The Miami-Dade County Public School system, in collaboration with county, city and nonprofit partners, had set up many backpacks and supplies giveaways before the first day of school.
To culminate the first week of school, another giveaway was staged, this time for over 600 students at Phyllis Ruth Miller Elementary School in Miami. The students received backpacks filled with supplies and lunchboxes on Friday, as school board members and administrators advised students to voice concerns and need they may have throughout the school year and encouraged parent involvement in school activities.
Miami-Dade County, an A-rated district for two years in a row, is the nation’s fourth-largest school district with over 350,000 full-time students, many of whom live at or below the poverty level. More than 77 percent of the student body is enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program, according to last year’s district numbers. More than 90 of those students are Black.
The school system will provide free breakfast for all students. For students in need, afterschool programs will provide snacks, as well as clothing, school supplies, and other personalized help.
Fifth-grader Kennedy Dukes, 10, said it felt good to get the free goodies on Friday. The backpack giveaway was sponsored by the Miami-Dade County League of Cities, who brought over 700 backpacks and lunchboxes to the event.
“I really enjoyed my summer break and had a lot of fun,” Kennedy said. “I am looking forward to passing the fifth grade and moving on to sixth grade.”
In attendance were District 2 School Board Member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, and other elected officials, who all helped pass out the supplies to the children.
During the assembly, students were advised to tell teachers and school administrator if they are “not quite happy,” said Bendross-Mindingall. She stressed the importance of communicating their needs out loud.
“We walk the community, and we let the parents know that we are here and we are a part of you,” she told The Miami Times. She suggests for parents to build rapport and build relationships with the teaching staff at their local schools. And though school administrators are good about sending home information, parents need not feel wary of asking for help or support, Bendross-Mindingall said.
“You have to have a line of communication with the parents,” she said.
Carvalho, who described the first week of school as “flawless,” echoed the same sentiments.
“No child goes without,” he said. “If there is a child in need, approach the principal, or a counselor; we are ready to assist.”
Both school leaders stressed the importance of parent involvement in school activities.
Parents can enroll into their prospective school’s parent-teacher association or volunteer at the different activities that occur throughout the school year, for example.
“We are an inclusive school system where equity is our life strength,” Carvalho said.