Teen’s generosity equips East Valley students to start school

LOS ANGELES (Aug. 19, 2015) – Nearly five years ago, when she was just 10, Riley Gantt went on a school field trip that forever changed the lives of thousands of San Fernando Valley children.

During the visit to Haddon Avenue Elementary in Pacoima, Riley learned that not every youngster had the advantages she did at her private school. And when she saw how badly the Los Angeles Unified students wanted to learn, she decided to take action.
Riley founded Rainbow Pack, a nonprofit organization that provides backpacks filled with about $10 worth of school supplies to students in the East San Fernando Valley. Riley and her fellow volunteers distributed backpacks to kids who started school Tuesday at Haddon and Rosa Parks Learning Center. On Wednesday, they were at Roscoe and Langdon Avenue elementary schools.

“This is, seriously, the best part of my year,” said Riley, of Sherman Oaks, who had help from a cadre of student volunteers and Los Angeles Unified School Police officers. “Seeing that we’re making a real impact on these kids’ lives, and letting them know that we care about them, and that we want them to succeed, that we’re giving them the tools to do that is the best feeling in the world.”

The organization collects donations through its website, Rainbowpack.org, with a $10 contribution covering the cost of one backpack filled with pencils, erasers, crayons or colored pencils and other homework supplies.

Riley had a goal of providing 4,000 backpacks this year – that’s a $40,000 cost – enough to supply the four schools, with a couple left over to benefit the District’s homeless youth program.

The office of School Board Member Mónica Ratliff, whose district includes Pacoima and North Hills, worked in partnership with Rainbow Pack and Los Angeles School Police and the four school administrators to coordinate the backpack giveaways.

“We are honored to partner with Riley Gantt and the student-run nonprofit Rainbow Pack to provide backpacks and school supplies to our students in the East San Fernando Valley,” Ms. Ratliff said in a statement. “Riley’s dedication to ensuring all students go to school well-equipped and ready to learn is truly commendable.”

Raising money, buying supplies and distributing the backpacks is a daunting task, but Riley says the satisfaction she gets when she sees the kids’ faces is well worth the effort. And the students themselves are grateful for her generosity.

“I like my backpack,” said a kindergartner named Anthony. “I love Roscoe, and to do fun things like testing and math.”
Added classmate Adriana, “I like my purple backpack. I want to wait and open it later to see the surprises.”
Contact: Barbara A. Jones (213) 241-6766