Like a turtle trying to admire his own shell, second-grader Elian Arroyo appeared to be doing his best to check out the new backpack he wore Friday morning at Garrison Elementary School. Couldn’t do it, but he had to know the dino-camo design looked cool.
Nearby, first-grader Chloe Georgeson paused while eating to give dad Tristan a hot-dog-breath kiss, and student volunteer Noelani Hughey from Salida dashed back and forth to pick out backpacks for children based on gender and grade level.
Meanwhile, parents and students hustled and bustled to get all the things done that give the back-to-school “roundup” its name. After all, the first day of school at Garrison and other campuses in the Modesto City Schools district is Monday.
Families had to make sure their emergency cards are up to date, pick up their children’s teacher assignment cards, sign forms, get copies of the student conduct code and more, said Principal Chanthon Phe.
It was enough to work up an appetite, which was sated by hot dogs, chips and drinks donated by Food Maxx and prepared by volunteers with Trinity United Presbyterian Church. The church, which has a partnership with the school, also donated the roughly 450 backpacks filled with school supplies that were given to the schoolkids.
Through fundraisers and congregation members’ donations, Trinity United bought the backpacks and supplies, held an event to pack them, and even did a blessing over them, said Becky Pombo, the church’s minister to children
Garrison, in a neighborhood northwest of Orangeburg Avenue and Carver Road, has an enrollment of nearly 400 students, Phe said, half in kindergarten through sixth-grade general education, half in a K-3 autism program.
As families made their way through the roundup, each and every child could fill up a bag of food from the Mobile Fresh truck operated by Second Harvest Food Bank of San Joaquin & Stanislaus Counties. On one side were packaged foods like cereal, granola bars and fruit wrap, and on the other were fresh corn, carrots and apples.
Parents also had the opportunity Friday to talk with Center for Human Services Exec Director Cindy Duenas about the monthly “parent cafe” meetings her organization offers.
“It’s a free dinner, activities for the kids, and parents get together and learn from each other ways to be more effective parents,” Duenas said. “It’s a nice, informal way to build parents’ skills to be the best parents they can be.”