By Maria Corpus
From crayons and pencils to folders and notebooks, the school supply list for MPS students can be quite extensive and costly for families.
But thanks to Foley & Lardner LLP and its fourth annual “supply store,” hundreds of students at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Lifelong Learning (WCLL) were able to start the school year with all the right tools.
“It’s quite expensive to go and buy everything out on the list, and this is a student body that it’s a hardship for them,” Charles Carter, partner at Foley & Lardner, said.
On July 29, attorneys and staff at Foley & Lardner, a national law firm with strong ties to Milwaukee, packaged about 350 colorful, sturdy backpacks with crayons, folders, and more.
This year’s event helped provide supplies to students in six different grade levels, kindergarten through fifth grade.
In addition, supplies remaining from last year will be distributed to students in sixth through eighth grade.
Lena Patton, principal of WCLL, stocked the assembly line of supplies for volunteers.
She said the event was helping students start off on the right foot, and was giving them the confidence to succeed.
“You got to have the tools to be successful academically,” Patton said.
“You already come in at a disadvantage when you don’t have the physical tools to engage at a certain level.”
According to Patton, WCLL has approximately 700 students, with the vast majority coming from low income households and participating in the free lunch program.
She said the “supply store” really helps families with the hardship of buying school supplies, especially families who have multiple children attending school.
“The school itself is roughly 80 to 90 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged,” she explained.
“I believe it’s going to take all of us as a community to really change the educational situation that our students experience,” Patton later added.
Since partnering with WCLL in 2012, Foley & Lardner has hosted the “supply store” and other events to provide students with support and the necessary resources to succeed.
For Charles Carter and other staff, the partnership has helped the firm just as much as the students.
“We were looking for an outlet for volunteer activities for our staff and attorneys to get involved in the community,” Carter said. Kris Szatmary, senior project manager at Foley & Lardner, expressed how events like the “supply store” create a great atmosphere at the firm.
“It’s great to come to a work place that recognizes the need for a community partner with a school,” Szatmary said.
“It gives us an opportunity to engage with children as well as each other in a very neat way, not as colleagues but as people that are making a difference in education.”
With hundreds of backpacks packaged to be delivered on the first day of school, Patton expressed great gratitude and the anxiousness to see her students.
“I just look forward to when the kids walk through the door, like every day. It’s the best part of the job.”