Back to School Bash: Events equip students for new school year


Imani Earle picks out her backpack at the 11th annual Back To School Bash/Fun Day at Waterfront Park in Elizabeth City, Saturday. The back to school event was one of two held on Saturday. A third is scheduled for today.


By Reggie Ponder and Julian Eure
Staff Writers

Sunday, August 25, 2019

With school resuming on Monday, civic groups, community leaders and local agencies are making sure this weekend that students are well equipped with supplies, backpacks and even haircuts.

Two Back-to-School Bash events were held in Elizabeth City on Saturday, one at Waterfront Park, the other at the Police Athletic League gym. A third, hosted by the city of Elizabeth City, is scheduled for today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the R.L. Vaughan Center at Elizabeth City State University.

The Waterfront Park event was the 11th annual Back to School Bash/Fun Day coordinated by Eleanor Doane-Butts and her family. The four-hour event featured games, free hot dogs and hamburgers, and a tour of Museum of the Albemarle. It culminated with organizers giving away nearly 300 backpacks. There also was a drawing for a free laptop computer. Nearly 30 local businesses, churches and agencies helped sponsor the event.

Three students — DeAndre’ Sawyer, a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Zachary Cook, a rising senior at J.P. Knapp Early College; and Kendra Watson, a junior at N.C. A&T University — were issued $100 academic scholarships. A fourth student, Keyona Wiggins, a 2019 graduate of Northeastern High School, was issued a $100 community service scholarship.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education member George Archuleta, who spoke briefly at the event, urged parents in attendance to be the “sunshine” for their kids, particularly when they face obstacles.

“On those days when things are not going right, they’re going to need to see an example,” he said. “You can be that example. You can be that sunshine, you can be that joy. ... You can help them see that they can go and make something good out of something bad.”

Also speaking at the Back to School Bash/Fun Day was the Rev. Lionel Cartwright, associate minister at First Baptist Church in Fayetteville and Doane-Butt’s cousin.

He reminded parents that their voice “is the most popular and present voice” in their children’s lives. He noted that school officials may see their children at school, but that their “children need that calm presence that abides with you.”

“I call that the ‘close encounter of the blessed kind,’” Cartwright said. “Please continue to be what you can be to your children.”

Addressing the dozens of children on hand for the event, he asked them to trust their teachers and parents.

“If you feel you’re being bullied, if you feel something is wrong that is happening to you or someone else, speak to your parents,” Cartwright said. “You also need to speak to your school teacher or guidance counselor. Don’t close it in.”

He also encouraged them to use the skill of “subtraction” they had learned in school, particularly when it comes to things like playing video games that might interfere with academics.

“Sometimes you have to subtract some of those things that make you happy as an investment in your future,” he said.

Cartwright also urged them to not to get distracted by obstacles.

“You may not have the best clothes, the best sneakers or the best house. Sometimes you might even struggle with food on the table. ... Your friends may talk about you and try to put you down. But the reality of it is you need to say, ‘I’m better than that.’ ... Even if you feel weak today, tomorrow is going to be a new day and a new opportunity.”

A number of students attending the event said they were looking forward to going back to school on Monday.

Tydrea Sharrock, a 17-year-old junior at Pasquotank County High School, said she was looking forward to the new school year because she graduates this year. Noting that her mother is a nurse, she said her goal is to become a pediatric nurse.

Karonte Hughes, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Elizabeth City Middle School, said he, too, was looking forward to the new school year.

“I like school,” he said. “I like seeing my friends and learning new stuff.” He said he particularly enjoys science and would like to be a scientist when he graduates.

Zachary Cook, a rising senior at J.P. Knapp who won one of the academic scholarships, is already back in school. Knapp started the new school year several weeks ago.

“So far it’s been pretty great,” he said.

Cook attended the event with his mom, Mandy Cook-Newby, and his brother, Thomas Newby, and sister Abbigail Newby. Winning the scholarship was “pretty awesome,” he said.

The back to school event at the Police Athletic League gym Saturday afternoon was organized by three friends who work at J.C. Sawyer Elementary School.

Sabrina Sears is a teacher at J.C. Sawyer, Maricarmen Cordero is an instructional assistant, and Kim Wilson is an exceptional children teacher.

Sears said they got permission from PAL to hold the event at the gym and then got support from Daniel Spence of Victory Praise and Worship as an early co-sponsor.

Eventually there were 25 community sponsors and a number of individual donors.

Jason Lewis, also known as Humble Tip, brought his inspirational message to students at the event. The Washington, D.C.-based motivational artist presents his “Beautiful Tomorrow” program at schools across the country in an effort to “encourage, empower and inspire” students to “give life everything they have.”

In the first hour of Saturday’s event 100 students had already come through. Organizers had assembled 291 backpacks and hoped to give them all away at the event but were prepared to make them available to local schools if any remained after Saturday.

Games include sack races and tug-of-war. Hot dogs, chips and drinks were provided at no charge by Edward Williams’s business, Just Eat — Get Dogged Out.

Chevey McCrey attended with her children Joy, 11, who will be in sixth-grade at Elizabeth City Middle School, and Caleb, 8, who will be in second-grade at P.W. Moore Elementary.

As Joy and Caleb began enjoying their hot dogs they talked about what they are looking forward to about the school year.

Both said they like math. Joy said she is looking forward to having a locker and being at a bigger school with more students.

Caleb said he plans to set a good example for other boys in his class by following the rules and doing his work.

“I’m excited about being a leader for my class,” he said.

Their mother said she was glad to come out and support the community event.

“It’s a nice thing they’re having out here and I just want to show support,” McCrey said.