Southeast School Begins Year with Generous Gift
A group of excited and proud children cheered loudly during an outdoor school assembly that could easily have doubled as a pep rally for a homecoming football game.
More than 70 boys and girls shouted and clapped when United Black Fund President Barry LeNoir complimented the students, their parents and faculty at J.C. Nalle Elementary School on their exceptional school spirit. The United Black Fund honored the Southeast school on Monday, August 27 during an early-morning award ceremony that kicked off the 2012-13 school year.
"The Back to School Campaign was started 20 years ago by Calvin and Wilhelmina Rolark to encourage parents to get more involved in the activities of children in school [and] to make sure that their children were attending," said LeNoir. "We're out here today to recognize this school's achievement in getting 78 percent of its parents to attend on the first day."
In front of parents and students, city officials and local leaders, Samuel J. Cornelius, chair of the United Black Fund, Inc., presented Nalle Elementary School Principal Kim Burke with a $3,000 check for the school's 78 percent parent participation rate on the first day of school in 2011, which outpaced every public school in the city.
A line snaked around the school's blacktop asphalt surface as eager parents with children in tow hastily jotted down their children's names onto sign-in sheets in the hope of reclaiming the crown for having the most parental participation next year. Some of the youngsters could hardly contain their excitement on the first day of school and chased one another around the area, laughing and playing, while others clutched the legs of their parents in dreaded anticipation of being left alone at an unfamiliar place for the first time in their lives.
For parents like Candace Dye, the day couldn't have come soon enough. Dye dropped off her eight-year-old son Semaj, and daughter, a kindergartener, before heading into her job at Starbucks.
"Thank you, Jesus, is all I have to say," exclaimed Dye, 26, who lives in Southeast. "I couldn't wait," she said laughing.
But Dye's emotions quickly changed from elation to sadness at the thought of being separated from her daughter for the first time. "I have a kindergartner, Salee, who broke down on her way into her class and that was hard."
Edward Fennell's hands were full with his three children who entered their second year at Nalle on Monday. Fennell's young son Cameron remained glued to his father's side, while his sisters Chloe and Cayla playfully interacted with each other and their new friends. Fennell hopes that his three children will have many fond memories of their school days.
"For me, personally, it feels wonderful to drop your kids off at school," said Fennell, 28, who also lives in Southeast. "You get to see them interact with other kids and you are a part of their education. I feel that they'll look back one day and say, 'my father took me to school and picked me up every day' and that's something that they'll remember."
While school officials won't learn of the results of this year's participation until a later date, Anita Ellis, a school alum and 18-year employee, has no doubt that LeNoir and the United Black Fund will be back next year to present the school with yet another award.
"Today, we're signing up again for next year," said Ellis, 48.
"We're going to repeat," she said with a smile.
Elton Hayes contributed to this article.