By Sherrie Norris
With the start of a new school year less than two weeks away, Watauga County students and their families will not have to take the journey alone, at least while shopping for supplies.
The local Back 2 School Festival, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 13 at Watauga High School, is now in its 10th year of making life easier for many already struggling through an often confusing and financially draining time.
Thanks to a long list of sponsors, volunteers and especially the group of compassionate individuals who work year-round behind the scenes, Back 2 School Festival in Watauga County has grown into a huge community outreach that has helped thousands of students and their families since its inception.
It is estimated that “school readiness shopping” can easily cost over $160 per child, not including shoes and clothes. That is a heavy burden for middle and low income families. But thanks to this organization and its many sponsors, that load is lifted for many families.
According to the organization, the local 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” is more than just a phrase for this group.
To arrive at that primary goal, organizers said, it is vital to provide an environment for kids to get prepared and excited about school, to encourage them to think of ways they can make a difference in our community, and to help all children to realize their unlimited potential.
This annual festival in Watauga County provides not only needed school supplies for all grades, but also new shoes and socks, backpacks, helpful information a healthy lunch, as well as haircuts and fun activities in a safe, dignified and respectful atmosphere.
It’s a day-long event, but it’s been a year-round effort, organizers add.
And it definitely takes a village. “We encourage community involvement the whole way through. From collection efforts (Pack the Bus!) and other volunteer opportunities, to having a presence at the festival, we want the community to invest in the success of our students. We 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.”
Churches and other organizations have been encouraged to participate through a variety of opportunities, including setting up activity/information booths to engage families and get the students excited about heading back to school.
“Activity booths help make this event the festival that it has become,” a spokesperson said, adding that activity booths are huge hits!
At this festival, back-to-school shopping can be fun for everyone — regardless of income. The organization has turned the dread of school supply shopping into a fun experience for those in our community, especially those whose families who might not otherwise be able to afford needed supplies.
In a note to parents on its website, the organization stated, “We do our best to supply as many supplies as possible from backpacks, to pencils, erasers, and paper, but we cannot guarantee that your child will get everything on their supplies lists. You may need to purchase additional items based on your child’s personal school list.” It is suggested that parents check their child’s teacher’s supplies list (usually available at their school by now) after leaving the festival to see what additional items that may need to be purchased. “If there are items on your child’s list that you cannot afford, and we cannot readily supply, we will take your name and school name and do our best to get these items to you within the first week of school through your school social worker.”
So what can be expected at Saturday’s event? Let’s take a look:
BENEFICIAL INFORMATION: Local agencies will be on hand to offer information about beneficial programs and services.
LUNCH:Free lunch will be provided to all students and families.
ACTIVITIES AND FUN:Information booths will also host activities for your family to enjoy. Come enjoy festivities and get into the back-to-school spirit!
It has been common for parents and students to line up for hours before the event begins. Hundreds of kids and their parents show up for the festival every year and leave grateful for all the supplies, as well as for food and activities they receive before all is said and done.
There is also been a network of school social workers available to get the supplies to children who are unable to attend.
This year, a “school” schedule has been posted with times for students to come at specified times, if at all possible:
- 8:30 a.m. Valle Crucis/Cove Creek/WVA
- 10 a.m. Parkway/Mable/Bethel
- 11:30 a.m. Green Valley/Two Rivers/Home School
- 1:30 p.m. Hardin Park/Blowing Rock
- 3 p.m. Watauga High
NOTE: This is a family friendly event, but please leave your pets at home, unless they are certified service animals. There is still a need for volunteers for the day of the festival. If you are available on Saturday to help distribute school supplies, you can sign up at the link below and make a difference for Watauga County students. Visit: https://back2schoolfest.org/volunteer