When the University of Miami announced their new Racial Justice Grant program in the summer of 2020, juniors Ivette Acosta and Jacques Calixte were a few weeks shy of their first day of classes at UM. Now, as recipients of this award, they are using the funds to expand their project, the 305 Give Back Drive, which provides school supplies to the local community.
“As we were more looking into it and creating new things, it seemed like more and more of a good opportunity,” Calixte said. “And then randomly on June 1, I think, we got a letter to our email and it was like congratulations for all your hard work, the University of Miami wants to provide you with I think it was a $2000 grant, which is even more than we asked for which is great.”
Last year’s inaugural drive involved collecting supplies from three different schools and was a big success. All of the donations required around three cars to transport it all to Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary School in Miami, a school they selected after analyzing data from Miami-Dade County to find areas in need.
This year, Acosta and Calixte want to use the new funds from the grant to make the drive a lot more efficient by renting a moving truck, utilizing a storage locker for all the supplies and purchasing more supplies to remove any disparities in items donated.
Additionally, this year, participants of the drive are being encouraged to sponsor a child and donate a backpack filled with supplies.
“We’re trying to stress sponsoring a child, so packing the whole backpack if it’s possible,” Acosta said. “And we’re also offering options where people can team up with their friend group and do one backpack together.”
Since the grant has certain requirements, Acosta and Calixte had to reflect on and restructure some of their work from last year.
A big change lies in the new executive board created to assist Acosta and Calixte with the day-to-day operations of the drive. Positions created include a social media manager, location coordinators and various flex positions that do various different tasks needed within the organization.
“I feel like people have offered really really good brainstorming ideas to help us fix any issues we had last year,” Acosta said.
As pre-medical students, Acosta and Calixte are no strangers to being busy, but with the new grant and executive board team to lead, they both have to balance many responsibilities. Staying organized and prioritizing self care are two strategies that help them do it all.
“It’s not like it just started out of nowhere. There’s actually a book called ‘Atomic Habits’ that basically the main principle is that you do small things everyday that compounds to it,” Calixte said. “We’ve been doing small little things here and there, and they keep building up.”
Their efforts do not go unnoticed within the team. One of the new social media managers, junior Sebastian Vargas-George, recounted his positive experience working with the team this year.
“It really feels like a team. Everyone has their role, everyone plays their part in actually having an impact on the community,” Vargas-George said. “The electoral board is quite big so Jacques and Ivette are doing an amazing job at managing everyone and at helping, really, the project come alive.”
Looking to the future, Acosta and Calixte hope to branch out and provide more education services to the community, like with a food drive that educates citizens on nutrition and how to stay healthy.
“So with a name like the 305 Give Back Drive, it doesn’t really tie you in to only a back to school drive, there’s actually multiple areas we can branch it off to,” Calixte said.
Along with that, Acosta and Calixte have thought about turning their project into a non-profit organization, as it would encourage more people to donate as well as build and strengthen their connections within the community. With advice from others in this industry, Acosta and Calixte are focusing on current efforts and waiting to see how their organization grows before taking this next step.
To get involved, students can follow the project on their Instagram, @305givebackdrive, donate from their Amazon wishlist, and drop off donations on campus.