Amazon Commits Another $1M to Northern Virginia Public Schools

One composition notebook, a pencil sharpener, five pencils, a pack of colored pencils, three dry-erase markers, five folders and a three-ring binder. Don’t forget the disposable masks, disinfecting wipes and two bottles of hand sanitizer.

Those are the main items that Northern Virginia’s public schools with the highest concentration of low-income families say students need as they enter a new school year, in the wake of a year-plus of remote learning and pandemic struggles that exposed barriers to education that extend beyond the classroom.

That’s also what Amazon’s Springfield logistics center packed into 1,000 black Under Armour backpacks and loaded into delivery vans. The volunteer event kicked off Amazon’s second $1 million investment in Northern Virginia public schools.

The $1 million comes from Amazon’s Right Now Needs fund, a program the company started in Seattle three years ago to support grade school students that spread to Northern Virginia last October. Amazon is again partnering with Communities in Schools of Northern Virginia, the Alexandria chapter of a national nonprofit, to distribute school supplies to students in Arlington and Fairfax counties and the city of Alexandria.

Communities in Schools of Northern Virginia also distributed prepaid education assistance product vouchers, which cover specific items on Amazon’s e-commerce platform, to high school students to buy school supplies.

Patrick Brennan, executive director of Communities in Schools of Northern Virginia, said in an interview that some of the Amazon funding may be used for monthly food distribution, tutors and mentors, and tech literacy events later in the academic year.

“This is the mark, for me, of hopefully some level of normalcy, where school doors are opening and hopefully more resources can be brought into the school and reach all the kids that need it,” Brennan said.

Amazon works with Communities in Schools because of its long-standing on-the-ground relationships, ensuring the kids and schools that need the most help can be identified, said Andrea Muscadin, Amazon’s head of partnerships for Right Now Needs.

“Students have needs all throughout the year,” Muscadin said.

Muscadin, who has held her position since May 2020, said Amazon employees signed up to volunteer Monday through an internal company system, where other employees who oversee volunteer engagement periodically share requests for help.

For some corporate employees who attended, such as senior human resources associate Mackenzie Wallace, who started her role in Springfield three months ago, this was one of the first opportunities to meet other Amazonians in-person. Amazon will remain remote until at least January, the company announced last week.

“We have a lot of new employees who are working remotely,” Muscadin said. “It’s a great opportunity to come together as one Amazon.”

Raynard Lattisaw, a delivery driver, worked with Wallace and an employee from Amazon’s second headquarters to bring the filled backpacks from the work station to the delivery van. Lattisaw, who said he started in his role about a year ago, will start delivering the backpacks next week.

“It’s kind of cool,” Lattisaw said. “It has an impact on me, like it makes me feel special that I’m actually helping [Amazon] help kids out here for back to school.”

 

(As published in WBJ)