BOWIE — Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) held their Back To School Block Party on Aug. 25 to kick off the school year by giving out backpacks and school supplies from their summer-long Stuff-A-Bus campaign.
Throughout the summer, PGCPS hosted five Stuff-A-Bus events throughout the county where members of the community could donate backpacks and school supplies to be given to county students before the beginning of the school year.
PGCPS met their goal of collecting 15,000 backpacks over the course of the summer. Stuff-A-Bus ended with the Back To School Block Party at the Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie where all of the bags and school supplies were distributed to students.
“The goal was to provide backpacks to the students, provide supplies to the students, provide resources from our schools and an opportunity to have fun with our children’s area,” said PGCPS Partnerships and Development Officer Barbara Holt Streeter. “Today is a block party, that’s the whole reason why we’re doing it, to celebrate kids and students, the end of the summer and start an amazing school year as well.”
With about 200 student and faculty volunteers throughout the block party, there were several stations set up where families could go to get their supplies. Outside of the stadium, one tent was for middle and high schoolers to get their backpacks but it wasn’t drawing much of a crowd as the tent for elementary school backpacks.
“We were expecting a lot more,” said Volunteer Tarza Barron. “We’ve had a good number of people, everything has been running smoothly. But it’s the weekend, and everyone is out doing something.”
Meanwhile, the tent for elementary school kids to grab their backpacks was swimming in families collecting their backpacks and volunteers trying to keep up with the crowd.
“We saw the largest quest for elementary school backpacks,” said Donyale Yorkshire, a volunteer at the elementary school tent. “There may be new families getting their first child started in the school system and younger parents.”
Inside the stadium, there were rows of tables set up where kids could pick their schools supplies. They contained everything from rulers, notebooks, pens and pencils, scissors and glue sticks.
“We’ve had a really great turn out today,” said Volunteer Alyse Sanders. “We were hoping to give away at least 5,000 backpacks full of supplies to Prince George’s County Public Schools students, and I think it’s been a great success.”
All of the backpacks not given out during the block party will be given directly to the schools, especially Title I schools and the Homeless Education Office.
“We’ve collected 15,000 backpacks which we distributed today to everyone who registered,” said Quon Wilson, another volunteer. “We’ve also had a lot of walk-ups. On Monday we will sort through everything and distribute them to schools on a need basis.”
Families in attendance thought it was a great way to get school supplies as well as give back to the community.
“I’m glad PGCPS is finding a way to give back,” said Shanay Dudley who came to the block party with her two kids. “It helps families in need who aren’t able to pull together resources at the last minute.”
In addition to distributing school supplies, information tables for school resources were set up to provide families with the tools they may need to start off the school year successfully. The Office of Human Resources let attendees know of the positions that PGCPS was hiring for and the Office of Equity and Inclusion provided information on language access to students.
Sponsors who with helped PGCPS with Stuff-A-Bus and setting up the block party were also in attendance.
Wegmans donated 4,500 bottles of water for the block party, Aetna donated 1,800 backpacks, and the Educational School System Credit Union gave 2,500 backpacks with supplies.
CareFirst Blue Cross, a longtime sponsor of the program, provided supplies such as backpacks, earbuds and markers to ensure a smooth transition into the school year.
“Care First has been sponsoring this event since it started,” said Account Executive to Prince George’s County Public Schools Denise Dunn. “Since we do work in the community, it’s part of our commitment to Prince George’s County.”
Councilmember Mel Franklin donated backpacks as well, and State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks donated and spoke at the ribbon cutting at the beginning of the block party.
During the five-hour event, students were not only able to collect their school supplies but were able to have fun. The block party contained a merry go round and moonbounces as well as an assortment of food.
“Even if it’s just from one child to 15,000,” said Holt Streeter. “You can see children walking around having fun. You see school supplies and backpacks, and they’re happy. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what we’re here to do.”