Communities in Schools hosts backpack drive for Renton students

The donation drive runs through Aug. 15. Supplies will be handed out at CIS Renton-Tukwila’s annual block party from 1-3 p.m. Aug. 20 at Liberty Park.

By Annika Hauer, For the Reporter

Communities in Schools (CIS) is a national nonprofit working in 3,270 schools across the United States and District of Columbia, creating supportive communities and reaching those furthest from educational justice.

The organization works with 23 of these schools in Renton.

The organization brings equity to schools through three ways of engagement. The first is through providing schoolwide resources to those in need. The second is through targeted programs, as small student-centric and student-driven support groups. The third is through individual support, which includes weekly one-on-one mentorship from a consistent adult.

CIS focuses on seeing students holistically, approaching needs through multiple lenses. CIS helps meet basic needs like food and clean clothing; behavioral intervention; post-secondary prep; community service; family engagement; life skills; and physical and mental health. Through all of this, CIS aims to empower students to stay in school and build confidence around achieving success.

Improving lives in Renton

The branch in Renton was formerly CIS Renton-Tukwila until it merged on July 17, 2023, with CIS Seattle, to become CIS Greater King County.

Of the 11,961 students receiving support (individually and through schoolwide programs) from CIS Renton-Tukwila’s services, 88% are students of color. Also, 94% of the students live in a low-income family, 24% of them are experiencing homelessness, and 95% of them have been exposed to trauma.

Last year, the organization served 665 students on an individual basis in the Renton-Tukwila area.

Of these students, 95% had improved attendance, 93% of them had improved behavior, and 87% of students had improved in their socioemotional learning.

In a study conducted in 2012, Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. (EMSI) found that for every dollar invested into CIS, there is an $11.60 economic benefit, after nine years.

Currently, the organization is hosting their 5th annual backpack and school supplies drive in Renton. It has been open for donations since July 15, and runs until August 15. The list of supplies is compiled each year by input from schools.

The supplies will be handed out at CIS Renton-Tukwila’s annual block party from 1-3 p.m. Aug. 20 at Liberty Park in downtown Renton.

“We try to get that excitement going, about going back to school,” said Keysha-Rae Cooper, Development Director at CIS Greater King County, “because as kids get older it can become kind of a drag, so we try to make it fun.”

There will also be free resources available at the block party such as haircuts from barbers, information about pathways after high school from Renton Technical College, and helmet fittings from Harborview and Valley Medical Center. There’s also a DJ coming.

“Every year we have a local parent come up to us and say, ‘If it wasn’t for this event, I don’t know how I would send my child back to school,’ because it is very expensive, especially if you have multiple children to send back to school every year. We try to alleviate that pain and that stress, and make it one less thing families have to worry about.”

To attend the block party and receive what you need, just show up. There are no questions asked. No ID or zip code required.

Last year, close to 1,000 people attended the party. CIS had raised $50,000 worth of supplies, and it was all distributed within the first hour of the block party being open.

To donate items or money, email or call 425-278-8582. For more information on volunteering, which can include being a weekly mentor, visit

Items needed

• Backpacks

• Reusable water bottles

• Lunch boxes

• Scientific calculators

• Alarm clocks

• Earbuds

• Spiral and composition notebooks

• Notebook paper

• Drawing Paper

• Graph Paper

• Erasers

• Mechanical pencil boxes and lead refills

• No. 2 pencil boxes

• Markers and Sharpies

• Colored pencils and crayons

• USB Drives

• Hand Sanitizer

• Post-It Notes

• Glue sticks and bottles

• Ruler

• Scissors and tape