The Backpack Project


The Backpack Project is both an art installation

and a massive donation drive that aims to raise awareness about the

over 21,000 Opportunity Youth in Pima County.


We are a coalition of young people who are seeking to amplify and complicate the current conversation about the existence of Opportunity Youth in the United States.


Opportunity Youth are young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who neither in school nor in work. We used to be known as at “risk youth” or “juvenile delinquents” or simply “disconnected.” And while the language has changed, the challenges we face have not.   

We are survivors of poverty, in our homes and on our streets. The environments and systems we were born into have given us our greatest strengths and our most devastating obstacles.


Our goal is to collect 21,000 backpacks that we will display in an interactive, youth-curated art installation on the campus of the University of Arizona. We are asking for donations of new and gently-used backpacks as well as monetary contributions that we can then use to purchase backpacks ourselves.

Following the installation, all the backpacks we collect will be donated to organizations that serve Opportunity Youth in Pima County: every individual backpack in the hands of an individual youth in need.


We believe that art forces us to see the world differently, and that installations like ours offer an experience that unites communities while uncovering the problems that divide us. We see art as a path to youth empowerment and an instrument for social change. Join us.


United Youth Leadership Council

The University of Arizona Fostering Success

Cradle to Career Partnership, Youth on the Rise

United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona


You can donate here online ($10/backpack) or you can drop off new or used backpacks at United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona (330 N. Commerce Park Loop, suite 200).

On submitting payment, click the "Donate" button only once. There will then be a processing delay before confirmation appears.



Questions? Email

Stay tuned for details on the art installation event in the fall!