Photo: Preparing for a lively school year, Rogelio and Rosalba Guel watch as their school age children choose backpacks filled with school supplies. /Photo by John Starkey
Eager children and their parents formed lines in front of Irving High School bright and early Saturday morning, August 13, to take their first exciting step into the upcoming school year. After following a maze which took them through registration, vision and dental screenings, and activities that introduced them to organizations and non-profits that operate in the community, finally the youngsters reached the end where they were able to choose the backpack they will carry for the entire school year, which happened to be filled with all the school supplies they will need.
What may have seemed like magic to some of the children was actually Supplies for Success, a highly coordinated, long term effort by a number of entities including the Irving Fire Department, Irving YMCA, Irving Schools Foundation, Irving ISD, and several local corporations and non-profits.
“We were able to collect a total of 5,222 backpacks,” Nikki Clemonts, an event coordinator, said. “It was a total effort of the community. A lot of corporations, a lot of non-profits and some people from the school district really rallied together to make sure this happened. We all have a common goal and that is to help the kids in Irving.
“Over the past three days, we were able sort, stuff, and move backpacks, and then get all this up and running today.
“I see them come in and you can just see the thanks on [the parents’] faces. You know what it’s going to do for their family. For the kids, the big thing is getting to pick other backpack. It’s almost like a little goodie bag. They are just as excited as mom and dad are, but maybe for different reasons.
“We also offer dental and vision screenings for free. The vision screening is provided by the Lions Club. We always have a dentist here to provide the dental screenings. We invite the vendors from local nonprofits and different organizations as well to provide information,” she said.
If there are children in need who were not able to attend the event, they or their parents should speak with their school’s counselor.
“After this event, we will also have backpacks that go to schools,” Clemonts said. “If you didn’t get a letter, or you could not make it a day, go to your counselor and you may be able to get a backpack there. It’s not just today that we’re giving them to families that need backpacks, there will also be backpacks and every elementary school as well.
Irving ISD Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra was working behind the scenes moving and opening boxes of backpacks.
“We really go to great lengths to make sure that our students have what they need to be successful,” Parra said. “School supplies, although it may not seem like a big deal, are tremendously important to helping students get ready to learn.
“There’s nothing like being prepared for the first day of school. This is a great opportunity for kids to find a way to get prepared. When you are able to walk into your classroom you have everything that you need, you are ready to roll. If you don’t have to worry about whether or not you have school supplies, you can jump right into learning lessons. Whenever you’re prepared, you feel more confident about what you’re about to go into.
“When teachers know their students come in fully equipped in terms of school supplies and backpacks then they can really focus on the learning, which is what we really want,” he said.
Dr. Parra also appreciated the community response that made the event possible.
“It is been incredible. Just this week alone, we went to about three different corporations and collected backpacks and school supplies. It has been a phenomenal response from our business community. All the volunteers have been working hard on this project throughout the summer,” he said.
Staci Seaman and her son, Landon (6), enjoyed a number of the vendors’ displays available at the event.
“We went to the fire vendor and the college vendor,” Seaman said. “We signed up for Boy Scouts, and we got stickers.
“I think this is an awesome thing that they do for people who can’t afford [school supplies]. It knocks off a huge burden for people who can’t afford it. It’s really a great thing,” she said.
Kay Dial and her son, Adrian (7), appreciated the opportunity to attend the event.
“The kids got a lot of different treats, and they have nice backpacks,” Dial said. “We looked at the El Centro table. We signed him up for Boy Scouts, and he got to meet a lot of the good firefighters from Irving.
“This event is a blessing, because some people are not able to go out and get everything on their own. It’s a blessing to get a letter that you’ve been chosen to come and be a part of something. School supplies are very, very expensive. To have an event like this for Irving, is really good, and I really appreciate it,” she said.