NEW PORT RICHEY — Just about everyone who’s been through the American education system in the past several decades understands it can be — and more often than not is — incredibly expensive.
Mothers and fathers young and old spend hours planning shopping trips, analyzing the best deals and generally preparing for the madness that ensues in the weeks leading up to the start of a new school year.
So Ridgewood High School hosted a Back to School Bash on Aug. 9 to provide parents and students with much needed resources, services such as early academic mentorship and some stress-relieving family fun time.
Since it was all free, residents jumped at the opportunity and came out in droves. Ridgewood High and neighboring schools Marchman Tech, Chasco Elementary-Middle and Calusa Elementary, joined forces for the bash.
Their collective goal was to promote G.R.I.T., which school officials explained stands for “growth, resilience, integrity and tenacity in our community.”
For three hours, eager young students and very harried parents at just about the end of their ropes gathered with school officials and volunteers. Youngsters could meet their new teachers, make friends and play on campus. There were even a number of hair cutting stations available for students who wanted to trim their locks after letting it grow during summer vacation months.
Parents madesure the youngsters took advantage of everything from backpacks for books, helmets for bikes and services such as peer-to-peer mentorship for incoming freshman from warm-hearted seniors.
Johanna Eliacin, a senior who plans to go to University of South Florida after graduation, came to the bash as a volunteer mentor for incoming students.
“We’re helping freshman and students that are coming this year,” Johanna commented. “A lot of people showed up and even though we didn’t have as many volunteers as we hoped everything went really well.”
Chasco Elementary Principal Terri Mutell and her Calusa Elementary counterpart, Kara Merlin, spoke highly of their individual experiences at the bash.
“We had people from the therapeutic horse ranch Kiddy Up, daycares, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts karate, representatives from the library, transportation companies to help people around and restaurants like Olive Gardens come out to support us,” said Mutell.
Merlin added: “We had so many families. It was great just to see kids, families and some people that really needed to be here taking advantage of the resources today. It was fantastic.”
Merlin emphasized the importance of “creating connections vertically for our little guys and girls.
“Plus, we’re both at elementary schools so it’s important to see people from the middle schools and for the people from the middle schools to see people from the high schools because we’re the connections for those kids that are transitioning up through the schools in a few weeks. It strengthens the entire community, it’s really positive and so heart-warming.”