Ready to learn

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Students need support from teachers, parents, community, to succeed in school

By Alice Du Pont

They were bright–eyed and ready to learn Monday morning as the first day of school went off without a hitch. Thousands of children came to school by bus, car and a few walked but all appeared ready for the start of a new year. 

Teachers had been preparing classrooms since last week with brightly colored bulletin boards intended to get students in the mindset for learning.

“The teachers at Stewart Street Elementary take special pride in our classrooms and how they look. We want our children to arrive at school met by a cheery classroom and smiling teachers; it’s extremely important that they get off to a good start. But the main focus is always education and fourth grade is a very important year,” said Stewart Street fourth-grade teacher Moneek Walker.

Teachers weren’t the only ones working to help students start the school year successfully. A number of community groups and individuals held back-to-school supplies events throughout the county at parks, churches and even in the middle of a city street.

Quincy City Commissioners rallied the people in Quincy’s District 2 for a family affair. Keith Dowdell and community leaders raised a festive green and white tent in the middle of Like Oak Street. Parents and volunteers served chicken, baked beans, hot dogs, pizza and soft drinks. 

“I know there are school supplies events in other areas, and some of our children in this district could have gone but some of them have no transportation. So we’re doing it here so that the kids and their parents can get ready for school,” Dowdell said.

As a school administrator and former teacher, Dowdell said learning is a family affair.

“You will not have successful children if the family is left out. This way the kids let off steam, and the family gets back into the fact that another school year is beginning,” Dowdell said.

Members of the Quincy Fire Department talked with children about safety and watching out for cars before they were allowed to take a close-up look at fire engines. Several teachers talked with parents about how they could help their children or how to access services to help them with homework.

Every girl or boy who wanted a free haircut or free braids was served by one of three barbers or one of three braiders. 

“This is something we want to do. We’re doing this because we want the kids to look their best Monday morning,” said Jeffery Austin as he put the finishing touches on a haircut for 5-year-old D’Armon Jones.

A few steps away, Ciera Daniels braided 6-year-old Makiya Brown’s hair. Daniels said Brown couldn’t decide what style she wanted for the first day so she made the decision for her.

“A lot of the little girls want what we call a ‘two-layer,’ so I’m braiding the top that will end in a pony tail and she’ll have a Mohawk at the bottom. She’ll like it,” Daniels said.

There were impromptu dance contests and winners received backpacks filled with paper, pencils and folders, according to Yolanda Carter, who helped Dowdell and Austin organize the inaugural event.

The Jessie Furlow Medical Center closed Friday afternoon for a couple hours to distribute nearly 300 backpack and string bags with school supplies. In addition to school supplies, students received diabetes testing, eye examinations, height and weight measurements and a healthy snack.

Board members and volunteers help make the event a success, said Jorge Martinez, site manager.

On Monday morning, there were the usual first-day glitches but nothing the capable principals, teachers and staff could not handle. There were the usual tears of separation by both kids and mothers of some of the pre-K students at Gretna Elementary, but by lunchtime they were all OK.

Fourth-grade teacher Diane Keaton started right off the bat with her students. After a lunch of chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, string beans, a roll and a fruit cup, there was no time to be sluggish and she caught them up on their math just in case they forget a little during the summer vacation.

Ryan Jones , just down the hall from Keaton, marked a milestone with the start of the fall term.

“This is my first year, my first day and my first class,” Ryan Jones, a new teacher at George Munroe Elementary School. He said he is looking forward to his career as a teacher because he wants to make a difference in the lives of children.