By Theo Schwinke
A light rain was falling as Harjeev Singh rolled open the door of a storage unit to reveal a mountain of textbooks and boxes of school supplies stacked to the ceiling.
“As many as 13% of students have considered leaving Mizzou because they couldn’t afford course materials,” Singh said, citing a study referenced on the MU Libraries website. “That number struck me, and I thought, ‘We need to do something.’” the Mizzou junior said.
The “we” in this case is Helping Hands, a recognized student organization Singh, a junior at Mizzou, founded last year to support individuals in Columbia facing homelessness and other financial hardships.
Starting this fall, some Mizzou students will receive free course materials, thanks to Helping Hands.
“To the best of our abilities, we want to ensure that cost is not a barrier to a student’s academic success,” Singh said.
When Singh decided something needed to be done for students who couldn’t afford course materials, he reached out to Tyler Page, director of Residential Life at MU, with the idea to collect textbooks and other course materials in residence halls.
“Many students don’t need their textbooks anymore at the end of the semester,” Singh said. “Potentially students could give back their textbooks, and we could distribute them to students who need them.”
Page was happy to oblige. “It is always exciting to work with passionate students on worthy causes,” Page said. “Our primary goal is student success, so when a student approaches you with a great idea, you listen.”
Page in turn referred Singh to The Mizzou Store, which donated school supplies with small defects that would otherwise be thrown out.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we at The Mizzou Store had an excess of many school supplies,” said Dale Sanders, director of UM Stores. “When Helping Hands approached us about a donation for textbooks, we did not have any textbooks to offer, but instead donated nearly 4,000 binders, over 1,000 reams of paper, various highlighters, pens and folders.”
“Helping Hands is a fantastic organization and we wanted to ensure these items were put to good use,” Sanders said.
By providing students with free course materials, Singh hopes to alleviate the financial stress felt by many during the pandemic.
Students can request course supplies and textbooks on the Helping Hands website.