Helping students gear up for school


By Scott Akanewich

Lining the walls of a room in the building that houses the gym in what was once Liberty Hill High School are boxes and boxes of school supplies filled with anything and everything a student could ever need on the road to education.

From pens, pencils and markers to notebooks, folders, binders, glue, scissors and the like – it’s all there as a result of a joint venture between Operation Liberty Hill, Community Pathways Organization and L4 Cares called “Operation Back to School.”

The supplies will be distributed to needy families at an event scheduled for July 31 at Grace Alive Church.

According to Susan Baker, Operation Liberty Hill executive director, there is a definite need for services such as this, only most Liberty Hill residents are simply not aware.

“Unlike in Austin, you don’t see the homeless population here,” said Baker. “People don’t realize they exist.”

With the population and economic growth of the area in recent years, the haves and have-nots are now further apart than ever before, she said.

“Due to all the affluence which has moved into the area, the gap between the two groups is bigger than it ever has been,” said Baker. “Also, there’s so many more than the numbers suggest.”

One of the most at-risk groups is known as “ALICE,” which stands for asset-limited, income-constrained, employed – a demographic that doesn’t qualify for federal aid due to the fact they live above the poverty line, but one that still needs assistance and are constantly on the edge of money-related turmoil, she said.

“Something like a flat tire can be a catastrophe,” said Baker.

Vicky McCown is the executive director of Community Pathways Organization, a local nonprofit that serves area youth – and is involved with the program due to her desire to help students have all they need to be successful academically.

“We want to help at-risk students break the cycle of not having what they need,” said McCown, a lifelong Liberty Hill resident. “Also, we want to be able to give parents assets they need.”

In addition to the school supplies, the program has been collecting athletic shoes for students in need.

“We’ve had instances of students not being able to participate in physical education because they didn’t have the right shoes,” said Baker. “So, our focus is on athletic shoes.”

McCown said students should always have access to what they need and not just at certain times of the year.

“For example, before STARR testing, we always make sure to tell the students to get enough rest, have a good breakfast and so forth,” she said. “But, students deserve to have that every day.”

Students who are already on the free or reduced lunch program are also eligible to receive the school supplies and volunteers are needed to help pack the backpacks that will be distributed.

Monetary donations can be made on Operation Liberty Hill’s website at and supplies or new pairs of athletic shoes can be dropped off at Operation Liberty Hill, 1401 N. US Hwy 183 in Leander or Cross Tracks Church at 101 Church Street in Liberty Hill.