In the spirit of generosity, back-to-school style

When it comes to school supply drives, the emphasis often seems to be on elementary age children. Yet, students in middle and high school need supplies, too.

Last year, Jorja McAfee, a junior at Grand Center Arts Academy, a Confluence Charter School, noticed friends and classmates who didn’t have supplies, or who didn’t have enough to get through the year.

“They would ask for school supplies. I would give them my own to help,” she said.

This year, Jorja decided to do something more.

Within weeks, she organized efforts for a school supply drive. She approached managers at a nearby Target, which led to a $30 gift card toward supplies. She attended community meetings in the Jeff Vander Lou neighborhood, asked for contributions at Clean Sweep community events, and got help from staff and volunteers at Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis. Overall, she collected about $300 in cash, in addition to donated items from friends, neighbors and others.

What did she contribute to students at GCAA? Pencils, ink pens, spiral notebooks, loose leaf paper, crayons, highlighters, 3-ring binders, folders, glue sticks, markers, erasers and scissors. She bought boxes of facial tissue, bottles of antibacterial hand gel and packages of dry erase markers for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Sabrina McAfee, her mother, said this really was her daughter’s idea. “She said she wanted to do this because some kids didn’t have school supplies.”

Connie Goetz, family support coordinator at Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis, said Jorja is “an amazing young lady. She had such follow-through on her idea and had it under control. We just helped her carry it out.”

“She is always giving and volunteering,” said her mother.

Jorja has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity since she was 12 years old. Her family lives in a home they built with Habitat. She spends a lot of time at Grace Hill Patch Neighborhood Center, helping wherever she is needed.

Jorja has been a Confluence student since kindergarten. She attended Confluence Academy-South City through seventh grade. When her family moved, her mother wanted Jorja to stay within Confluence. She enrolled at GCAA in eighth grade. Her academic pathway includes music, and she sings in the choir.

On August 11, at high school orientation, Jorja, her mother, Goetz and a couple of friends helped give out supplies in the lobby.

Parents and students looked on, wondering what was happening. Any student who asked was given supplies. Speaking softly, Jorja was careful to ask if students were enrolled. She asked what classes they’d take when school starts next week. She chatted and smiled in the spirit of generosity. To ensure she had enough, Jorja set aside supplies for a handful of people she knew would need them.

JaUndra Bullock, a junior, helped Jorja with the giveaway. “I decided to help because my friend had a great idea, and people are less fortunate. It’s always great to help.”

With support from school administrators, any remaining items will be stored for students to have later in the year.

The first day of school is Tuesday, August 15.
To hear Jorja explain why she wanted to help, check out the clip below.