SRU student goes back to (elementary) school…with supplies

boxes of crayons and markers

Kayla Calloway's school supplies drive provided a variety of crayons, glue and erasers to students at a pair of Pittsburgh area K-6 schools.

Feb. 5, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Kayla Calloway isn't concerned with having the latest smartphone or the hottest pair of high heels on campus. Rather, the Slippery Rock University sustainable management major from Pittsburgh is more concerned with making sure her priorities are in order.

"People my age care too much about the wrong things," said Calloway. "We need to be less concerned with having the coolest this and the newest that, because at the end of the day, those things don't make a difference.

kayla calloway

   CALLOWAY

"What will is providing the children - those that we will hand this world down to - with every opportunity we can. If they're struggling, we need to lend a hand."

Calloway is walking the talk. Last summer she founded "Kayla Calloway's Annual School Supplies Drive" to benefit elementary students in the Wilkinsburg School District, a small, urban public school district near Pittsburgh. The district, which encompasses approximately three square miles, operates Kelly and Turner Elementary (K-6) schools.

"My parents were always able to provide for me," said Calloway, "but I went to school with quite a few kids whose parents weren't able to do that. I understand how they felt back then and I wanted to do something to help those that are in that situation now.

"If I'm able to lend a hand, why shouldn't I? Not only does it help the children, but it helps the schools, the teachers and takes a small amount of burden off the parents."

With a lofty goal of $10,000, Calloway started a GoFundMe page to solicit donations. However, the initial response was less than stellar as funds were slow to trickle in over the first six weeks of her eight-week campaign.

"You see (GoFundMe) pages that have people asking for money to go on vacations and folks are donating," said Calloway. "Meanwhile, I'm trying to raise cash for notebooks, pencils, crayons...the things school children need every day, but don't always have, and I'm seeing nothing happen. People didn't have $5 to help the children? It made me sad."

Calloway's mood soon changed when she received a text from her cousin, New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

"He told me he had made a donation and that I should go check my page," said Calloway. "When I got to my computer, I was blown away."

Marshall, a veteran of 10 NFL seasons, proved to be Calloway's biggest benefactor, donating $500 to the cause. "He made all the difference," said Calloway who went on to raise more than $900 and purchase thousands of items for the two schools.

"When the back-to-school sales roll around at the larger retailers," Calloway said, "you can pick up notebooks for as little as .13 cents each. $900 can buy a lot of paper, pens, pencils and crayons."

In addition to her GoFundMe page, Calloway also sold some of her own clothing to resale shops to raise additional funds; and received product donations - including book bags and medical supplies - from Pittsburgh's Urban Impact program.

"The schools were incredibly appreciative and I was happy to put my time and effort into something worthwhile over the summer," said Calloway. "I'm grateful to everyone that chipped in to help, whether it was with money or time. I'm hopeful to keep the ball rolling."

To that end, Calloway has again set up a GoFundMe page - www.gofundme.com/suppliesdrivebyks - to raise funds to purchase supplies for children in Pittsburgh's Penn Hills and Woodland Hills districts for fall 2016. As a youth, Calloway attended school in both districts.

"I'm just hoping to bring people together to make a difference," said Calloway. "That is the most important thing anyone of us can do, especially in the life of a child."

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 | robert.king@sru.edu