VISTA — Four years ago, an idea popped into his head.
And on Tuesday, Carlsbad’s Pacific Ridge School junior David Wiesley saw the fruits of his labor.
He started the nonprofit Tools Organize Successful Students (TOSS), which donated hundreds of “gently” used school supplies in numerous boxes to several schools in Vista, including Rancho Minerva Middle School.
“We’ve grown exponentially,” Wiesely said. “They are barely used, but usable.”
The idea to recycle school supplies came to Wiesely when he noticed students in his younger brother’s class tossing away usable items. The teacher told the students they couldn’t throw away the supplies, and Wiesely jumped at the chance to collect them.
Although TOSS began with humble roots, it has spread across San Diego County with donations going to less fortunate students. On the other side, Wiesely picks up supplies from schools with more resources.
Growing, meanwhile, has not been an issue for TOSS. Last year the organization reached 3,500 students. This year, Wiesely said, the goal is to get to 7,000 kids.
“That was a huge goal for us,” he explained of last year’s successes. “It’s all across San Diego. We contact schools and work with the student councils to plan delivery dates.”
TOSS works with students at each donor school, helping them organize a collection drive. At the end of the academic year, TOSS donations are gathered, sorted and packaged for delivery the following fall.
Wiesely teamed with Pacific Ridge’s service learning program and has nearly a dozen other students assisting with the program.
All Pacific Ridge students in grades 7 through 10 participate in more than 40 student-led or school-led service groups, and more than 85 percent of juniors and seniors continue with voluntary service work until they graduate.
Wiesely, though, said he plans to hand the reins over to someone else once he graduates next year, but added he plans to create another branch once he reaches college.
He said another goal is to start recruiting other cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, into TOSS.
“I think our model can be expanded anywhere,” Wiesely said. “It’s been amazing. Going into the classrooms and giving them supplies and seeing their expressions is great.”
According to Pacific Ridge’s Service Learning Director Alison Behr, TOSS is an ideal match for Pacific Ridge’s service learning program.
“TOSS fits our philosophy in many ways,” said Behr. “It is student-initiated and student-run, connects us to other schools in San Diego, and has a direct and positive impact on the community. David has shown great initiative in creating this project.”
In addition, the program is incorporated as a nonprofit and has a board of directors.
“This kind of social entrepreneurship is exactly what we encourage and cultivate at Pacific Ridge,” Behr added.
On Sept. 21, Wiesley, along with members of his TOSS service learning group, completed the second of three deliveries scheduled for the 2016 year. The students delivered 12 large boxes of school supplies, enough to support approximately 800 students, to Ibarra Elementary School, Cherokee Point Elementary and Edison Elementary School, all located near downtown San Diego.
Wiesley is excited about working with other Pacific Ridge students to help grow TOSS.
“As a service learning group, we have more people and time to expand our efforts,” Wiesley said. “Hopefully, we will be able to reach more schools in need of supplies as well as partner with other schools, businesses and organizations. And, I love working with my friends.”
In addition to schools, TOSS accepts office supply donations from corporations through its TOSS for Good program. To learn more about TOSS and how to get involved, visit tossforall.org.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.