It all started with a conversation around a kitchen table. Hiro Kawashima had just returned from a summer in New Orleans working with Hurricane Katrina victims; back at home in the Chicago suburbs and facing his last year in high school, he knew he wanted to do more.
“It’s easy to look far and beyond, but we needed to make a true impact, an immediate impact, so we looked in our backyard.”
As he shared his thoughts with Aria Fiat, the two of them began to talk about Chicago Public Schools, a nearby public school district that was nevertheless a world away from their own public education experience. They knew CPS had extremely high dropout rates, which became a burden for the students and for the city at large. They felt lucky to be in a school and community where college was the ultimate goal, but they knew that not everyone had that luxury. Hiro remembered working with Harper Academy, which had insufficient funds for both a library and swimming pool, so all the books had to be tossed into the empty pool. The two of them realized there was much they could do to help students just like them who lived so close by.
With that, the pair decided to take action. As high school students, Hiro and Aria knew they had to do their best with limited resources. Their original goal was to simply provide the basic school supplies that students need to succeed academically. So began Supplies for Dreams: a student-run nonprofit organization dedicated to giving CPS students tools that they otherwise would not have—specifically, school supplies. Since its inception in 2008, Supplies for Dreams has grown to also provide mentoring services and field trips for students at partner schools. The organization puts an emphasis on teamwork, passion, efficiency and holistic impact. Although Supplies for Dreams has expanded its operation beyond supplying backpacks and other school supplies, the initial vision remains: to impact the educational environment of CPS through a student-run organization.