Mission Consolidated Independent School District’s first ever Back to School Bash was an unequivocal success as thousands of Mission, Alton and Palmhurst residents took advantage of the free backpacks and free or reduced cost services being provided to MCISD students Friday at Mission High School’s V.F. Neuhaus gymnasium. According to the school district, 2,000 backpacks were handed out to students.
As the doors opened at 6 p.m. and the first of the hundreds of families lined up outside Neuhaus gym streamed in, volunteers from the school district, local businesses, civic organizations and neighboring towns began handing out backpacks filled with school supplies to any and all MCISD students in attendance absolutely free of charge.
According to MCISD Superintendent of Schools Ricardo Lopez, the idea of a community-wide back to school event came to him shortly after taking the job with the district just over a year ago. It all started when he visited the Mission Boys and Girls Club during the handing out of backpacks and he thought to himself, “We can do this.”
“It was about August of last year when I noticed that there were a lot of independent back to school things going on, so I got together with Craig Verley (MCISD director of public relations) and I said, ‘Let’s create something where everybody can celebrate the first day of school.’ We then passed around some ideas and the Back-to-School Bash was born,” Lopez said.
Lopez, who couldn’t contain his pride Friday over the way the community had come together to make the Back-to-School Bash a huge success, went on to explain what the event is all about.
Thanks to their early arrival, the first of the families to walk through the gym doors once they opened were Elizabeth Torres, her children and nieces.
“We’ve been here since 2 p.m. but we didn’t get in line until 2:30 when we saw other people arriving,” Torres said. “We came for the free backpacks, but I also want to get the kids their free haircuts. We came early because I wanted to make sure that they each got a backpack and a haircut.”
With so many people waiting in line for so long, the potential of a mad rush to grab backpacks and/or to take advantage of the services being provided was present. However everything was so well organized and there were sufficient backpacks available that each and every student that showed up, even those arriving towards the end, walked away with a brand new backpack of their own.
According to Verley, who took Lopez’s original idea and ran with it, each student had to first check in at his or her assigned campus’ table where he/she received a ticket, which could then redeemed for a backpack. While this system made the handing out of backpacks run smoothly, that was not the only reason every campus in the district had a table at the bash.
“Basically the campus representatives are here to confirm that the kids arriving for the backpacks are MCISD students but it’s also another opportunity for them to make a connection with the parents,” Verley said. “The principals are here so the students and their parents are getting an opportunity to see them in a friendlier environment than the principals’ offices at work and it also helps them to capture some of the students who may have not completed all the paperwork for registration.”
The Back-to-School Bash, which not only included the supplies, but also the opportunity to take care of immunizations, physicals and eye exams, was made possible through community support, Verley said.
“No school district funds have been used for any of that,” Verley said. “It’s really been fantastic to see the businesses, organizations and the cities that have come together to help us. And we haven’t even started to scratch the surface because next year we’re planning on making this a bigger and better event.”