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Hawai?i Teen on a Mission to Send Students Back to School with Clothes and Confidence

Back to School Hawai'i

Back to School. Today is the first day of the 2017 school year for tens of thousands of Hawai?i public school students. For many families, getting ready for going back to school has not only been a time-consuming process – but an expensive one. HPR’s Ku?uwehi Hiraishi reports.

Back to school shopping is the second biggest shopping season of the year for retailers, trailing only Christmas. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, back-to-school shoppers will spend $29.5 billion this year.  For families with children in grades K-12, that works out to an average price tag of $688.

Credit Back to School Hawai'i
Back to School Hawai'i
Kaiya (far right) and her friends at a clothing drive for Back to School Hawai'i.

The price of back to school shopping may put a drain on family bank accounts, but it also has an impact on students’ confidence. Here’s 13-year-old Kaiya Arias De Cordoba.

“It’s a hard time to fit in,” says Kaiya.

Kaiya starts school on Thursday at SEEQS Charter Middle School in Kaimuki. The eight-grader started a non-profit organization this year to provide clothing and school supplies to middle and high school students who may not be able to afford them.

“Maybe it’ll help them with their self-esteem and going back to school, because it is a stressful part of going back to school,” says Kaiya.

Credit Back to School Hawai'i
Back to School Hawai'i
Kaiya's organization received a $400 donation from Ross Stores to purchase clothing and other items that need to be purchased as new, like underwear and socks.

Her organization called Back to School Hawai’i held clothing drives and collected nearly 2,000 lbs. of gently-used clothing from dresses to ball caps, tights and t-shirts.

“They’ve been donating clothing and money. People have been donating backpacks and some school supplies,” says Kaiya.

She set up a crowdfunding site that raised enough money to set–up her organization, as well as buy additional supplies and items that needed to be purchased as new, like underwear and socks.

“What Kai is doing is a real inspiration to a lot of other kids,” says Heather Arias De Cordoba.

That’s Kaiya’s mom, Heather Arias De Cordoba.

“I think at their age, a lot of them are looking for something to do that’s outreach in their community but they don’t necessarily know where to go or what they’re capable of,” says Heather.

Mom has been Kaiya’s biggest supporter in helping her put her ideas into action. Together, the two are planning a pop-up event at the end of the month in Kalihi where students pay a $2 cover charge and can choose items from her Back to School Hawai’i collection.  

Credit Back to School Hawai'i
Back to School Hawai'i
Kaiya's organization raised enough money to purchase new backpacks, which she will fill with basic back to school supplies and given out to the first 48 students who arrive at her Back to School Hawai'i Pop-Up event.

“You can get five pieces of clothing and the first 48 people will get a backpack full of the basic needs of school supplies. And the first 100 people will get shave ice,” says Kaiya.

Donations of clothing, backpacks, and school supplies, are still being accepted.  Details for the pop-event are being finalized. Updates and contact information for donating are available on the Back to School Hawai’i Facebook page. 

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