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Awards / Honors

School is Cool wins United Way award

June 27, 2014

School is Cool is one of several community outreach programs sponsored by CSU. The all-volunteer program provides new backpacks and grade-specific school supplies to kids in area public schools.

School is Cool committee members Colleen Rodriguez, Kathy Phifer and Lauri Gail Jones attended the annual United Way luncheon, where Phifer and School is Cool were honored for their contributions to education.Kathy Phifer was given the Education Hero Award at United Way of Larimer County’s 2014 State of Community luncheon at the Embassy Suites in Loveland. Phifer created the School is Cool program in 1992 after seeing a need while volunteering at Tavelli Elementary, where he sons attended.

“One of my favorite childhood memories was showing up that first day of school with brand new supplies for the school year,” she said. “I saw lots of kids at my sons’ school who didn’t have that same opportunity, and I wanted to figure out a way to change that. Every kid should be given the best possible opportunity to succeed in school, and providing the proper tools – a nice backpack filled new supplies – is part of that opportunity.”

Humble beginnings

Phifer, Director of Strategic Communications and College Initiatives in the Division of External Relations, organized a group of volunteers and sought donations that first year – enough to purchase 67 backpacks and fill them with grade-specific supplies. School is Cool was born – but Phifer will be the first to admit the program has grown beyond her wildest imagination.

“We have an amazing group of volunteers who work long hours and go the extra mile to make sure we can help as many kids as possible,” she said. “Honestly, I just oversee the program – the School is Cool committee and volunteers are the real heroes.”

Corporate, campus support

The School is Cool committee has partnered with the CSU Bookstore, the Bohemian Foundation, Hewlett-Packard and other organizations to expand its reach. Still, the majority of funding over the past 22-plus years has come from CSU employees.

The program’s growth has been remarkable. Each year School is Cool provides more than 2,500 backpacks to students in elementary, middle and high schools – nearly 400 times the amount provided in the first year. Overall, School is Cool has donated more than 32,000 backpacks.

Program has helped 32,000 kids

“We are lucky and proud to call Fort Collins our home, and as a university committed to providing access to education, School is Cool is an amazing opportunity for CSU to help children in our community get the tools they need to succeed,” said Tom Milligan, CSU’s vice president for external relations. “The CSU community truly believes in education, and through this wonderful program, our staff, faculty and students get to demonstrate that belief in a way that makes a real difference in the lives of school children in our hometown. We are very proud of this great program and thank the hundreds of individuals and the sponsors who make it possible.”

CSU faculty and staff can support School is Cool by donating $25 – the cost of purchasing and filling a backpack.