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Local Student Starts Foundation

Katharine Jiang’s contribution grants 100 D.C.-area students notebook-laden backpacks.

 Katharine Jiang created the CLIPUS Foundation to help underprivileged children receive school supplies.

Katharine Jiang created the CLIPUS Foundation to help underprivileged children receive school supplies. Photo by Reena Singh.

Few high school students can say they have created a foundation. Sixteen-year-old Katharine Jiang of Great Falls is one of those few.

In the pursuit to make a difference in education, she created the CLIPUS Foundation — a group of 30 students who use the profits of recycled office supplies to buy school supplies for underprivileged D.C.-area children.

“I knew I wanted to do something to improve education,” said Jiang, a junior at The Madeira School. “Then I found a statistic that 16 million kids in the country can’t afford school supplies.”

She said the name CLIPUS comes from the “tens of thousands of paper clips we sold” from her father’s old office supplies. The last two letters create a promise for togetherness.

The 30 students who form the foundation go to school at The Madeira School, Langley High School, Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology and Briar Woods High School.

Most of the money is collected by getting cash for recycled toners. She said some toners can fetch $7 each. The foundation has a partnership with The Langley School - her first school and where she credits her drive to give back to the community - and Adventure Theater in Glen Echo to house toner drives. CLIPUS has also held bake sales at The Madeira School and local grocery stores to collect more funds.

On Tuesday, Jiang and other members sent 100 backpacks filled with $2,000 worth of notebooks, pens and crayons to Cannon Road Elementary, located in Silver Spring. It was the first time CLIPUS donated school supplies to a school since the foundation was established in August.

“When we talked to Cannon [Elementary], they seemed very interested and wanted to make it into a big event,” said Jiang. “We had talked to schools since November.”

The event was held at the elementary school from 4 to 6 p.m. To keep the confidentiality of students who use the free and reduced lunch program, all parents were invited - first come, first serve - to pick up a backpack.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for our families,” said school counselor Lise Valenta.

Approximately 60 percent of the school qualifies for free or reduced school lunch. The school also hosts the Smart Sacks Backpack Program, which is hosted by National Council of Negro Women Potomac Valley section leader Carolyn Shackleford. This program gives families food to eat over the weekend -- a time when students cannot depend on a hot meal at school.

Because of the number of underprivileged children in D.C., Jiang hopes to expand the program’s outreach to older students one day. However, she’s very cognizant of the fact she will be graduating from high school in a year -- leaving the CLIPUS Foundation behind. She hopes to pass it along to some of the underclassmen who are a part of the group. “Children’s education is a passion of mine, but I think I want to become an engineer,” she said. “Or an entrepreneur.”