Cape Gazette

Bookbags, safety and prevention help kids start school year

About 300 students attend statewide event
By Melissa Steele | Sep 05, 2013
Photo by: Melissa Steele Jurnee White, 6, of Lewes tries her hand at a ring toss during the First State Community Action's bookbag giveaway.

Hundreds of students, eyeing rows of neatly stacked bags, attended First State Community Action's annual bookbag giveaway Aug. 23 at the Atlantic Sands Hotel.

But before they could go home with a new bag, they had to earn it.

“It's a way to get the kids to the beach for a day, and have some fun before school starts,” said Sandi Hagans, program manager for First State Community Action's youth program.

About 300 students and parents from across the state congregated at the Rehoboth Beach location. Throughout the ballroom, 15 stations with activities were set up designed to teach children about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and encourage them to make smart choices.

When a child completed the station, they earned a star; 15 stars earned them a bookbag.

“It's nice that they're volunteering to help with school supplies,” said Matthew Perry, 13, of Lewes, as he earned a star on his way to 15.

Parent Chaundra White of Lewes said every little bit helps when it comes to school shopping, and the bookbag drive helped cushion her back-to-school expenses.

“When you have multiple kids, it starts to get expensive,” she said.

Manning a Duck Hunt station where kids tried to knock down a row of ducks, Jessica Perez, 19, would ask older students a question about prescription pills, and younger students about peer pressure. There were no wrong answers, Perez said, the activity was meant to make kids think about the two issues.

“Most of the kids knew what I was asking them,” Perez said.

The event was paid for with a Community Service Block Grant, Hagans said. Along with First State Community Action, she said, sponsors included the Delaware Prevention Coalition, United Way, Walmart and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Sussex County Alumnae Chapter.

Hagans said it took her two days to pack about 300 the bookbags with school supplies: Pencils, highlighters notebooks and other necessities.

“This should give them a good start for the school year,” she said. “But we want them to earn it.”


Six-year-old Zaniya Sheppard of Lewes wears glasses to blur her vision while trying to catch a ball at a station that showed the dangers of substance abuse. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
Matthew Perry, 13, of Lewes earns a star on his way to a free bookbag. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
Jaylen White, 10, of Milton hurls a ball while volunteers Jessica Perez, 19, left, and Jennifer Perez, 19, both of Georgetown watch. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
Jason Tucker, 11, of Lincoln is pleased with his new bookbag. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
Neatly stacked bookbags await their new owners. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Sussex County Alumnae Chapter helped sponsor the bookbag giveaway. Pictured are (l-r) Waynne Paskins, Sandi Hagans, Bernice Edwards, Regina Jones-Brake and Geraldine J. Jones, president of the chapter. (Photo by: Melissa Steele)
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