LUMBERTON — The Public Schools of Robeson County’s sixth annual Back-to-School Celebration on Thursday wasn’t just about stocking up on school supplies.
Hugs and smiles were shared among educators and students who had missed each other during the summer break.
“I love the way they do this,” said Donna Campbell, a bus driver for the school system who attended with her grandsons, Gabe and Chase Campbell.
“It gets the kids excited and ready for the year,” she said.
Enough book bags for 24,000 students were stuffed with basic school supplies and distributed to attendees from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center.
Each student at the event was provided with free classroom supplies like notebook paper, activity books, crayons, markers, note cards, sticky pads, coloring pencils and books. Parents also received a bag, notebooks, calendar, dictionary and activity sheets.
Remaining book bags will be distributed at schools to students who weren’t able to attend the event, but those who claimed their supplies Thursday were eligible for more goodies, such as extra school supplies, gift baskets or gift cards.
Parent coordinator Amy Haigler said she learns something new with each Back-to-School celebration, which she said gets better every year. She said, on average, attendees spend about 10 minutes going through the check-in and circulating through the booths set up by individual schools.
Long Branch Elementary School Principal Amanda Tyner said the turnout was good and, as of noon, about 80 packets had been handed out giving information to Long Branch students.
“Kids are excited about coming back to school, and we are, too,” Tyner said.
Well, not all of them.
“Not me,” said Oynesti McQueen, a fifth-grader at Fairmont Middle School.
Oynesti’s brother, Nishique, echoed the sentiment, stating he would prefer to stay home to play his XBox.
Messiah McQueen said he is ready for pre-K.
“I’m gonna do my homework,” Messiah said. “I like to color.”
Tyler Price, a rising Lumberton High School freshman, is looking forward to his new school, and is already attending football practice. He is determined to make this year count.
“I want to have good grades,” Price said. “I want to show everybody I can do better than I did before.”
About 120 volunteers worked this year’s event, including St. Pauls JROTC and student volunteers, and student volunteers from Fairmont High School.
“We will be here until the last minute,” Haigler said. “It’s worth it, because it gives every child in our district an opportunity to start the year off with basic school materials.”
It’s a year-long process of planning and trying to get everything coordinated, “but at 7:01 tonight, we can say we made some students and parents happy,” Haigler said.
Open houses are being held on Aug. 25, which is a Thursday, and the first day of school is Aug. 29.
Reach Juanita Lagrone at [email protected] or call 910-416-5865.