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Schools need volunteers to welcome students

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County School System is turning to every group in the community in its time of need.

The district is looking for volunteers who are willing to participate in its fourth annual DAY ONE celebration -- otherwise known as the first day of school.

Officials are hoping to set a new record for participation in the event by getting 1,000 volunteers to show up and help greet students for the new school year.

The 2008-09 school year will begin on Thursday, Aug. 7.

"Four years ago, Clayton County Public Schools initiated the DAY ONE celebration to inform the community about the importance of the first day of school," said Rhonda Burnough, the district's volunteer coordinator, in a letter to potential DAY ONE participants.

"The goal of the DAY ONE project is to invite community organizations, business partners, parents and [members of the] faith-based community to join us in welcoming our students ..."

DAY ONE volunteers arrive at the schools before the students begin to arrive. They stand at the entrance to their assigned schools, armed with pencils or pens, and a smile.

They wait in the quiet, early morning hours, like soldiers anticipating an onslaught.

As the appointed time arrives, school buses begin pulling into the parking lots at the schools. The doors of the buses fold open and the students file out into the morning air, where the volunteers are ready. The volunteers hand a writing utensil to a passing student, and then have only one thing to say to the young pupils -- "Good luck this year. Study hard!"

In all, school system officials expect the whole process of welcoming all of the students at a particular school will take 90 minutes. Last year, 800 volunteers greeted students on the first day of school, and that was a record high for volunteer involvement in the DAY ONE program.

However, the district needs more volunteers this year because a new school -- Mt. Zion Primary School -- will be opening its doors.

Organizations and business are encouraged to register volunteers as a group. The organization, or business, which brings the largest number of volunteers to participate in the DAY ONE program will be recognized by the Clayton County Board of Education at its meeting in October.

Contact Burnough at (770) 473-2760 for more information about signing up as a DAY ONE volunteer.