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Students Help Stock Local Classrooms

April 12, 2018

According to the Jewish Family Service of Rochester, secondary education teachers often spend between $500 and $1,200 of their own money each year buying supplies for their classrooms.

Fisher students volunteer at Pencils & Paper.

That’s a stat that St. John Fisher College student Josh Miles wants to help change by forging a partnership with Pencils & Paper, a 5,000 square foot store front on Jay Street in Rochester, run by the Jewish Family Service of Rochester. With the look and feel of an office supply store, Pencils & Paper has rows and racks full of markers, paper, arts and craft supplies, and other products. What is it missing?  A cash register, as everything in the store is free.

As an education major, Miles knows well the extra effort teachers put in to ensure their students have what they need to succeed in the classroom. And, for those teaching in high poverty districts, they might be providing basic, yet essential tools, including pencils and paper, to their students.

Miles said there are 41 no-cost school supply stores in the United States, and before the Jewish Family Service of Rochester opened Pencils & Paper in fall 2017, the closest store was in Buffalo.

“Thanks to Pencils & Paper, hundreds of teachers and thousands of students in the area have benefited from direct and local access to free school supplies in a well-maintained store,” he said. “I think it is important for Fisher to support this organization because it ties in with our intrinsic values of philanthropy and serving the local community to the best of our ability.”

Two Fisher students holding long pieces of art board in the in the Pencils & Paper store.

As a Service Scholar at Fisher, Miles felt he had to do more than volunteer at the store for a few hours each week. So he gathered fellow education majors, Service Scholars, and members of the men’s soccer team to find a way to create a sustainable, impactful connection with the store.

In a matter of months, the group will be a formally recognized organization working towards Student Government Association affiliation and has built a steady stream of volunteers for the store. Now, he’s hoping to galvanize the entire campus in his efforts by collecting school supplies for Pencils & Paper.

The group collaborated with the Office of Safety and Security to host a parking ticket redemption drive; from Wednesday, April 11 and Wednesday, April 25, parking tickets can be repaid with a donation of school supplies. Bring at least $10 worth of supplies (with a purchase receipt) per ticket, up to two tickets, along with a Fisher ID, to the Office of Safety and Security. Items on the wish list include dry erase markers, staples (20-sheet capacity), paper (500 sheets), back packs, Clorox wipes, and 300- or 500-count index cards.

For more details on the school supply drive or Fisher’s partnership with Pencils & Paper, email Josh Miles at