GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gracin Chaprnka is working hard to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. He recently completed a unique project that he hopes will bring awareness to his community about youth homelessness in Grand Rapids by donating 100 stocked backpacks to an area school district in need.
Through a GoFundMe page, pop can drives and cash donations from friends, neighbors and relatives, Gracin was able to buy 100 quality backpacks and fill each one with essential materials for school, including binders, notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, scissors and two cloth masks.
"The lack of a stable home life, and essential materials like school supplies, makes it really hard for kids to learn and graduate from high school," said Gracin, who is a member of Troop 290 in Ada, Mi. "Homelessness is generally a problem that students can not create or correct on their own."
The homelessness rate for students in Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) is approaching 4%. Gracin began working with the GRPS Homeless Program Liaison, Laura McCloud, who identified over 600 students within GRPS who meet the definition of homelessness. Gracin has made it his mission to spread the word, and is doing his best to educate the community about the ongoing problem of homelessness, and seeking to soften perceptions and judgements about kids who find themselves in the unfortunate position of not having a consistent place to rest each night.
On Wednesday, Aug. 25, Gracin and his father dropped off all 100 backpacks to the GRPS main campus, located at 1331 Franklin St. SE. Each backpack will go to a GRPS student who is experiencing homelessness.
"Depending on the year, we have between 700 and 1,000 students who experience homelessness," said Laura McCloud, Director of Special Education for Grand Rapids Public Schools. "So when Gracin reached out to me and detailed his project, I was totally blown away."
"I've learned a lot by completing this project," Gracin said. "Leading my group of scouts through this process has taught me leadership skills that I hope to put to use in future community service projects."
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