By Johnny Jackson
Hundreds of "Day One" volunteers turned out Monday in support of schools and students, despite damp weather. Members from communities at-large, in business, and in faith alike greeted students at schoolhouse doors for their first day of school.
Participants greeted students and handed out pins and bookmarks inscribed with study tips and motivational phrases.
Officials say the county-wide event generated grand community support, including some new-born community-oriented grassroots organizations.
Anthony Williams is the chairman of Diverse and Dedicated Support (D.A.D.S.), a grassroots men's organization developed and devoted to mentoring students in the community.
"Men need to be involved in children's lives," Williams said. "Our children don't have order; we're trying to regain that."
Jim Corbin of Corbin Comfort Systems represented the business community, instructing some students on dressing for success.
"We've been doing a lot of greeting, reminding the young men to tuck in their shirt tails," Corbin said. Corbin said he got an early start to help prepare for the greet session.
Douglas Hendrix, principal of Adamson Middle School, said he started his day at 4:30 Monday morning. By 7 a.m., he said, many of the volunteers were preparing to greet students.
"We just want to welcome the kids back with a smile and words of encouragement," said Michelle Nash, vice-president of the Adamson Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). "We know that without the teachers, this is not possible."
Her daughter Kimani, 12, is an eighth grader at Adamson Middle School. According to Nash, Kimani was very excited about her first day of school.
Cathy Ellis, a paraprofessional at Adamson Middle School, greeted several special needs students who were more than happy to see Ellis.
"It's a little chaotic," Ellis said, helping one of her students with her rain-soaked umbrella.
"We were in the rain this morning, (but) the parents were there," said Superintendent Barbara Pulliam. She first greeted students at Smith Elementary School with county commissioners Eldrin Bell and Virginia Gray. The trio also visited Sequoyah Middle and Mundy's Mill High schools.
"Hectic. That's all I can say," said Donna Johnson as she left her daughter Santosha Payton, 13, an eighth-grader at Adamson Middle School. "This year she's excited, she's experiencing change.
"I think that this is good; it's encouraging," Johnson said. "This year, I'm going to try to be more involved in her schooling. I want her to learn here."
"I think it's excellent," said Hendrix. "Everything has gone well.
"A first day is just that, a first day," he said, emphatically. "The parents are excited. They're happy and we're pleased to have them here."
Hendrix motioned to volunteers at Adamson Middle School representing D.A.D.S.
"It's outstanding to have men involved with school," he said. "You don't see it very often; it's refreshing to see."
"I think the important thing is what we're going to do all year," said Bell. "We want to be sure our children are safe and get a quality education."
Like Hendrix, Gray pointed to the success of the parent volunteer organizations she met at Mundy's Mill High School, "They've been visible and effective."
"Everyday offers a fresh opportunity to get involved," said Anthony Smith, principal of Mundy's Mill High School. "We've gotten an overwhelming response from our students. I'm real appreciative for the kids being on board with the new dress guidelines and everything."
Smith said that the school saw about a hundred volunteers throughout the day Monday. James Brown is one such volunteer.
"We try to assist them any way we can from a parental point of view," said Brown. Brown is a member of the Mundy's Mill High School PTSA and a member of the Parents Ready To Stand, a grassroots organization for parents. He is also father of Thomas and Frank Brown, who attend Mundy's Mill High School. "We're hoping, by the time this school year ends, there will be a fellowship among teachers, students, parents, and administration. We hope this will swell - this feeling of camaraderie."