BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. — When you think about a box of crayons, you may think about coloring books, silly drawings or even sharing with friends. For one Bladen County teacher, however, crayons mean something so much more.

What You Need To Know

  • When Darlene Smith was in first grade, a classmate stole a box of crayons from her

  • After the teacher was told, she was accused of lying and told that her family probably couldn’t afford to get her crayons anyway

  • Now, as a teacher herself, she gives every student a box of crayons at the beginning of the school so that they don’t have to go through what she experienced

While back-to-school shopping, Darlene Smith, a teacher with Bladen County Schools, puts a special emphasis on buying crayons, and lots of them.

Boxes of crayons in the back to school shopping trip.

“I love getting crayons at the beginning of the school year,” said Smith. “When I was a student in the first grade, I had my box of crayons taken from me and given to another student because of my skin color.”

If that’s not bad enough, when the teacher was told, things only got worse.

“The little boy told the teacher that I had taken his box of crayons,” recalled Smith, “She came over and took my box of crayons, snatched them from me and made the comment that my family could not afford a box of crayons, and it made me so sad, and I was sad the rest of the day.”

Now, as a teacher herself, she makes it her mission to make sure that none of her students have to go through what she did.

On a colorful mission.

“So now, I just love buying crayons and donating them to my students,” said Smith, “This year, I plan to donate a box of crayons to all students to Bladen County Schools in the first grade.”

It’s an important mission that she’s taken on, but Smith is just happy to have turned a hateful interaction into something beneficial. For Smith, it’s simple: regardless of race or class, everyone should have access to education.

“I never want another student to have to go through what I did,” said Smith, “Even though it’s just a box of crayons, I feel that all students should have the supplies that they need for school.”

Bladen County students returned to school August 17, and students in the first grade throughout the county will be using crayons provided by Smith and her colorful mission.