Nonprofit Co-founded by Junior Aria Fiat Holds Volunteer Event August 13

Nonprofit Co-founded by Junior Aria Fiat Holds Volunteer Event August 13

Aria Fiat

When she was still in high school, junior Aria Fiat had a dream of expanding opportunities for low-income students, which led her to co-found the nonprofit organization Supplies for Dreams. That organization, which provides Chicago students in need with school supplies, will hold a volunteer event on Northwestern’s campus on August 13 to assemble 1,275 backpacks in just four hours.

Students and community members are invited to participate in this volunteer event from 1 to 5 p.m. on the Norris Center lawn. Participants will be able to give back to the Chicago community while enjoying free food, live music, and kids activities such as face painting and craft projects. Volunteers will be packaging school supplies for Chicago Public Schools students to receive the materials before school starts as part of the Supplies for Dreams annual Dream Drive. About 100 volunteers are expected. 

Fiat and co-founder and executive director Hiro Kawashima, both former New Trier High School students who are passionate about education, started Supplies for Dreams in 2008 as a summer project. They wanted to make a difference in their community. “We decided to channel our efforts towards helping students in the Chicago Public Schools, who, like us, had dreams for their future but who did not necessarily have the financial or physical resources to achieve those dreams. Our plan was simple: provide students from low-income backgrounds with backpacks and basic school supplies – necessities, yet items that many students lacked,” she says. By January of 2009, Supplies for Dreams was recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Today Supplies for Dreams continues to support Chicago Public School students in their educational pursuits by providing needed resources, ranging from basic school supplies to mentoring services. Supplies for Dreams also offers programs designed to support students’ educational endeavors, such as a program that awards school field trips to support learning enrichment activities.

“When we began Supplies for Dreams, little did I know it would become such a large-scale initiative,” says Fiat, who serves as human resources director. Today the organization is operated by a team of 20 Northwestern undergraduates. They have served more than 2,200 students from seven schools, providing them with backpacks and school supplies, books, tutoring andmentoring, academic enrichment workshops, and field trips.

“I think that for college students, working for Supplies for Dreams offers a unique and rewarding educational experience; they get to learn about the nonprofit sector while knowing that every hour they dedicate is directly benefiting others,” says Fiat, a human development and psychological services major.

Several other SESP students besides Fiat are members of the leadership team for Supplies for Dreams. They include junior Lauren Masterson, a social policy major who is operations director; junior Taro Tomiya, a social policy major who served as president of the Northwestern chapter of Supplies for Dreams during the past academic year; and sophomore Gabrielle Budzon, a teacher certification candidate.

In the coming year, the team plans to expand the organization by awarding 1,000 additional backpacks and six additional field trips. A new 5th- and 6th-grade mentoring program is also planned.
By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 1/18/12