Friends and Neighbors

Ransom Everglades student starts firm to supply backpacks to those in need

High school entrepreneur Alex Swerdlow started his company,

GivingBackPacks, to make a difference for underprivileged kids. From left to right are friends Matt Deutch, Alex Swerdlow, Matt Hanzman and Blake Goldman.
High school entrepreneur Alex Swerdlow started his company, GivingBackPacks, to make a difference for underprivileged kids. From left to right are friends Matt Deutch, Alex Swerdlow, Matt Hanzman and Blake Goldman.

By Christina Mayo Special to The Miami Herald

Kids in need are getting a big help from a Ransom Everglades School junior, Alexander Swerdlow, through his newly launched company, GivingBackPacks.

The 17-year-old entrepreneur is on a mission to help end the problem of a lack of school supplies for underprivileged students. To accomplish this, he is using the successful one-for-one model, the donation platform used by TOMS Shoes & Eyewear and Warby Parker Eyewear.

In Alex’s world, every backpack sale means a student who needs the essential school supply, and can’t afford it, gets one. Alex said he got the idea while walking through the Ransom Everglades campus. He had just read the book Start Something That Matters by TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie and decided he wanted to make a difference.

Backpacks, he thought, were an item bought by students and young professionals across all demographics. He thought of the name GivingBackPacks as a combination play on the words “Giving Back” and “Backpacks.”

To get started he interned at The LAB Miami, a successful Miami-based campus for social and tech innovation in the Wynwood Arts District. The LAB was started by two Ransom graduates, Daniel Lafuente and Wifredo Fernandez, and is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“I was able to get the company formed, manufacture and logo the bags, build a website, source the supplies and secure two large charities to take the bags in our program,” Alex said. “It was a super exciting summer for me, and I learned a great amount about entrepreneurship and business while interning at the LAB.”

GivingBackPacks now has a program in place with the Chapman Partnership, a Miami-based agency that works with the homeless, and a New York hospital library program. The company also has recently signed an agreement with The Haiti Initiative at Ransom Everglades, through which the school community provides essential supplies to an orphanage in Haiti. Each time one of GivingBackPacks backpacks is sold. another one with supplies is given to a child in the Haitian orphanage.

At a recent event that he calls a “Give,” Alex and his close friends brought new backpacks and school supplies to children through the Chapman Partnership for homeless youth and families.

“I have always been interested in enhancing education across the country, and with that, I truly don't believe there is a more rewarding experience than providing children with brand new backpacks and school supplies. Doing so provides them with the materials, confidence, and excitement that are required to thrive and succeed in school,” Alex said.

You can help too by visiting to make a buy-one,give-one purchase. The backpacks are available in black, red, navy, green and pink.


A new foundation has been created that uses the game of golf to help children learn core values for life.

Through establishing The First Tee of Miami-Dade Foundation, board members hope to establish and build an endowment for future growth. Programs are designed around teaching golf, as well as The First Tee Nine Core Values of Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect, Confidence, Responsibility,Perseverance, Courtesy and Judgment.

The international youth service program, The First Tee, has been inspiring youth since 1997. Lessons learned on the golf course, and off, are estimated to have helped in the lives of more than nine million youth.

Experts in positive youth development created The First Tee’s curriculum and adults who serve as “coaches” have been trained by The First Tee’s national organization. Locally, The First Tee Miami Family Learning Center was started in early 2013 at Melreese Country Club, 1802 NW 37th Ave, Miami.

Through a partnership with Grasp Learning, a pioneering after-school academic program, children attending the center can also receive homework and study skills help along with test preparation and reading reinforcement.

Serving on The First Tee of Miami-Dade Foundation Board of Directors are Michael D. Wohl, chairman; Charlie DeLucca Jr., president and executive director; and his son, Charlie DeLucca III, executive director. Other members of the Board include: Daniel Baumgard, Doreen S. Furnari,Joel Furnari, Andres Gaviria, Susan Goldstein, Jim Hauser, Carlos M. Rodriguez, Jose “Joe” Sanchez, Patricio G. De Torres, and Jeff Weiner. For more, visit and


A gala to help the hundreds of homeless and abused children and teens in South Florida will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 on a rooftop terrace of the JW Marriott Marquis Miami hotel in downtown Miami. Guests will also experience the hotel’s NBA-approved indoor basketball court.

The “Notte di Carnevale” will mimic the enchantment of the masquerade balls of Venice, Italy. As an important giving event, it will benefit the necessary programs and outreach of Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services, Inc.

Each year Miami Bridge shelters more than 800 youth in crisis and counsels more than 550 families. The program emcee is Lisa Petrillo of CBS Miami and serving as chair of the event is Marlene Quintana. A single reservation is $150. Attire is Miami Chic. For more information or to support the Miami Bridge organization, contact Monique Bain at 305-636-3520 or You can also visit


Express your creativity at the next South Florida Writers Association gathering from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Feb. 1, at the Pinecrest Library, 5835 SW 111th St. Members will read from original works. Residents who wish to share their writing are welcome to join SFWA. The time limit for all readings is five minutes.

There is a $10 charge for members, $12 for guests that includes brunch. RSVP by Jan. 30 to For more details visit

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at

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