OUR OPINION: Back 2 School fair provided many with a basic resource

The approach of school in Northeast Mississippi sets off a wave of related events and activities involving students, teachers, parents and volunteers, including no-cost opportunities to help students and their parents be prepared in different ways for classes starting in approximately three weeks.

Saturday, in The Mall at Barnes Crossing, the United Way of Northeast Mississippi and Lee County Excel By 5 both will participate in the 2013 Back 2 School Resource Fair, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

United Way will distribute free backpacks to students accompanied by a parent or responsible adult, but no unaccompanied student will be allowed to get the backpack. No pre-registration is required.
Excel By 5, which is a still-expanding statewide organization, “is a community-based certification designed to improve a child’s overall well-being by age 5. The first-of-its-kind in the United States, this program emphasizes the important roles communities play in educating their children during their most formative years – birth to five,” as described in the organization’s website. Several chapter affiliates operate in Northeast Mississippi.

Saturday it will be located at the Children’s Wall, which is the entrance next to the Belk Home store entrance. Excel has been working with a group of kindergarten teachers who will provide activities to monitor fine motor skills, sequence, color recognition, shape recognition, alphabet recognition and number recognition. In addition Excel will have tables set up for refreshments, registration and a book giveaway.

These are United Way’s rules for receiving a free backpack: Children must be:

• entering grades K-6

• present at the fair

• accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.

The substantive engagement with preschool children by organizations like United Way and Excel by 5 raises the visibility of both needs and opportunities in that fast-learning age group. Excel By 5 sets a variety of standards involving parent training, community participation, child care and health to help communities focus on supporting young children and their families. The certification process identifies available resources and existing best practices to help Excel By 5 communities to reach the goal that all of their children will be ready to learn when they start school at age 5.

Partnerships and collaborations can bridge many of the gaps in services and testing not funded from public sources.