Write-Start Backpack Project

Backpacks Distributed to Students in Transition

Summary of Backpack Distribution
Distributed to: Percent Distributed
School Districts 51%
Social Service Agencies 21%
Low-Income Families 16%
Students in Transition 12%

What does it mean to be experiencing, “Homelessness?”

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, a student is “homeless” if they:

  • Live with a friend or relative (doubled-up)
  • Live in a motel/hotel
  • Live in an emergency shelter, transitional shelter, or domestic violence shelter
  • Live in a car, trailer, tent, park, or campground

If your family is experiencing any of these situations, please contact your school district to get connected with your school’s homeless liaison.

For more information, contact:
Tiffany M. Smith, MSW

Stuff the Bus 2014Every year, for the past 28 years, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education has distributed backpacks to homeless, foster, and low-income students through the “Write-Start Backpack Project.” Our partner, United Way of Santa Cruz County, put together an incredible fundraiser called “Stuff the Bus” in 2009, and for the past seven years, they have contributed to our cause. We identified about 3,800 homeless students in the 2016-17 school year, and given the pattern of increasing numbers from year to year, we can probably expect another increase to happen in the 2017-18 school year. Santa Cruz County’s foster youth fluctuate between 200-250 as children enter and exit the foster care system.

Because we only raised enough for 1785 backpacks (only serving about 45% of the homeless and foster children) by the time school started, we will continue to collect donations thoughout the schoolyear.

After distribution, it was calculated 51 % of backpacks and school supplies went to school districts whose homeless and foster youth liaisons make sure homeless students and foster youth get a back pack and school supplies at the beginning of the school year; CASA, FosterEd, Roots and Wings, Cal-WORKs, and the County Alcohol and Drug Program distributed 21% of the backpacks to homeless and foster students; and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education distributed 16% of the backpacks to low-income families on the verge of homelessness.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (400 Encinal St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060) or cash do-nations online at: Student Support Services.

A BIG THANK YOU to all who have supported our cause!
“Creating Community Solutions for Student Success”
Student Support Services


Pile of backpacks

Distribution Partners: United Way of Santa Cruz County, UPS, FosterEd, CASA, Roots and Wings Program of La Manzana, County of Santa Cruz, Alternative Education Program, Bonny Doon Union Elementary School District, Happy Valley Union Elementary School District, Live Oak School District, Mountain Elementary School District, Pacific Elementary School District, Pajaro Valley Unified School District, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District, Santa Cruz City Schools, Scotts Valley Unified School District, & Soquel Union Elementary School District.

Sponsors include, but are not limited to: Michael’s Transportation, Watsonville Community Hospital, Santa Cruz County Bank, Bay Alarm, Bay Federal, Plantronics, Graniterock, SSSP Security Shoring & Steel Plates, Santa Cruz Warriors, PG&E, Migrant Head Start, Costco & Museum of Art and History.

Donate to Student Support Services
Write-Start Project

There is never enough funding to provide 100% of the needy students in Santa Cruz County with the services they deserve. Now you can make an online donation for one of our programs! Online donations through PayPal are fast, secure, and your donation goes directly to services for Santa Cruz County youth.

All donations made to Student Support Services must be accepted by the County Board of Education. Once your donation has been reviewed and accepted, we will notify and thank you by mail. This process may take 4-6 weeks.


Currently, we are in need of the following items:

  • Santa Cruz Metro bus passes (kids can’t learn if they cannot get to school)
  • Large backpacks for High School Students – no red or blue
  • 3 ring binders 1 1/2 or 2 inches
  • Binder paper
  • Spiral bound notebooks
  • Rulers
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Color crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Color markers
  • Calculators
  • Glue sticks
  • Shoe gift certificates
  • Clothing gift certificates
  • Cash donations also accepted or donate online using PayPal!

All items may be dropped off or mailed to:
Students in Transition
Attn: Nohemi Macias
Santa Cruz County Office of Education
400 Encinal St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Please make checks payable to Students in Transition.
If you have any questions, please call Nohemi Macias at (831)466-5710