Back-to-school fair to provide free recourses to parents and students

·4 min read

Aug. 11—Haircuts, fresh fruits, sports physicals, school supplies and more will all be offered for free at a back-to-school fair for Raleigh County students this week.

Raleigh County Schools Assistant Superintendent Serena Starcher said the fair is not only meant to help get students prepared for the start of school at the end of the month, but it's also a chance to connect parents with a number of helpful community resources.

The third annual Back-to-School Wellness and Community Outreach Fair for Raleigh County Schools will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.

Starcher said more than 50 booths will be set up in the convention center with a focus on one of five key themes — schools, transportation, nutrition, health and physical activity.

In order to encourage parents and students to visit a booth from each of these five areas, Starcher said each student will be given a card and asked to collect a sticker from one booth in each of the five areas.

Once students have collected all five area stickers, they will be able to receive a free goodie bag filled with school supplies including a notebook, water bottle, pencils, pens, sticky notes and more. Students will also receive five pairs of brand-new underwear and socks.

Starcher said the school supplies were purchased using Title 1 funding while the underwear and socks were purchased using two $5,000 grants, one from the Beckley Area Foundation and the other from the Arby's at the Little General Store.

Starcher said she knows these school supplies and clothing items aren't much, but she hopes they will help take some of the burden off parents when it comes to the tremendous task of preparing their children for another school year.

"Before Covid, but certainly since Covid — people have lost jobs and are just trying to get back on their feet, hopefully, and if we can give students five clean pairs of underwear rn five pairs of socks, that's a school week," she said. " ...We're just trying to help however we can."

For the past several weeks, Starcher said she and other staff members from the central office have been working to prepare these goodie bags for Friday's fair. She said they are expecting roughly 800 students to attend.

She added that booths, spread out throughout the convention center, will also offer a variety of services to parents and students as well as free items and giveaways.

There will be a booth for each of Raleigh County's 27 schools. Starcher said the principals and other staff members from these schools will be present to talk with parents and students. As part of the wellness theme of the fair, Starcher said the schools will also have information about wellness activity offered at the school.

The cosmetology department from the Academy of Careers and Technology (ACT) will also have a booth to offer free haircuts to students.

Starcher said this was one of the most popular booths at the fair last year.

In the transportation category, Starcher said a bus will be parked outside the convention center mainly to help in adjusting some of Raleigh County's youngest students to the experience of riding a bus to school.

For the county's older students, there will be a DUI driving simulator to warn them of the dangers that come from drinking and driving, Starcher said.

In the area of nutrition, Starcher said the district's Child Nutrition Department will have a booth and will likely be handing out samples. Last year, the department had a smoothie bike, which was a big hit with students. A smoothie bike has a blender attached to it. Pedaling the bike propels the blades in the blender so that a smoothie can be made. However, Starcher said the department is keeping what they're cooking up for this year's fair a secret.

Students will also have access to fresh fruits and vegetables courtesy of West Virginia University Extension's pop-up market.

Starcher said they have several community partners from the health area who will be contributing a number of services from free physicals and well child visits to free Covid vaccines.

School resources officers from the Beckley Police Department and the Raleigh County Sheriff's Office along with firefighters from the Beckley Fire Department and EMTs from Jan Care are also expected to have booths.

For the final theme, physical activity, Starcher said they plan to offer yoga classes and possibly archery.

"With all the different partners that we have at the fair, our hope is that it's an opportunity for parents to connect to these organizations that can provide help and support," Starcher said.

Starcher said it's been exciting to see the fair grow every year after starting out as just an idea from the district's wellness committee four years ago.

"As a school system, I don't think we can ever meet all the needs ... but I do believe the fair has evolved and will continue to evolve to help meet the needs of our parents and students," she said.

Raleigh County students will head back to school on Friday, Aug. 25.