PLEASANT HILL (KRON) — As the summer winds down for students like 15-year-old Romit Raj, instead of wasting a few hours with his friends, he’s in Pleasant Hill volunteering for the non-profit organization Volunteer Emergency Services Team in Action,

The aspiring police officer and his peers are filling backpacks with supplies that will eventually be distributed to low-income students whose families already receive social benefits from Contra Costa County.

“It’s just a very good experience to have, and you know, makes me feel good about myself,” Raj said. 

Some of Raj’s fellow classmates at Hercules High Achool will benefit from the county’s ready-to-learn backpack drive.

For 35 years now, it’s been an annual tradition for the county employment and human services department, says Program Coordinator Cindy Smith.

“It may cost upwards of $700 per child to send a kid to school. Not only for backpacks and supplies, but for clothing,” she said. 

The county has been collecting new donated backpacks for about a month and, next week, will begin passing them out to families social workers have recommended could really use them.

“Many times, I  would have classmates asking, ‘hey, do you have paper, do you have a pencil, have a pen.’ So, I think this cause may really help, you know, all these supplies given out to kids who are in need,” Raj said.

Last year, 1,600 backpacks were filled and distributed.

Volunteers are hoping to surpass that number this year.