Harris County Students Ready to Succeed in School this Year

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KIA representatives with school supplies for Harris County students
Representatives from Kia Motors Manufacturing present school supplies to John Winchester, Harris County Family Connection executive director. Pictured from left: Joanne Mabrey, assistant manager of KIA public relations; Welington Shepherd Atkinson, student volunteer with Harris County Family Connection; Winchester; Tabitha Lewis, executive director of Communities in Schools of Troup County; and Randy Jackson, vice president of human resources and administration at KIA.

More than 500 students in Harris County are better prepared to succeed in school this year—and they’re a little healthier—after participating in their local Back To School Rush last month.

Julia, Brittney Aleah, HOSA members
Julia, Brittney Aleah, members of HOSA, a high-school group for students seeking careers in the health profession, served up hot dogs to participants.

The annual event, now in its 11th year, was sponsored by a group of corporate, community, and faith-based organizations, and individuals led by Harris County Family Connection.

“Our overall strategy for The Back To School Rush is to provide our citizens with resources and a cross-agency referral system to ensure maximum access to health, mental health, and human services,” said John Winchester, executive director of Harris County Family Connection. “This event gives all our children an opportunity to have an equal and healthy start to the new school year, and it serves as an annual community resource fair, because the vendors are service providers in the community.”

Integral to the Back to School Rush this year were health screenings conducted by Valley Healthcare, because students received immunizations, and hearing, dental, and vision testing free of charge.

“While the kids were seeing healthcare providers and having fun getting ready for school, the parents got to meet service providers in the community and learn about all the services available to them,” said Winchester.

Volunteers packing and assembling bags for the 11th annual Back To School Rush
Volunteers pack and assemble bags for the 11th annual Back To School Rush.

Every student who attended the event received an age-appropriate school starter kit that included, paper, pencils, pens, crayons, color pencils, index cards, pocket folders, highlighters, rulers, scissors, erasers, pencil bags, and composition books. Most of those school supplies, which came from JCI (Johnson Controls Industries), Powertech, and KIA Motors Manufacturing, are helping those students with the basic essential needs to succeed.

“Some students are embarrassed to attend school, or won’t come at all, if they don’t have school supplies,” said Tabitha Lewis, executive director of Communities in Schools of Troup County. “We take simple things like pencils and paper for granted, but some of our students don’t have these supplies. Our donors are helping us fill in the gaps for our students.”

Volunteers having fun with participants at Back To School Rush
Volunteers semed to have just as much fun as the participants at Back To School Rush.

According to Winchester, the school district also sees several homeless children whose families can’t afford to purchase supplies, so they also assembled an additional 35 book bags for Carpenter’s Way Ranch, Arbela’s Girls Home, local foster children, and homeless youth.

Winchester, who described the Back To School Rush as a spectacular parent engagement event for the county, said the Collaborative can still use donations, because the tremendous turnout and those who came after the event emptied the school supply closet they maintain throughout the year.

 To learn more about this and other annual events in Harris County Family Connection’s strategy to ensure that all children are healthy and succeed in school—including the 8th Grade Math CRCT Attendance Challenge, which focuses on raising CRCT scores—visit harris.gafcp.org, or send an email to hcfamily@bellsouth.net.

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-527-7394 (x113)

Follow us on Twitter @gafcpnews.