Back to School Rallies help outfit students for first day
Families turned out at 17 Lexington-area sites for the 2017-18 Back to School Rallies, which were chock-full of games and outdoor activities, community resources, food, and fun for all ages. Nearly 6,000 students received free school supplies during the Aug. 5 campaign, organized by the YMCA of Central Kentucky.
“School supplies and backpacks are a symbol of the start of another school year,” FCPS Superintendent Manny Caulk said at Douglass Park. “It’s about showing our community that families are our partners, and it’s about unifying our neighborhoods, our schools, and our families so every student has the tools to succeed.”
The blue drawstring bags contained multicolored folders, spiral notebooks, crayons, pencils, pens, and other basics suitable for elementary, middle, and high school students.
“It’s about equitable education and getting them all started on the same footing,” said Jessica Berry, the YMCA’s vice president of Youth Development. “We just want to help support all our families, and we are excited to send students to school ready.”
The Saturday rallies, which started with one church in 2001, have expanded and have served nearly 42,000 students since the YMCA began coordinating the initiative in 2011. This year’s supporters and sponsors alongside Fayette County Public Schools were Kentucky Utilities, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Anthem Medicaid, Hilliard Lyons, Rotary Club of Lexington, United Way of the Bluegrass, Passport Health, and PNC Bank.
A new rally site in the Bainbridge neighborhood was sponsored by Valvoline, which hosted families on its expansive greenspace off Man o’ War Boulevard and Palumbo Drive. Makinzie Greene, a rising eighth-grader at Crawford Middle, appreciated the extra school supplies. “Last year I needed better organization, so these folders will help a lot,” she said.
In the elementary line, Lynn Edwards stood with her son, who will start kindergarten at Squires Elementary. “I saw his (supplies) list, so their willingness to help out is great,” she said of the rally sponsors.
Carla Jackson, the Youth Services Center coordinator at Edythe J. Hayes Middle School, worked closely with the Bainbridge site’s organizers and volunteers. “Our families in this area had a hard time getting to other locations, and we wanted to make it convenient to walk, so we reached out to Valvoline,” she said.
School board member Daryl Love, who is community relations manager for Valvoline, said the company was glad to step up, particularly for families from nearby Athens-Chilesburg, Squires, and Garrett Morgan elementaries and Hayes Middle. “This also helps build community among those schools,” Love noted.