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'Get Them Started Off Right': Pittsburgh Promise To Hand Out Sustainable Backpacks To 1,600 Sixth Graders

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- When the new school year kicks off Friday for Pittsburgh Public Schools, students transitioning to middle school will be getting a backpack stuffed with supplies.

The "We Have Your Back(pack)" project is a group effort to provide 1,600 sixth graders with the supplies they need for a successful academic year.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"The transition from fifth to sixth grade is a hard one; it's a rite of passage of sorts. But, also, we have plenty of evidence, lots of research that clearly confirms the fact that a student's performance in the sixth grade is a great indicator for whether they will be ready to go to and eventually graduate from high school," said Saleem Ghubril, of The Pittsburgh Promise. "So if we can get them started off right in the sixth grade, keep them focused, no distractions, then eventually, maybe we'll even see graduation rates go up."

The backpacks are provided by Day Owl, which makes their products from recyclable material like plastic bottles.

"Collected from a landfill, shredded into flake and spun into yarn, [then] woven into wax canvas [to create the bag]," Samantha Klein, the COO of Day Owl said of their creation process.

The backpacks for the sixth graders have been stuffed with binders, notebooks, pencils, a water bottle, hand sanitizer and a face mask created by local designer Kiya Tomlin.

(Photo Credit: Steve Willing/KDKA)

Pittsburgh Promise says the supplies were donated and packed by the community.

The backpacks will be given out Friday morning as the kids arrive for their first day of classes.

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