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Conard, Hall Students Hosting Backpack Collection for Ukraine

Hall High School sophomore Alyssa Puskarz (left) and Conard senior Lydia Griffin with some of the supplies they have collected in a backpack drive for Ukrainian students. Submitted photo

School supplies are by collected by West Hartford students to assist those displaced by the ongoing war in Ukraine.

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A Conard High School senior and a Hall High School sophomore have combined efforts to collect school supplies for Ukrainian students displaced by the ongoing war in their country. People are asked to donate supplies on Saturday, April 30, from 9 a.m. to noon at Conard High School’s main entrance.

Supplies being collected include new or gently used backpacks, writing and coloring supplies, notebooks, books, tissues, Band-aids, gloves and hats, decks of cards, and small toys. A collection has been ongoing at both high schools and continues through April 29.

Conard senior Lydia Griffin said, “When I started seeing the beginning of the war in Ukraine I was worried as many people were and I wanted to do something to help. I knew that it wouldn’t be something as easy as community service because I’m over 4,600 miles away. I started doing a bit of research for a couple days but then I came across a post in Neighbors and Friends and that’s how I learned about Kathryn Olesnevich doing a backpack drive in Manchester and I thought that would be something great for us to bring to Conard.”

Olesnevich is a fifth grade teacher in Manchester and a mom to Conard students. She said, “My momma died Feb. 11 and when it came to my return to work/teaching, I didn’t want to go back but I checked my email and saw an email about a backpack drive. My momma was Ukrainian and was deeply rooted in giving to others and volunteered regularly. I saw the email as a sign, returned to work, and dove into this project as a way to celebrate her life and all that she taught me.

“In Manchester we collected over 100 backpacks weighing over 500 pounds. On the day we dropped it off – emotions were running high and I’ve never felt so certain my momma was with my poppa and I as we unloaded.”

“I have seen Conard do a variety of collections such as food, books, coats, and more, and from what I have seen they all appeared to be pretty successful. I know that there was many students like myself who wanted to help but weren’t sure what to do, so this was a perfect opportunity for them,” said Griffin. “As well with the students being tons of help in donating (from what I’ve collected so far) I also have to thank [Conard Career Center and Student Activities Coordinator] Mrs. Cersosimo for helping me out a ton with the collection and getting the word out on social media.”

Griffin added, “Having Hall pick up the backpack drive was super exciting as well. Mrs. Shaffer, Hall’s student coordinator, reached out to me and then I recruited my friend Alyssa Puskarz to help me out because have a student in charge at the school definitely helps. I was impressed with what they were able to collect in such short time and I’m also grateful for everything I’ve seen from the two high school communities so far.”

Puskarz added, “I was so eager to bring the drive to Hall because I felt that, as a high school student, it is difficult for me and my peers to help those in Ukraine. Being able to provide the materials for students to continue their academic path is such a fulfilling feeling.”

Donations are being coordinated through the Ukrainian National Home in Hartford. All supplies are being brought to Poland for distribution. “No matter what you bring even from pencils to a backpack is making a change,” said Griffin.

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