Seniors turn fun tradition into service opportunity


Photo courtesy of Parker Timmons

Participating in an annual senior tradition, seniors Ellie Van Arkel and Parker Timmons show off their fun backpacks on the first day of school. Timmons and her friends plan on donating their backpacks to Totes 2 Tots.

You’re walking down the hallway and see Jojo Siwa and Spongebob Squarepants strutting in front of you. Don’t worry, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, it’s just a couple of upperclassmen carrying on a lighthearted tradition of seniors wearing children’s backpacks to school.

“I used to hate the tradition as an underclassman because it annoyed me,” senior Henry Guynn said when thinking back to his freshman and sophomores years. Now that he’s finally able to participate, however, he knew he had to buy the dinosaur-themed backpack he found over the summer.

“I loved the cute little dinos on it, plus it was on sale,” Guynn said.

Seniors Spencer Boykin and Parker Timmons are attempting to add a service component to the tradition this year and encouraging the Class of 2020 to join them in donating their fun children’s bags to Totes 2 Tots when they’re ready to go back to using their regular backpacks. 

Totes 2 Tots has been serving the Atlanta community for 17 years, and the organization hopes to exceed previously set goals. According to the Northside Hospital Foundation website, in 2017 over 6,000 backpacks and suitcases were collected and distributed to those in need. The bags help children in many different situations, from those who can’t afford a backpack for school to those in foster homes that need something sturdier than a garbage bag to transport their belongings. 

The Totes 2 Tots organization is no stranger to St. Pius X. For the past several years, the Golden Lions community has donated bags they no longer use. They’ve also helped organize and sort backpacks during large donation events across town. 

Timmons said her mom was the one who inspired their idea when she suggested that the girls go one step further with the annual senior tradition and try to “help out those in need.”

“Not everyone can afford a new backpack,” Timmons said. “Mine cost $27! I didn’t think it would be that much.”

While $27 is a significant drop from the average $70 spent on a typical North Face or Jansport backpack that so many high school students carry, the price was still surprising to Boykin, Timmons, and their friends. This back-to-school expense is a financial burden for many families across the metro-Atlanta area.

The girls explained that the majority of seniors who participated in the tradition bought their backpacks for laughs and style. Most of them are too small to fit everything they need for their classes. Boykin especially experienced this dilemma with her selection, a preschool-sized ladybug backpack. 

“It was way too small. I had to carry my laptop and most of my books in my arms,” she said.  

As of right now, the girls have recruited approximately 20 people from the senior class to participate in the donation drive, but they are eagerly searching for more.

“We want as many people as possible to join us. We just really want to help,” Boykin said. 

Boykin and Timmons said they’re still finalizing details of their project, including when and where to collect donations, but they’re hoping to be featured on the morning or afternoon announcements soon to help spread the word about this opportunity.

If all goes well, what started as a simple idea in Timmons’ kitchen could turn a comical senior tradition into an annual donation event that will greatly benefit the Atlanta community.