Backpacks 4 Kids AZ is a non-profit organization that provides local disadvantaged children with backpacks full of supplies. Displaced children receive backpacks with toiletries and toys, while low-income students receive backpacks with pencils, notebooks, and other school supplies. If that isn’t cool enough, get this: Backpacks 4 Kids AZ is run by 13-year-old Kaitlyn Martinez.
Kaitlyn came up for the idea for her organization in 2015 when her friend, a member of the Arizona foster system, couldn’t complete a school assignment due to a lack of the proper supplies. After turning the idea over with her mom, Kaitlyn created a Facebook page for Backpacks 4 Kids AZ. Her organization would provide “Love Bundles” (backpacks full of toiletries and toys) to children displaced by abuse, neglect, abandonment, or rocky foster care experiences, as well as backpacks full of school supplies for low-income public school students.
Kaitlyn then asked her school and church if she could set up donation boxes. The following summer was spent creating flyers for her first school supply drive and posting them around her community. By the end of the summer, Kaitlyn had collected enough school supplies for the 175 students at her school.
Since, Kaitlyn has built a team of volunteers and a board of advisors who believe in her mission to help gather supplies for Arizona kids. She’s made Backpacks 4 Kids AZ a 501 c3 non-profit so the organization can qualify for grants and corporate donations. This year, Kaitlyn may even be able to place donation boxes in stores like Walmart.
So how does a busy middle school student stay on top of her grades while running her own non-profit? “I have an amazing team that helps me manage Backpacks 4 Kids AZ so I can focus on school and keep my grades up,” Kaitlyn says. “We try to plan all events on the weekends or when I am off school so I can continue being actively involved.”
Growth is definitely on Kaitlyn’s radar for 2017. This year she expects to reach her goal of providing 1,000 students with backpacks full of school supplies. She’d also like to join forces with other non-profits to better impact Arizona’s disadvantaged youth. But even as she plans for the future, Kaitlyn says she loves networking and meeting new people at different events. “It is also an amazing feeling to be able to bring a smile to a child’s face and know that I am making a difference,” she says.
Kaitlyn recently participated in a local Rising Tycoons Academy, which allowed her the opportunity to advance her entrepreneurial and leadership skills while sharing her organization with others her age. After pitching Backpacks 4 Kids AZ to local entrepreneurs at the end of the academy, Kaitlyn won $300 to put back into her idea.
The young CEO also has a bit of advice for people her age with bright ideas: “Talk to your family, friends, and teachers [about your idea], and once you start talking, someone will be able to help turn that idea into a reality. Always remember if you believe in yourself and what you’re doing, other people will believe in you as well.”