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Bookbags, safety and prevention help kids start school year

About 300 students attend statewide event
Jurnee White, 6, of Lewes tries her hand at a ring toss during the First State Community Action's bookbag giveaway. BY MELISSA STEELE
September 5, 2013

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.”