favorite part of the school year is basketball season.

The Tlingit & Haida Central Council and the Wrangell Cooperative Association collaborated on the program, which distributed over 130 backpacks. They ordered some of the backpacks through Indigenous-owned Wrangell business 56° North and others online.

"I just think it's so heartwarming to watch the kids and how excited they are over the backpacks," Reese added. "I think they're the best backpacks we've ever had. They're absolutely lovely."

The American Legion also has an annual back-to-school supply program, which provides for families that aren't eligible to receive backpacks from Tlingit & Haida and the WCA. On Saturday, Aug. 19, dozens of kids filtered through the Legion Hall and made their selections from tables of notebooks, lunchboxes, backpacks and other academic essentials.

"WCA has their program, which is for only tribal members," explained Marilyn Mork of the Legion, who helped organize the distribution effort. "We feel like there's a lot of kids who could use the same service that don't qualify for that."

The Legion has been offering school supplies for three years now. Many of the items are donated by Legion members and businesses like IGA, but others are purchased by the organization. In the past, Tlingit & Haida has even chipped in, sending over a box of supplies for distribution to non-tribal members. "That was a nice help," said Mork.


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