During a recent assembly at Inglewood High School, Ashley Acosta and Kameron Squalls, both 17, sat side-by-side inspecting the contents of their new backpacks during a surprise giveaway to all seniors in the school auditorium.

“I can use everything in here. It’s great,” Ashely said, peering inside her backpack.

“I love this!” exclaimed Kameron, sporting a ’60s-style Afro and black-framed glasses.

“I think it’s a great help for our low-income school. Any little help that contributes to our students and our school can make a big difference,” said Alfred Valencia, 18. “I’ll be able to use the contents of the backpack for every class.”

Students at Inglewood and Morningside High recently learned a valuable lesson in giving back when 530 backpacks filled with essential school supplies were gifted to surprised seniors.  

The giveaways, funded by Edison International, and made possible by CBS EcoMedia Inc. and its national partner The Kids In Need Foundation, is part of the utility’s commitment to support education in the communities it serves and to promote its $1.2 million Edison Scholars Program which has awarded nearly $4 million in scholarships to 460 students.

This year, Edison International will award 30 students with scholarships valued at $40,000 each.

For many students who attend low-income schools in underrepresented communities, there is not always access to basic school supplies. And educators know students who come to school prepared do better and have a greater chance of achieving success.

No one’s more aware of that than Martha Mejia, a senior at Morningside High in Inglewood.

“Succeeding and reaching my dreams in biophysics is why I plan to go to college,” she said. “As a low-income student in an inner-city school, we don’t always get the basic supplies we need to get an education. This donation helps motivate me to continue in school because we have the supplies we need to get our school work done.”

“An important goal here at Morningside is for our students to be 100 percent prepared for college and continue to grow both academically and socially,” said Dr. Reginald Sirls, principal at Morningside High. “For Edison to take time to partner with us and show students the importance of education and a scholarship opportunity is big and special for us.”

Each backpack contained pocket folders, spiral notebooks, colored pencils and pens, a glue stick, eraser, a pair of scissors, a ruler, a pencil sharpener, a highlighter and an Edison Scholars informational flyer.

The kindness of strangers was not lost on the high school seniors who praised Edison International for partnering with their schools, for giving them new backpacks and school supplies, and most importantly, for supporting education in Inglewood, a city, they said, that gets a bad rap.  

“As a student, you realize there are people out there who do care about your education and do care about you attending college and graduating from college,” said Roger Hill, 18, an Inglewood High School senior. “Some people only think about the violence and the negatives in Inglewood. But nobody has taken the time to think of the positive side, that Inglewood is doing good things, especially the students.”

Daisy Paez, 18, senior class president at Inglewood High, shared Roger’s viewpoint.

“I think the new partnership we created with Edison is a great opportunity to show that our school is a good school,” said Daisy, who has been admitted to Smith College which awarded her a $51,000 scholarship. “It’s not just a whole bunch of kids that don’t know what they’re going to do. I actually came to the school to prove that there are better kids here than what [the community] expected.”

“At Edison International, we support education because one of our priorities is helping to nurture scholars of tomorrow,” said Tammy Tumbling, director of Philanthropy and Community Investment at Southern California Edison. “We recognize that education is a transformative tool that changes lives, empowers communities and fuels the future. So we are happy to join with our partners to provide the school supplies to the students at Inglewood and Morningside high schools.”