Senior Abriana Stewart-Height said having a close friend who was in the foster-care system showed her the lack of opportunities available for kids in the system.
"There are a lot of children out here who don't have the opportunities that we have, but they [foster kids] don't have the support system," said Stewart-Height, an electrical engineering major and secretary for the University of Maryland's W.E.B. Du Bois Honor Society chapter. "They don't have a stable family home."
Now, Stewart-Height and the W.E.B. Du Bois Honor Society have teamed up with Prince George's County Court Appointed Special Advocates to hold a school supply drive to help "be the voice of the voiceless," Stewart-Height said.
The Du Bois society is an organization that is committed to "the scholarship and leadership recognition of collegiate undergraduate students, especially African American students," according to its website. It has placed bins in the Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy office, Nyumburu Cultural Center and the Honors College in Anne Arundel Hall as an effort to collect school supply donations for children in the foster care system.
There are nearly 500 children in the county's foster care system, according to PG CASA.
Kara Bundy, deputy director for PG CASA said she is grateful that the W.E.B Du Bois Honor Society is holding a school supplies donation drive now, as many children still need school supplies throughout the year.
"A lot of organizations have great donation for back-to-school, and that's really helpful but kids continue to need pencils, notebooks, pens," Bundy said. "We are trying to make sure that our kids have a successful school year."
Many problems that children in foster care face overlap with issues for children in poverty, as most of the kids that CASA works with are considered to be low to moderate income, Bundy said.
"Just like any other child who comes from an impoverished household, trying to get through the day and get through the school year with as much normalcy as possible is really critical," she said. "The more that we can make sure that they have the things that they need, the more they can focus on what matters — and that's doing well in school."
CASA, a nationwide organization, was founded in 1977 by a Seattle judge who wanted to find a way to help abused and neglected children. Prince George's County's chapter was founded 15 years ago with a goal to address the unmet needs of children in the foster care system, Bundy said. Currently, there are more than 950 local CASA programs in the nation, she added.
PG CASA is also one of four organizations this university has decided to focus on for their Maryland Charities Campaign program, a faculty/staff campaign that allows employees to help out charities to help make a big impact in the local community, Bundy added. The other three organizations include the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland Food Bank, and the SPCA/Humane Society, according to the university's website.
While the donation drive is set to end Dec. 6, Stewart-Height said they hope to work with PG CASA again in the future to help bring more awareness to their organization.
"I would like for this be a partnership, where we continue to have drives and do other things to volunteer for this organization just because they do such great work," she said.
Kara Korab, graduate assistant for the Honors College, said having the donation drives shows "what an incredible community this is and what a giving community this is."
"CASA is an incredible organization," said Korab, an international education policy graduate student. "The work they do within this community is inspirational."
Stewart-Height said this campus could use its resources to help make a difference in someone else's life.
"There are so many times that people have things such as school supplies, shoes, and clothes … that they could donate instead of just throwing out," she said. "We all, at some point in time, have had help to get where we are today, and it would be selfish of us to not give back."