USM ‘Blessings in a Backpack’ delivers schools supplies to international students

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 5:11 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Students are preparing for classes at the University of Southern Mississippi and this year, a new program is helping international students be as prepared as possible for their first day.

The program is called “Blessings in a Backpack.”

For the past month, the USM Association of Office Professionals, USM’s Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and the USM Staff Council have purchased backpacks and collected school supplies to give to international students.

Friday morning, international students got a special delivery of the backpack and supplies, right to their door.

Maegan Williams is a junior from Kingston Jamaica studying biochemistry.

“We’re just really appreciative of it. It’s kind of giving everything that we’re supposed to get. I was just going through the stuff just know and everything is there – it’s folders, pens, pencils, books,” Williams says.

Alexander Kehinde Haahstrup is a senior from Nigeria studying computer engineering.

“It means a good lot to me. It’s nice to start the semester fully equipped,” Hashstrup says. “This having them just being brought to us, it reduces the hassle of going out there to source them out ourselves so that’s really good.”

On Friday morning students with Wesley Campus Ministry spent time delivering the backpacks. In the evening, professors volunteered to help finish the deliveries.

“It means a lot to me because international students, a lot of us can’t get around because a lot of us don’t drive. But it just means a lot that someone would be willing to get all the supplies for us and bring it to us,” Williams explains.

Organizers say they collected more than one thousand dollars worth of donated school supplies and delivered 25 full backpacks.

Students say the backpacks truly are a blessing and they are looking forward to another semester at USM.

Williams says she is excited to start her classes in person this year and continue meeting other students and staff at the university.

“I feel like a lot of us are just excited to get back into the swing of things and to see new faces, and to be a part of all the things going on on campus and we’re forgetting to get backpacks and school supplies. So, yeah I’m just really thankful for this program,” Williams says.

Haastrup says there are plenty of international student events and programs that he is happy to be a part of. He is most looking

“I’m grateful to be a part of this experience, a part of the activities, a part of everything that’s going on. It’s my senior year so I’m just looking forward to everything that comes with senior year.”

This is the first year of the “Blessings in a Backpack” program. Organizers are calling it a success thanks to all the donations and plan to build on the program going forward.

The students say they are grateful to everyone who donated and who helped them through the program.

Jennifer Lewis, president of the Sigma Alpha Lamda Honor Society and the community service chairperson of the USM Association of Office Professionals played a role in creating the program.

“I want to give a shoutout to Wesley and Ms. Jennifer. They’re really cool and they helped me a lot,” says Haastrup.

“I just want to say a huge thank you to Ms. Jennifer Lewis because she is always looking out for us and always making sure we have everything we need. I know I can go to her if I need anything and I know she is like a mom for some of us so I want to thank her,” says Williams.

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