Staff Report

DELRAY BEACH — A stream of women carrying book bags of varied shapes, sizes and colors flowed into the lobby of a beachside Marriott hotel. Not the venue tourists expect to find school supplies, but the donors say they’re determined to make a difference.

Hundreds of sorority members converged in Delray Beach for a Cluster I conference Oct. 10 and 11. By the time they left they donated nearly 300 backpacks and book bags, which will go to dozens of students at the Village Academy, 400 SW 12th Ave. in Delray. Each bag contained paper, tablets, pencils and other staples to help students have a chance at successfully completing their homework.

The donations were from more than 400 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority from across South Florida who gathered for a retreat to map out plans for the upcoming year and hear from their new leadership team. Providing direction was Regional Director Sharon Brown Harriott of Columbia, S.C.

She was thrilled with the donations.

“Every child deserves to have the proper equipment in order to do their best in the classroom. These supplies


will go a long way toward helping them achieve academic excellence,” she said.

The donations are part of an international effort by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated to give one million backpacks filled with school supplies to students across the globe. The donations in Delray are the first in South Florida.

Sylvia Sloane Jones of Fort Lauderdale, the Cluster I coordinator, said the donations will continue over the next four years. “More South Florida students will receive assistance. This is just the beginning,” she said.

Sorority members met Village Academy Principal Guarn Sims, staff and members of the schools drumline and cheer squad. The students performed for the women during a Friday evening pep rally.

Sims was elated to accept the gifts. “I’m a proud principal of the most unique school in Palm Beach County,” Sims said. “The work of your organization is important to all students of Village Academy, and all those who look like our students.”

The campaign is in keeping with an intense focus on promoting lifelong learning.

“As part of our commitment to academic excellence, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority will support the learning process by providing substantial support to give students the backpacks and supplies they need to be ready to learn,” said International President Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson. “From pencils and sharpeners to notebooks and folders, we will do our part to bridge the achievement gap among students of color and the economically-disadvantaged.”

In September, Buckhanan Wilson and the sorority’s international leadership distributed at least 1,000 donated backpacks and accompanying school supplies during the sorority’s annual mass committee meeting in Chicago.

The sorority, headquartered in Chicago, selected that city for its inaugural donation drive because the need there is great. Significant portions of Chicago, particularly on the South and West sides, have poverty rates that are hovering near 60 percent.

The massive backpack campaign is part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Launching New Dimensions of Service program targets, which place an emphasis on Educational Enrichment, among other social concerns.