CLEMSON, S.C. — With rural areas perhaps being hit hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s where the 4-H Pinckney Leadership Program focused its efforts to ensure students in those communities went back to school with the supplies they needed.
As summer ended, youth in the 4-H Pinckney Leadership Program partnered with Spartanburg Housing and Pee Dee Community Action Partnership (PDCAP) to distribute 850 bookbags to students in Spartanburg, Marion, Florence and Dillon counties.
“The Pinckney Leadership program encourages youth leaders to give back to their communities,” 4-H Pinckney Leadership Director Rushawnda Olden said. “The bookbag giveaway allowed 4-H Pinckney leaders the opportunity to volunteer and contribute to the very communities their a part of.”
The 4-H Pinckney Leadership Program is designed for middle and high school students who are looking to develop their leadership abilities and awareness in civic engagement. It was founded after the late senator, Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine African Americans killed during Bible study by white supremacist Dylan Roof during the Charleston AME church massacre on June 17, 2015.
The program aims to set forth the standards and principles valued by Sen. Pinckney. The goal is to empower students to serve with compassion, lead with humility and inspire others through integrity.
“In some of our communities, there was a high need for bookbags and school supplies,” Olden said. “When we think about the COVID-19 pandemic and areas that were hardest hit, those rural communities that we were able to serve, they were hit harder. In these communities, the bare necessities were still needed for these kids to start school.”
Director of Resident Services and Community Engagement Cierra Fowler said the 4-H bookbags and supplies provided Spartanburg Housing an opportunity to connect with families differently this year.
“The partnership with 4-H Pickney Leadership Program created an opportunity to connect with our middle school and high school student before the school year,” Fowler said. “Our staff created time to educate students on the 4-H program and gather their information to connect throughout the year. The students were excited to receive a bookbag and we are thankful for the opportunity.”
There were 100 bookbags distributed in Spartanburg County, and the remainder were handed out in the Pee Dee area. The bookbags were pre-sealed and included school supplies inside as well.
“We are thankful for this partnership,” Spartanburg Housing CEO Shaunté Evans said. “Providing the bookbags and supplies allowed us to play a role in helping the students be prepared for the first day of school. Spartanburg Housing has been serving families since 1939 by developing and providing affordable, quality housing options and programs that promote self-sufficiency.”
PDCAP Executive Assistant Anita Stevenson Magwood called it “a pleasure” to work alongside the 4-H Pinckney leaders from the Pee Dee region.
“The students were confident, punctual and shared their zeal for community engagement,” she said.
Magwood thanked Olden, the 4-H Pinckney Leadership Program and local Clemson Extension agents for the donation of backpacks and school supplies.
“The supplies will help our students thrive and be prepared for the upcoming school year,” she said. “Sen. Pinckney had a knack for connecting partners and organizations to meet the needs of our community. The partnership with 4-H Pinckney Leadership Program and Pee Dee Community Action exemplifies connectiveness that increases resources in the Pee Dee Region.”
Pee Dee Community Action Partnership CEO Walt Fleming said, now more than ever, families needed organizations, government agencies, businesses, communities, neighborhoods, faith-based groups and individuals to join.
“When we support families, we become a stronger, more resilient community, and children grow up happy, healthy and safe,” Fleming said.
The Pee Dee Community Action Partnership has a 50-year history of serving low-income individuals and families in Florence, Dillon and Marion counties. These services develop and improve low-income communities and neighborhoods through evidence-based programs and strategies that are result oriented.
Elizabeth Snipes, 4-H agent for Marlboro and Dillon counties with Clemson Extension, agreed that the 4-H Pinckney Leadership bookbag giveaway was a huge success.
“We gave out over 200 book bags in less than two hours,” Snipes said. “Parents were grateful, and the kids were excited to receive these essential school supplies. This event allowed me to meet more of the youth in my county while providing them with the tools they need to be successful in school.”