Happy Easter Sunday everyone!
In case you missed it, The Smile Project is reinstating #ServiceSunday in a big way. Each week I have been picking organizations or individuals who are making a difference in the world and telling you why you should care about them.
This week, I’m going to tell you about a youth-led non profit who is making strides to reduce the educational gap and make homework supplies available for all students. Ever think you’re too young to make a difference? Riley Joy Gantt started this journey at age 10. Without further ado, allow me to share her story.
Organization: Rainbow Pack
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion: give me a “Happiness is!”
Riley: Happiness is.. when you make another person smile.
Liz: Tell me a little bit about your organization
Riley: I founded Rainbow Pack after a service learning trip to a school in Pacoima, CA. I was working with some of the students and one of the little girls at the table said that she wanted a box of the “skinny crayons” but her mom said she couldn't afford it. This broke my heart. I could not believe that there was this little girl, in kindergarten, who did not have something as basic crayons. My mom and I then went and talked to the social worker at this school who told us that this issue was much bigger than just this little girl and much bigger than just crayons. Many of the students at this school lacked all basic school supplies, from backpacks to pencils. Because of this, these students had decreased self-esteem, class participation, and they could not complete their homework or keep up in school. To solve this, Rainbow Pack is dedicated to providing elementary school students with the supplies they need to be successful learners regardless of economic circumstances. Over the past 5 years, Rainbow Pack has given out over 9,500 backpacks full of grade appropriate school supplies. This year our goal is to give out 5,000 more.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Riley: The driving force behind what I do with Rainbow Pack is honestly just how much I care about the community we work in (Pacoima, CA). Anytime we get to a rough patch and things aren't going well I just ask myself “Why am I doing this?” To answer this, I remind myself of all of the teachers and principals who have told us about how much Rainbow Pack impacts their students lives. We recently put out a survey where we asked teachers and principals whether the supplies we give are useful and if they would add anything or take away anything. Another section of the survey asked the teachers and principals to say if the statement: "I have students who would not have been able to complete their homework if they had not received a Rainbow Pack" was true or false. 86% said that this statement was true.
We then asked if there had been an increase in things like self-esteem and class preparedness in the students after receiving Rainbow Packs. 93% of principals and teachers surveyed report that after receiving Rainbow Packs their students show improved self-esteem. 95% of principals and teachers surveyed report that in class preparedness increased after their students received a Rainbow Pack.
Liz: What does “service” mean to you?
Riley: Service to me means providing a “service” to someone that would not normally have it. So for us that is providing homework supplies. For other organizations it is things like food or clothes.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Riley: It seems like so many people can relate to the things that Rainbow Pack does whether it’s a teacher they know or a student or they themselves that went through the same thing. The best way for people to get involved is to create their very own fundraising page for Rainbow Pack.
Go to the donate tab and click the “DONATE NOW” button. This will take you to our fundraising page and if you hit “BECOME A FUNDRAISER” it will help you create your own fundraising page super quickly. It is fun, easy, simple, and very personal. You get to put your own goal, your own description about why Rainbow Pack is important to you and why you are having this fundraiser for us. You can really make it yours.
This concludes my fifth #ServiceSunday. Thanks for allowing me to share another impactful organization with you. Make sure to check out what Riley and her team are doing by following them on Twitter and Facebook or by sharing the website with a friend. Today is Easter Sunday and an amazing time to be spent with family and loved ones. Don’t underestimate your little cousin or nephew. Riley is only 15 years old and look at the impact she has had on her community. You are never too young or too old to make a difference, and you are also never too young or old to encourage the love of giving and service in the next generation.
As for me, I’ll see you next Sunday as I highlight another phenomenal example of humankind.
Looking to nominate an individual or organization that you know? Reach out to The Smile Project on social media or by filling out the contact form here.
Liz: Bonus Question! Do you have a favorite quote?
“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”