Losing kids from our schools because materials are too expensive is something that, as a nation, we can't afford.
According to the National Center For Children In Poverty, over 16 million kids live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level. The National Center for Education Statistics says that students living in low-income families are about five times more likely to drop out of high school than students living in high-income families.
How does income inequality tie in with kids' success in school? Simply put, if kids' families are struggling cover their basic expenses, school supplies drop in priority. Sometimes, when kids don't have access to the tools they need, they can feel disinterested in their academic environment and decide that school just isn't worth it for them.
Seventeen year-old Patricia Manubay, a student at El Camino High School in San Francisco, wants to put an end to this vicious cycle with a positive solution -- a dream. Patricia spoke to MTV News about her public service project, Dream Boxes, which gives kids access to school supplies and empowers them to pursue their passions. "The purpose of Dream Boxes is not only to get children and students the supplies and resources that they need to be successful in school, but also [to give them] the empowerment and support they need to make their dreams happen," said Patricia.
Patricia's inspiration for the project was personal. A first-generation American, Patricia visited the Philippines with her parents every year to visit family there. When was about 12 years old, she had an eye-opening experience.
"I saw children younger than I was -- and children the same age as me -- working during the day, like collecting change, washing cars and selling flowers and things like that," she says, "Even running in the streets without shoes. And I just remember asking my parents why they weren’t at school."
Patricia launched her project just last Wednesday (March 4) at the Jefferson Awards in New York City, where she was recognized for her outstanding achievement in public service. Here's how she says Dream Boxes works: People from around the country (and really, the world), can donate a box that's packed with school supplies, a dream journal, and a few letters of encouragement to help inspire kids along their academic journey. The boxes are then distributed among various communities to students in need.
The coolest part is, you're totally encouraged to make your own Dream Box (using the handy instructions here) and share your contribution using the hashtag #dreambox.
The goal for 2015 is to have 100,000 Dream Boxes distributed to kids across the country. Patricia hopes the project will have a positive impact on young students while inspiring her peers to get involved in public service. "Doing community service helps your leadership skills, building skills, and project planning skills that help you live in the future," she says.
We look forward to watching Patricia's dream multiply across the United States, one box at a time.
You can donate to Dream Boxes or learn how to make your own here.