Backpacks For Success helps southern Illinois children by providing school supplies

By Danny Connolly, Staff Reporter

Backpacks for Success has been collecting new and gently used backpacks all month in Carbondale to donate to children in need of school supplies.  

Backpacks For Success is an initiative every school year between SIU’s Kiwanis Circle K of SIUC RSO, Carbondale Community High School’s Key Club and CCHS business teacher Jenna Jamieson. They collect backpacks for a month and then stuff the backpacks with other school supplies and inspirational quotes about education before donating them to students in need.  

Jamieson started Backpacks For Success 5 years ago in Carbondale.   


“I worked with the Boys and Girls Club when I was in graduate school and I saw that there was a need for backpacks,” Jamieson said “[The director of the Boys and Girls Club] had asked if I knew of any place that could provide backpacks, so that’s when I started donating them. Then I realized, there’s an even greater need that even I couldn’t keep up with.“ 

Jamieson said she sees how much of a need backpacks are for local students at Carbondale Community High School. 

Jamieson then contacted several SIU RSOs who helped organize Backpacks for Success. Circle K responded and started partnering with Jamieson. 

 Circle K president Lizz Saery says this year the organization designed and placed the donation boxes around Carbondale.   

“We also use some of our funding to go out and purchase backpacks towards the end of October so we can help any need that hasn’t been met,” Saery said.  

According to Jamieson, their goal for this year’s Backpacks For Success is to donate 100 backpacks. 

After the drive closes, Key Club and Circle K will meet for a “stuffing party” to stuff the backpacks with more school supplies in an assembly-line fashion before giving them away.    


Marta Narag, the Key Club president, says the Key Club will come together and will help by writing notes of encouragement put into the backpacks at the stuffing party.

“While we were together, we were helping the community. It was just wholesome and a really fun time,” Narag said. 

Both clubs are excited to help students in ways they can directly see in the community.

 “I get really excited when I know that what we’re doing is helpful to the community and other students,” Narag said. “That’s just something that’s inspiring to not only me, but the whole club.” 

 Jamieson said she is excited to serve this need of school supplies for children in Carbondale.   

“There’s a huge demand for backpacks. It actually helps set up a student for success.” Jamieson said. “Probably the community just doesn’t realize what impact a backpack has on a child’s life.” 

The drop-off boxes for Backpacks For Success are located at CCHS, Morris Library, the Bank of Carbondale and the Neighborhood Co-Op. They will be collecting backpacks until the end of the month.  

For any questions on Backpacks For Success or to make a monetary donation, you can contact Jenna Jamieson at [email protected]

Staff reporter Danny Connolly can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @DConnollyTV.

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