One day, a little over a month ago, 20-year-old Ariana Crockett was having a normal day at her a job at the Cubberley Elementary Kids’ Club. But a simple request from a student to his teacher started an unexpected venture for her.
The boy asked for an eraser, but they didn’t have one for him.
“In my head, I was like, ‘This is school, don’t we have erasers?’ It was so sad. It just dawned upon me, are we serious? The most basic things at school? The whole trigger was the eraser,” Crockett said.
She said she almost left to go home and gather every single eraser she could find and bring back. As the youngest in a big home that’s since turned into an empty nest, she knew there would be an abundance of old school supplies to gather and donate while also clearing up some clutter from her house.
Crockett realized there were probably homes all across Long Beach like hers, with old school supplies stashed away in a closet somewhere, never to be used again. Then, she talked to teachers and discovered the school only gives them $100 for supplies.
“They do not get the proper funding nor the salary they deserve,” she said. “The salary they get is unacceptable. If this was a babysitter rate, $10 per hour, per kid, times 180 days a year, each teacher would be making like 300 grand.”
So she used Nextdoor, a social media site for people to post information for their immediate neighbors about happenings in the neighborhood, to start a school drive.
She called upon people to salvage any school supplies they have lying around the house to donate to schools and help teachers avoid spending their own, hard-earned money.
“It benefits no one but the schools and the teachers who dip, sadly, into their own pockets,” Crockett said. “I thought I could solve the world’s problems in one shot. ‘Let’s start a school drive’ and all of a sudden I became ‘the school lady.’”
Nextdoor exploded with responses to Crockett’s post. Pretty soon, her living room became a stockpile of supplies. Her car was completely full. Everywhere she looked, binders, colored paper, colored pencils, and more were everywhere.
“It was really bad at one point, like I couldn’t move,” Crockett said.
So far, she’s made donations to Lindbergh and Cubberley, but will continue to collect supplies and work her way to more and more schools.
“I see this as a middle-ground issue that can easily be solved. I’m not trying to end hunger in the world, but something like this is so doable, you know? Let’s just check that off the list,” she said. “And this is not even me. I just gather it and drop it off. This is like PBS, ‘This is brought to you by your local community.’”
Now, a month later, Crockett still gets calls, but they’ve slowed down. However, she’s not deterred from continuing and expanding this project. She’s had friends in other neighborhoods post on Nextdoor and has tried posting on Craigslist and other sites.
“My only struggle is getting the word out there, because I’m happy to do it and I’m happy to continue it. I wish it could grow on its own and have a sort of domino effect, but it’s all in the effort that lies with me,” she said.
She has an entrepreneurial spirit and says she’d be happy for others to join her, be inspired by what she’s doing, or try something similar of their own. As a business major, she’s not sure what she’ll pursue when she graduates, but she’s open to legitimizing this venture by buying a domain name and continuing from there.
“There have to be people [who study business] and aren’t only money-driven people,” Crockett said. “I’m too social. I can connect with anything that walks. I can connect with a wall—it doesn’t matter...This is what I’m all about.”
Whether it’s full time, part time, or just one day a week, she’s sure she’ll continue to recycle people’s clutter and donate them to schools. For now, if you know you have some extra supplies, or if you’d like to partner up with this one-woman-army (she’s gone through three tanks of gas just picking up and dropping off supplies), she encourages people to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org, regardless of how big or small the donation.
“People would come and they were like, ‘Oh, I only have a small bag of things,’ and I’m like ‘Yeah you and everybody else on this app has a small bag of things.’ she said. “You don’t understand, I pick up a small bag from you and a small bag from 50 people in this neighborhood, it adds up.”