United 1st Steps expands ‘Adopt a Class’ school supply donations

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 4, 2022


LAPLACE — Up to 350 elementary school students across the River Parishes are anticipated to receive backpacks filled with school supplies for the upcoming academic year through the second annual United 1st Steps Adopt a Class event.

Adopt a Class was started as an alternative to traditional school supply drives. Six randomly selected classes representing the East and West Banks of St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James Parish will have school supplies waiting for them in the classroom on meet and greet day.

According to United 1st Steps Nonprofit Inc. founder Tramaine Eugene-Robinson, this year’s event is expanding to include not only an individual class at each of the six schools, but the grade level as a whole.

The 2022 Adopt A Class recipients are Fifth Ward Elementary kindergarten, Allemands Elementary First grade, Gramercy Elementary second grade, St. Rose Elementary third grade, West St. John Elementary fourth grade and Sixth Ward Elementary fifth grade. Schools and grade levels were drawn out of a hat to keep the process impartial.

United 1st Steps is accepting monetary donations to go toward the purchase of school supplies. Donations can be directed to www.united1ststeps.org or through PayPal at 1ststep2020@gmail.com. Donations of $200 and above are tax-deductible, and donors will receive an email with tax information in December.

“Adopt a Class was started in 2021 as the organization’s way of providing support to our younger community members, being we provide the graduation scholarships for our high school seniors,” Eugene-Robinson said. “This year, we want to reach everyone in the actual grade level so that no child is left out. That’s the reason we started this program. We essentially wanted to reach the kids who were homeless or in poverty, whose parents couldn’t afford school supplies, but then we didn’t want to single those kids out. If we adopt the entire class, no one knows who doesn’t have money to afford the school supplies.”

Scholarships and school supplies are only two ways United 1st Steps has supported the youth in the River Parishes.

Last year, the nonprofit sponsored an 8-year-old baseball team and partnered with Crescent City Dentistry for a back-to-school health fair. A partnership with Mani Meals paved the way for a community trunk or treat last fall. More recently, United 1st Steps held father-daughter and mother-son dances to promote family bonding.

The All Things Youth Pop-Up Shop debuted last summer, providing young entrepreneurs with a safe environment to grow their businesses. The second-annual All Things Youth Pop-up Shop will be held on July 24, and interested vendors may text 504-858-3635 to obtain the registration form.

“Our goal is to be the change we wish to see in our community. Someone has to take the initiative to take that first step,” Eugene-Robinson said. “A lot of people ask what happened to the older generation, the people who looked out for us when we were young. As sad as it sounds, those people are dying off or are sick and elderly. It’s our turn to become those people for our youth. I think the world could be different if we followed in the footsteps of the people who we looked up to when we were growing up.”

United 1st Steps has also reached adults in the River Parishes by partnering with Next Level Educational Services to cover the cost of a phlebotomy course for eight individuals. The organization has additionally worked with River Parishes Community College to help adult learners achieve their GED.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, United 1st Steps partnered with Mani Meals for Restore the River Parishes, an effort that provided food, clothing, hygiene supplies and cleaning supplies to storm survivors with an emphasis on the elderly and disabled. Donations were also directed to the local restaurants and business owners who stepped up to feed the community.

While companies like United Community Bank and Walmart have shown their support for Adopt a Class, most of the events have been self-funded, and additional donations are needed to meet the community’s needs.

“Even though we won’t reach everybody, our goal is to not have to turn anybody away. Without the funds, we can’t do that,” Eugene-Robinson said. “Even a small amount, just a dollar, goes a long way.”

Donations can be submitted through www.united1ststeps.org. For more information, contact public relations coordinator Caegan Jackson at 504-858-3559 or find United 1st Steps Nonprofit Inc. on Facebook.