Backpack drive

The Marana Unified School District and Youth Education Supporters are encouraging residents to support local students by donating to the Success Of Students fund or donating supplies for the current backpack drive.

MUSD Director of Student Services Cynthia Ruich said prices have gone up for everything, so every dollar helps. The fundraiser will go towards the Success of Students fund, which provides any MUSD student with financial support if they need it. The SOS fund also supports the backpack drive, which started around the same time as the start of the pandemic. 

Other student services had to be stalled due to health precautions so “we basically handed out backpacks filled with school supplies and we break it up by different grade levels, so a kindergartner doesn't get what a 12th grader needs,” Ruich said.

The backpack fundraiser provides students with new supplies plus a new backpack, along with essential tools for students of different ages. Donations for the backpack drive will be accepted through the second week of July.

Ruich is collaborating with YES to stock 1,100 backpacks filled with supplies for students, which will cost more than $50,000.

“That's important for the community to know,” Ruich said. “It really is a costly project.” 

Dot Santy from the Youth Education Supporters team said many students in the district need the extra help.

“There's a great need and, historically, almost 47% of our children are on free and reduced lunch,” Santy said.

While that 47% figure represents pre-pandemic statistics, Santy said the pandemic financially stressed even more families in MUSD. She doesn’t want any child left out of education due to financial hardship.

Santy said she started working with Ruich after a specific incident relating to an MUSD student who was extremely talented but on the verge of homelessness. Santy couldn’t believe something like this could happen in Marana.

“I think kids should have, hopefully, a happy growing up and a good education to go with it,” Santy said. “You can't have a good education if you can't find shoes and you can't get to school. That just really upset me and I decided I needed to find out more about what to do.”

Santy met with Ruich and the two women bonded over their love for education and helping students succeed.

Ruich and Santy prefer monetary donations because they can get discounts by buying supplies in bulk. Checks can be made out to the Marana Unified School District SOS Fund. Find more information online about donations at

“There's some drop boxes throughout town, too, because some people prefer to buy items versus donating money,” Ruich said.

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