Ladue Schools Team Up to Help Refugee Families

Ladue Schools students and staff worked together to donate almost 500 backpacks full of school supplies to Afghan refugee children in the St. Louis area.

Called the Backpack of Love initiative, students volunteered many hours to collect and assemble backpacks full of school supplies to help Afghan students transition to their new schools.

The district donated a total of 482 backpacks, including 272 filled with elementary student supplies and 210 with middle and high school supplies.

The idea began with Reed Elementary School 4th grade teacher Jenn Hadfield, who recalled in years past when Bosnian, Serbian, and Albanian refugees came to the region and how much they were helped by the people of St. Louis.

From that, Hadfield knew Ladue Schools could help make a difference for Afghan refugees resettling in the area.

She worked with the district’s character education department to organize a backpack and supplies drive that began in October at every district school.

Hadfield then collaborated with Dr. Alla Gonzalez Del Castillo, director of the ESOL/Bilingual/Migrant program in St. Louis Public Schools; all local Afghan refugee children will be referred to this program before being placed in an area school.

The assembled backpacks were given to SLPS, which anticipates the arrival of more than 600 Afghan refugee children in the coming year.

Aside from providing backpacks, Backpack of Love also served as a learning opportunity for students involved.

Hadfield reached out to two of her former Bosnian students to participate in a video where they explained what it meant to be a refugee and how support from their new communities had a positive impact on their lives.

Classrooms across the district also had conversations about refugees, immigrants, and diversity and inclusion in Ladue Schools and St. Louis.