By Chelsea Cullen, Marketing and Communications Director for the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina

Do you remember your first day of school? Maybe you laid out a new outfit, organized your brand new school supplies and loaded up your new backpack, excited and ready to learn. As parents, you may be planning that same experience for your children in a few short weeks when school begins.

How different would your experience have been if you didn’t have something to wear that made you feel confident on the first day? What if you had to sit out of P.E. because you didn’t own tennis shoes? What if you didn’t have a notebook or pencils or even a book bag to carry to school?

For many children in our community, the first day of school is not a fresh start to look forward to, ready to learn and grow. Children in families that struggle to have enough to even eat don’t get the chance to make the start of school special with a few new possessions to mark a new year full of learning. But at the Y, we believe every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential.

It was the stories we heard from guidance counselors at local schools that inspired the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina to begin offering two programs that help children in our community start their school year in a way that allows them to reach their full potential:

YMCA Bright Beginnings is a program that pairs children in need with volunteers who serve as shopping buddies to help students pick out a new outfit, coat, and shoes for the first day of school. A new outfit on the first day of school helps children feel confident and ready to learn. The children also receive a backpack filled with school supplies, and food and fellowship after the shopping trip. The Kernersville Family YMCA was the first branch in the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina to offer this program and it continues to grow each year. Today, it is offered at five YMCAs in the area. Volunteers are needed! You can visit to learn more.

The YMCA Backpack Campaign helps make back to school special for kids whose families may be struggling to make ends meet. Branches of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina gather backpacks and school supplies to ensure every student starts the school year ready to learn. Now through August 15, new members can join the Y for a $0 joining fee when they donate a new backpack. You join the Y online at – just don’t forget to bring a new, unused backpack to donate on your first visit!

You can learn more, register for programs, donate, or get involved at or call 336 777 8055. Financial Assistance is available.

*Sponsored by YMCA of Northwest North Carolina