A whiff of fall spurs efforts to help students get off to good start | ParkRecord.com

A whiff of fall spurs efforts to help students get off to good start

The Park Record editorial, Aug. 12-15 2017

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There is an unmistakable hint of fall in the air and, on cue, retailers have begun highlighting back-to-school fashions and supplies. The notebook-and-pencil aisles at the store are already looking ravaged, and everyone, it seems, is carrying around lists of things to buy for lockers or dorm rooms or sports teams.

It is an exhilarating time for some, but it can be stressful for others. The run-up to the first day of school, with all of the social pressures that surround it, underscores the financial disparities found in any community, but especially in an upscale resort town like ours.

In Park City, students from families that arguably belong to the fortunate 1 percent may sit at desks alongside those from families who piece together myriad seasonal jobs just to stay above the poverty level.

Our hope, of course, is that those students will find common ground despite their diverse backgrounds, and that the logo on their jeans or the brand of shoes they wear won't divide them.

For the sixth year in a row, a group of volunteers is helping to level that playing field. On Friday, the Christian Center of Park City held its annual Back 2 School Basics event, offering brand new outfits, backpacks and school supplies for more than 500 students who might otherwise be relying on hand-me-downs or having to do without.

The event actually does more than just help kids look stylish. Organizers say it boosts their self confidence, which puts them on a track for success.

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Back 2 School Basics is one of many worthy efforts that local nonprofits have undertaken to try to close the opportunity gap in Park City's schools. PC Tots, a new nonprofit, has established a preschool to offer affordable daycare to families from all socio-economic backgrounds. The program's goal is to ensure all children of working parents get the same enrichment opportunities– and as an additional benefit, form bonds with each other long before brand names matter.

From an altruistic perspective, these efforts and others like them help to knit a community together. On the practical side, by reducing social tensions and inequality, they make all of our students smarter, healthier and happier.

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