PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – With the first day of school around the corner, 1 in 5 Valley students won’t be prepared with new clothes or classroom supplies.

“They do not have the funds; the money is not there,” said Brenda Nelson, the founder of Academy of Excellence.

Nearly half of the students at Nelson’s school come from low-income families. To spare themselves embarrassment, Nelson says some kids choose to stay home and miss out on important learning in the process.

“If some students are a little embarrassed to ask, they’ve missed out on a lot of instruction and can you imagine that one day adds up to 10 days, 30 days and then by the end of the year, that Einstein has missed 180 days,” said Nelson.

“Oh it’s a lot of pressure,” LaTasha Lassiter, a mother of three kids, said.

[WATCH: Better than Christmas for children in need]

[WATCH: Grand Canyon University pitching in for Back-to-school Clothing Drive]

Each school year, Lassiter’s excitement for her children is often overshadowed by the financial burden of preparing them for the first day.

“Normally it could go up to $700,” said Lassiter.

Her daughter Juliann, 10, feels the stress of the situation, too.

“I worry about that a lot and my parents tell me, ‘That’s not your concern. Just worry about school, not what we can and can’t afford,'” she said.

For Valley families like the Lassiters, the Back to School Clothing Drive is a lifeline. In its 50th year, the event helps more than 250,000 children from 260 different schools with free clothes, shoes and a backpack full of school supplies. The opportunity is made possible through a partnership with the BHHS Legacy Foundation’s “Backpack Buddies” program.

“It helps so much,” said Lassiter.

Students are pre-selected to benefit from the event by their school. At Academy of Excellence, Nelson believes having those new materials for school has a positive impact on the self-esteem of students.

“When I take them there and they have a chance to go through and get the clothes and they’re sharing and showing it to me when they get on the bus coming back to school, the enthusiasm just lightens up my heart,” said Nelson.

Our mission is to provide new school outfits and uniforms, backpacks, and school supplies to children in need. We help break down barriers to early childhood school and education success.

~ Back-to-School Clothing Drive

Administrators say the BTSCD, a CBS 5 Pay It Forward-sponsored event, helps lift children out of poverty by eliminating financial barriers and helping them focus on education. Nelson says students who benefit from the event show increases in attendance and test scores.

With the clothes and supplies she needs to be successful, Juliann is setting her sights on becoming a basketball player or doctor, goals she believes are within reach.

“It’s a really cool feeling,” she said.

Through a special phone bank on Tuesday, July 18th, CBS 5 and its Pay It Forward sponsors Wells Fargo, Arizona Lottery, Papa Murphy’s Take N Bake Pizza and Valley Honda Dealers helped raise $60,000 to fund next year’s clothing drive.

Make a donation online now at and the BHHS Legacy Foundation will double it.