United Way officials are using the first day of summer to promote the donation of school supplies and improve graduation rates for the Arlington, Birdville and Fort Worth school districts.
From 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today, donations are being accepted at "Stuff the Bus" locations in each of the districts.
"This is a positive way to help schoolchildren and teachers in Tarrant County, by showing up and stuffing the bus full of school supplies." said Debbie McGee, vice president of major gifts and volunteer engagement for the United Way of Tarrant County. "We hope that everyone will take immediate action today."
Officials say school supplies were among the 10 most significant needs in Tarrant County schools last year, and that's the premise behind today's campaign.
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Its goal is to provide supplies so that district officials in Arlington, Birdville and Fort Worth can focus on improving on-time graduation rates. In 2009, the on-time graduation rate -- or four years -- for the Birdville district was 80.8 percent, which is just above the state average of 80.6 percent, according to Texas Education Agency statistics. In Fort Worth, the 2009 on-time graduation rate was 76.4, and Arlington's was 76.3.
"Those three have had an uphill battle when it comes to graduates," McGee said. "United Way wants to help."
Mark Thomas, communications director for the Birdville district, said partnering with the United Way to improve graduation rates "ultimately helps our community as well."
"It will take more than just school supplies, but they're one of many tools that are necessary for a successful year for any student," Thomas said.
Fort Worth district spokesman Clint Bond hopes the drive will increase the community's interest in education.
"It's a great idea, and we're thankful for the United Way for putting it together," he said. "We understand that these are tough economic times, so anything that people are able to donate is appreciated."
This is a first time for all three school districts to participate in the drive with the United Way.
"We don't know what to expect, but we are excited for the opportunity," Leslie Johnson, communications coordinator for the Arlington district.