In early March, P.S. 1 Courtland School in the Bronx, New York, had an assembly that was out of the ordinary. With the help of a DJ, the students had a full-on dance party, excited by something simple: school supplies.
Australian entrepreneur Ido Leffler led the festivities. He is the CEO of Yoobi, a company that makes vibrant school supplies and donates them, too.
"You can go to. You can buy a Yoobi item and every item you buy, another item will be given away," said Leffler. "We want to make school supplies fun, again. But most importantly, our goal for Yoobi is to provide free school supplies to every child that needs it here in the U.S."
Yoobi focuses onwhere at least 70% of students are eligible to receive free or reduced-cost lunch, partnering with the Kids in Need Foundation to distribute the goods.
Each classroom is gifted a 20 lb. box of supplies for 30 kids. Yoobi has donated more than 73 million school supplies since being founded in 2014.
"Most people look at the U.S., we're the country of plenty. Why would you come here?" asked "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Michelle Miller.
"I lived in a beautiful suburb in northern California and a mile from where I lived was a school that didn't have supplies, much like this one," said Leffler. "It didn't make sense to me that a kid that lived in one [zip] code versus a kid that lived in another zip code, that there was such a disparity."
Celebrities have joined the effort, from baseball player Yasiel Puig to musicians Zendaya, Usher and Pharrell Williams. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 12 million American children under the age of 18 are from families living in poverty.
It's a reality that is all too familiar for Leffler.
"I grew up with a mum who was a school teacher. My mum, the most she ever earned was $25,000 a year. And yet, she would spend money out of her own pocket every year on supplies for her classroom and for the kids that needed it."
It's something many educators in the United States can relate to. On average, teachers earn less than $40,000 a year but spend nearly $500 of their own money on school supplies.
"To know that there's a program out there, an organization that's thinking about teachers having to go into their pockets and spending money — I mean, I'm super grateful," said P.S. 1 teacher Tasia Maxwell. Although the school does make some school supplies available, Maxwell learned early on that the need was much greater.
Maxwell remembers her first week teaching, when a student asked her for a backpack. "Just tell your mom or tell dad, tell whoever's at home that you need a book bag, no big deal," Maxwell told the student. But the next day, the child was back. "'My mom said to tell you or ask you for the book bag.'. And I'm, like, okay. So now I realized at that moment, like, this is my responsibility," said Maxwell.
Part of Yoobi's giveaway includes a thank you to teachers like Maxwell.
Fifth-graders Isieny Herrera and Angelica Nunez are two of her students. They were grateful for the excitement of the day and for their new supplies.
"How did it make you feel when he came in and he just gives this stuff away to you guys?" asked Michelle Miller.
"Well, I felt happy because it was, like, a lot of things inside," said Nunez.
"Before they gave us the supplies, at home I had no pencils at all," said Herrera. Both Herrera and Nunez said they didn't have many crayons at home.
"When I saw the big packet of crayons, I felt different," said Nunez.
Although the in-person gives are postponed due to the pandemic, Yoobi is still making school supplies available to kids who need them. Yoobi supplies are being donated at schools that qualify for the National School Lunch Program, distributed when families arrive for meals. Since the pandemic hit, Yoobi has helped nearly 38,000 kids.
Yoobi is also now selling hand sanitizer packs. For each sanitizer pack purchased, the company will donate a school supply to a kid in need. Yoobi is also curating a camp-focused collection to help parents with supplies and ideas to mimic crafting activities at home.
"I keep going back to the idea of wanting to impact five million kids a year. We're up to about a million kids a year now," Leffler said in March.
When asked what he needed to get there, Leffler said, "People's support. Every time you buy, whether it's a Yoobi pencil case or a Yoobi pen-- that's going to help a child right here in a school such as this. For us, if we can impact those children and help them feel more confident at school, if we can help them feel that they can turn up to school and do their homework at home because they now have supplies that they can take with them, you know, that means a lot to us."