By Joe Johnson
The sixth annual Back 2 School Festival will be held at Watauga High School on Saturday, August 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Back 2 School Festival provides school supplies, backpacks, haircuts, new shoes and socks, healthy food, activities, and helpful information in an atmosphere of fun, dignity, and respect for all attendees. The festival is designed to offer relief for local parents who are working hard to make ends meet and to help teachers by providing the tools their students need to succeed. The Back 2 School Festival welcomes any family that is struggling to afford the high costs of back-to-school shopping. If you wouldn’t normally ask for help but you or your child needs it, please do not hesitate to attend the B2SF.
The Back 2 School Festival offers school supplies to help lighten the burden of back-to-school shopping. School readiness shopping can easily cost over $160 per child and that doesn’t even include the costs of shoes and clothes. The B2SF do their best to provide as many supplies as possible from backpacks, to pencils, erasers, and paper. If your child needs it, they most likely have it available! However, the Back 2 School Festival cannot guarantee that your child will be able to get everything on their personal school list; check your child’s teacher’s supplies list (usually available at their school) after you leave the festival to see what additional item you may need to purchase yourself. If there are items on your child’s supply list that you cannot afford and the festival cannot readily supply, the Back 2 School Festival will take your name and your child’s school’s name and do their best to get those items to your child within the first week of school through the school’s social worker. Professional stylists will be available in the high school’s cosmetology room to offer children a fresh new look for the beginning of school. Free lunch will be provided to all students and families. Information booths set up by local agencies will be present to offer activities for your family to enjoy as well as to dispense information about beneficial programs and services. The Back 2 School Festival was founded on the belief that every child deserves to start the school year feeling confident and prepared. A child that feels confident is more likely to succeed.
The Back 2 School Festival was started in 2013 as a collaborative effort between the Children’s Council, Western Youth Network, Hospitality House, Quiet Givers, and more as a streamlined process for local school readiness efforts. It was designed to serve any family struggling to afford the high costs of back-to-school shopping in a fun, dignified, and respectful environment. During last year’s event in 2018, parents and students lined up for two hours before the Back 2 School Festival started; almost 1,200 kids and their parents showed up to the festival. Over 2,000 total people attended the B2SF and enjoyed playing games, eating free lunch, and hanging out with cool mascots like Yosef and the Chic-Fil-A Cow!
The Back 2 School Festival encourages community involvement. From collection efforts, to volunteer opportunities, to having a presence at the festival, they want the community to invest in the success of local students. They want the festival to be an event where members of our community from all different walks of life can come together for the goal of helping local students feel confident and prepared for the year ahead. Back-to-school shopping can be fun for everyone regardless of income. B2SF has turned the dread of school supply shopping into a fun experience for those in the local community that otherwise may not be able to afford these supplies. “The outpouring of generosity from all corners of the community results in hundreds of children and families able to start the school year fully prepared to learn and succeed,” said Dr. Scott Elliot, Watauga County Schools Superintendent.
The Back 2 School Festival is still in need of volunteers for set-up of the event on Friday, August 9 and for the day of the event of Saturday, August 10. Volunteers during the festival must be at least 18 years old and not currently enrolled in Watauga County Schools. Students of Watauga County Schools will not be allowed to volunteer at the festival because, at times, seeing classmates working at the festival can undermine the feeling they are trying to build. However, students are welcome to volunteer during set-up times on Thursday and Friday or to clean up at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday after the festival has ended. The B2SF needs over 250 volunteers to accomplish their mission of providing school supplies, backpacks, and shoes to Watauga County schoolchildren in need. Volunteers have a choice of serving on a Planning Committee for the event, helping set up the event beforehand, helping on the day of the event, and aiding in the break down of the festival after it has concluded on Saturday. If you or your group can volunteer for a few hours to set up the supply room, hand out supplies, serve lunch, direct traffic, or clean up, visit https://www.back2schoolfestival.org/volunteer to sign up!
If you would like to donate to the B2SF and further help the organization supply local children with the items and confidence they need to go back to school, visit this link for further instructions: https://www.back2schoolfestival.org/donate.