It’s a great back-to-school tradition for rising fourth-grader Barbara Helen Moye – packing her new school supplies in a nice new backpack. It’s something many students at her school, Beverly Woods Elementary, have the luxury of doing. But at Beverly Woods’ sister school, Sterling Elementary – a lower performing school in Pineville – students might not be as lucky.
“My second-grade teacher, Ms. Smitherman, told me that some kids that go to school don’t have bookbags. They might use plastic bags, but they might not have nice bookbags like I do,” Barbara Helen said. “I wanted all kids to have nice bookbags to start off the school year.”
So she decided to take action. With a little encouragement from her mom, Ashley Moye, Barbara Helen decided to campaign for students at Sterling who might not have a backpack. With the help of her mom, who also is heavily involved at Beverly Woods, the two contacted nearly 100 people through email and word-of mouth and have so far collected around 30 backpacks in just one week.
“She wanted a new backpack. We do a lot for our school and I said ‘you need to do something for other people, too. Let’s do something for the community.’ She came downstairs the next morning and asked if we could get backpacks for Sterling Elementary kids,” Ashley Moye said.
Friends and neighbors drop off their donations to the Moye’s house, leaving Barbara Helen and her excited 6-year-old brother, Peter, whom Barbara Helen also calls her assistant, on the lookout every morning and afternoon.
“Whenever we get a bookbag, he always yells ‘A bookbag is here!’ and races to the porch. Usually I check in the afternoon because that’s when people bring them over and I kind of look forward to it because I wanted to reach my goal,” Barbara Helen said.
Already reaching her goal, she’s excited to see how many backpacks will come in this next week.
“Thirty just seemed like a reachable number. Fifteen or 20 just seemed too easy. I decided to do 30 because it was in the middle of what I was thinking,” Barbara Helen said.
Around 10 of the backpacks are brand new with the rest being gently used, although Barbara Helen said the gently used bags “practically look brand new, too.”
For the project, Barbara Helen said she came up with the idea by putting herself in other kids’ shoes. Thinking about her new school supplies and backpack over the past couple of weeks, she said the words of Ms. Smitherman kept coming to mind.
“If I didn’t have a bookbag, if I had to put all my school supplies in a plastic bag, it would probably be really hard to carry and it probably wouldn’t fit,” she said. “I like to make a difference and I wanted to do something that included back-to-school to make a difference. I thought it would be really helpful to the people that didn’t have one.”
And her family couldn’t be prouder. Ashley Moye said the family frequently tries to help make a difference in the community, through Loaves and Fishes food pantry, making lunches for the homeless and donating money, food, time and even Christmas presents through the holidays. But this is the first time her daughter has taken on such a big project by herself.
“It’s really taught her a lesson in the fact that we really need to help other people and the community,” Ashley Moye said. “She’s really setting an example for Peter – everything is not comfort-free; we have to work and help others, too.”
And for Simon Moye, he says he’s not surprised about his daughter’s thoughtfulness.
“She’s a very caring little girl. She really likes to help other people,” he said. “She’s had many great teachers at Beverly Woods who encourage community involvement. It’s not the first thing Barbara Helen has done like this and I’m sure it won’t be the last.”