With more than 100 new backpacks filling an office cubicle — all stuffed with fresh school supplies ready to be given to students, members of the Military Child Education Coalition were happy.

But, they were rather surprised by the source of the school supplies because this back-to-school giveaway came from employees at Abila, a nonprofit software company in Austin, who donated the backpacks to the coalition for students in Killeen and Copperas Cove schools.

It was the first time the coalition received such a generous school gift, said Cindy Simerly, coalition vice president.

“Those employees viewed us as a good organization to make their donation of 107 backpacks,” Simerly said.

The Military Child Education Coalition is a nonprofit, worldwide organization. Its programs aim to create an accepting and welcoming school environment for students when they transition into a new school.

Five Military Student Transition Consultants lined up to get the backpacks from MCEC headquarters in Harker Heights to take to their schools for distribution to military students in need.

Connie Crittenden, a consultant in three Killeen Independent School District schools, said, “This is a way for students to be supported with supplies and have that helping hand and empathy to let them know that we’re in this with you,”

Each consultant received an armload of backpacks — often more than they could carry — so staff helped carry the packs to their cars.

Skipcha Elementary School principal Carrie Parker managed to carry all the backpacks for her school and was thankful for the assistance from people outside the community.

“It was wonderful of people that may not have boots on the ground to help our students here,” Parker said.

The Student 2 Student program lets students volunteer to be a friendly face to a new student, give them tours and overall make them feel welcome. Several S2S students distributed the backpacks to the consultants, checking each one for the proper grade level.

As a military child, Linda Salinas, 16, a junior at Harker Heights High School, understands the difficulties faced when starting at a new school and called the free backpacks a blessing.

“It’s a beautiful gift and we want to say a big thank you,” Salinas said.

Shoemaker High School sophomore Frederick Hicks, 15, is the third child in his family to work in the S2S program.

“I fell in love with the program because some of its students helped me, so I know what it feels like,” Hicks said.

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