MAMARONECK, N.Y. Olivia Crumm and the Mamaroneck High School Phuse Club are collecting basic school supplies for the children of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, who she said suffer quietly in the shadows of poverty and lack of awareness. Crumm, a junior, joined the Phuse Club , a social-action group, to get more involved in community service. "Phuse is a great way to get involved because it's a lot more open ended than most clubs," she said. "We listen to what our peers want to do and everyone has a say on which direction the club goes." This year, the club chose to take part in the third annual Fill a Backpack Drive benefiting children of the Lakota Tribe. The backpack drive is run by the Lakota Pine Ridge Children's Enrichment Project and collects school supplies like spiral notebooks, composition notebooks, graph paper, calculators, rulers, pens, pencils, markers, scissors, and, of course, backpacks. Phuse has collection boxes stationed in Mamaroneck High School and Stephanie's Kloset, on 1967 Palmer Ave., where Crumm works part-time. They will collect these items through March 1. Then, they will be shipped to the reservation, where more than 70 percent of students drop out of school, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture . Additionally, 52.6 percent of high school students perform 2.6 grades below the national average. After school, the adult members of the Lakota Tribe don't do any better, according to statistics from the Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, S.D. that shows 80 percent of residents are unemployed and 49 percent live below the federal poverty line - 61 percent of residents below the age of 18 live below the poverty line. The Pine Ridge Reservation is located in the second-poorest county in the U.S. with a per-capita income of $6,286. Notably, on average, the men live to be 46 and the women 52 years old, the shortest life expectancy for any community in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti.
"Most people have no idea how many challenges the people on the Pine Ridge Reservation face every day," Crumm said. "We hope that by doing this backpack drive we will not only provide many children with a better education but raise awareness and inspire people to help."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.