For nearly as long as she can remember, College of Charleston junior Kathryn Templeton has wanted to be a teacher. She loves working with children, and admits she could spend hours on Pinterest clicking through endless examples of lesson plans aimed at getting kids excited about learning.
Even before her freshman year as an education major in the College’s Department of Teacher Education, Templeton was already putting her passion for education into action. In 2011, during her sophomore year at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, South Carolina, Templeton, along with a friend, started a non-profit organization with the goal of collecting used school supplies for elementary schools with a high percentage of students receiving free or reduced price lunch.
The impetus for the project was simple. Looking around her house one day, Templeton realized she and her brother were flooded with old school supplies – books, art supplies and more – that they didn’t need. They looked for some place to donate them, but found that most places only accepted new items.
“We had a ton of kid scissors,” Templeton recalls. “What were we going to do with them?”
And so K4Kids was born. The organization’s motto is simple: Pass it, not trash it.
“The charity is different because we recycle school supplies that would have been put into the Dumpsters in our counties,” Templeton says. “We want people to pass on their old supplies and teacher resources instead of trashing them.”
At first Templeton collected items from family and friends, but soon held donation drives at Dutch Fork and beyond. The organization reaches out to elementary schools and provides supplies based on schools’ needs.
Then in 2014, as she began thinking about her own future as a CofC education major, the ambitious future teacher decided to expand the mission of K4Kids. With the help of her younger brother, Templeton began collecting used teaching materials to offer free to other educators who didn’t have access to or funds for extra resources.
Templeton says once word spread among the Midlands schools with which she had relationships, donated supplies from teachers came pouring in.
“Every time we took stuff home, teachers would put more stuff out,” she says. “I was crying I was so overwhelmed to see how teachers were taking to it and wanting to help new teachers.”
In 2015, the South Carolina Education Association (SCEA) honored Templeton for her efforts with the group’s Richard W. Riley Award, which is part of the association’s annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Luncheon. That recognition started a partnership between K4Kids and the SCEA, which has allowed the organization to reach even more students and teachers.
In June, 2016, K4Kids provided 15,000 free items to teachers at the South Carolina New Teacher Symposium in Lexington, South Carolina. In all, Templeton’s organization has donated more than 125,000 items since it began five years ago.
These days, Templeton is focused on making her long-time dream of becoming a teacher a reality. She hopes to merge her love of history and science with her passion for education as a middle school teacher. And as someone who has learning disabilities, Templeton hopes to use her story as a way to encourage her students to overcome any challenges they may face.
But she also plans to continue serving students and teachers through K4Kids. There’s really nothing else quite like it, Templeton says.
“Being able to give back to the community is one of the best things,” she says. “Seeing the light on the kids’ faces, seeing teachers getting excited – it’s a great experience every time we donate.”