Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and United Way of Santa Barbara County have partnered for the second consecutive year to provide backpacks and school supplies to 500 Santa Barbara County students.

Last Friday, 65 second-graders at La Patera School received the first wave of backpacks. The backpacks are being distributed to students in need at 12 schools throughout southern Santa Barbara County, courtesy of SBB&T.

These back-to-school backpacks will assist underserved and low-income students who are not able to afford a quality backpack and find themselves challenged with carrying their textbooks and other educational materials and supplies throughout the school year.

“Most of us remember well the excitement of starting the new school year with a new backpack and school supplies,” said George Leis, president of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust. “Every student in our community deserves the chance to know how that feels and to not be worried about how they will carry their supplies back and forth to school. Some quality backpacks and basic school supplies will go a long way in making that first day a fun and positive experience and the school year just a little easier.”

Improving education is one of three major focus areas for United Way of Santa Barbara County. The organization is working to achieve a community-driven 10-year goal to increase local high school graduation rates and the number of students reading at or above grade level in every grade by 50 percent. Getting backpacks to students who need them the most is just one piece of the larger picture.

“Organizations, businesses and individuals have the power to work together and improve local education,” said Paul Didier, president and CEO for United Way of Santa Barbara County. “To create change, especially long-term improvements, working together and living united is critical.”

— Genesis Lopez is a publicist representing the United Way of Santa Barbara County.