Back to school festival: supplying confidence through preparation - All About Women

Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 10:14 am | Updated: 10:22 am, Tue Jul 7, 2015. - All About Women

Most likely, all you will be able to see are bright yellow balloons and a long line of parents and children winding outside Watauga High School’s gym door, eager to attend the Third Annual Back-2-School Festival, from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. on August 8.

Three years ago, Amber Bateman, director of Quiet Givers, with three children of her own, came to appreciate the financial challenge that buying school supplies presented for many of our local families.

After speaking with school social workers and counselors, Amber discovered that many children come the first day of school with few of the needed school supplies.

She was surprised to hear that counselors and social workers had to locate supplies and that classroom teachers reached into their own pockets to fill remaining needs.

Amber, knowing the average teacher salary and learning of the limited supplies budget, saw this as an opportunity — and as a need — that she thought might be able to be addressed with a little collaboration and ingenuity.

She began to ask others, “What if we had an event where we were able to meet some of these needs before school starts, so that all kids have the chance to start school, the first day, feeling confident and prepared? What if we offered enough school supplies so the teachers wouldn’t have to spend their own money to buy them?”

Denise Presnell, a school social worker, encouraged Amber to talk to another passionate woman who had asked the same questions, Angela McMann, Western Youth Network’s Mentoring Programs’ Director.

The two met, along with Crystal Kelly, Children’s Council director, Todd Carter, Hospitality House Director of Development, and others to dream up what is now the Back-2-School Festival.

These individuals were eager to create an event that offered relief in a positive atmosphere, while also offering a chance for families who might be served to also help with the project.

Amber involved school social workers to ensure the festival was crafted in a way that families who would not normally ask for help, but needed it, might feel welcome. Counselors and social workers estimated that about 150 people might attend the county-wide event.

Still, the group was eager to move forward. They wanted to combine individual school-supply efforts into this one event, in hopes of having a greater impact on the community.

Soon, local churches and other service groups, clubs and Appalachian State University joined in to make the festival a true community collaboration.

On Aug. 8, 2013, when the doors opened to welcome more than 500 children, Amber knew that this festival had struck a chord. She watched excited children fill their new book bags and flaunt their fresh haircuts.

When all was said and done, the first festival provided over $40,000 worth of relief to local families, but to Amber, you couldn’t put a price tag on the relief she saw in fellow parents’ eyes as they realized school preparedness would no longer be such a burden.

Now in its third year, the B2SF organizers expect to serve upwards of 1,000 students.

Amber still directs the festival, but other passionate volunteers have joined her efforts and serve on committees to help drive it forward. She’s eager to see what can be done with more hands helping and a division of labor.

Four strong women, Sandra Ruppert, Kendra Sink, Tara White and Laurie Gill, committee chairwoman, have great vision for their specific tasks.

To keep the event successful, local businesses, churches and other groups are asked to donate in three ways: funding, in-kind items, such as supplies, haircuts and other needed services, and/or give their time to create an event that unites the community around its greatest asset — its children.

Two weeks before the last school ended, Watauga children filled collection boxes with unused and gently-used supplies at each school, so all students would have the chance to contribute.

Families, tourists and community members can also help “Pack the Bus.”

Buses will be parked at two locations (between Yadkin Bank and CVS Pharmacy on Hwy. 321 in Boone, and the New Market Branch of Yadkin Bank in Boone.

The community is encouraged to collect supplies all summer and drop them off at these camera-monitored buses between July 4- August 4, as we unite for this event.

In addition, during a purchase at Footsloggers and other select stores, locals and tourists alike can pad a purchase by adding a few dollars toward a backpack for the festival.

Organizers hope that all county students can start school feeling confident and prepared.

The free school supplies room will be flanked by interactive information booths hosted by sponsors and local family-service agencies.

For example, Footsloggers plans a “Bling your Backpack” activity, through which students can personalize their new backpacks.

The locally-owned outdoor gear store is providing financial support for the second year in a row and backpacks for students.

Free haircuts will be provided by local stylists in the high school’s cosmetology department.

Weather permitting, an ASU Astronomy professor will set up solar telescopes to safely view the sun.

Free lunches to-go will be provided by Green Street Catering.

Watauga County Schools will host the event at Watauga High School and many staff members will volunteer to share information about services, such as free and reduced lunch applications, after-school programs, clubs, food bank locations and more.

Bilingual translators will be on hand to help Spanish-speaking families navigate the festival, while learning more about services in our schools and the greater community.

Amber will be happy to speak to your church, community or civic organization to provide more information. Email her at [email protected].

To learn more about the Back 2 School Festival, volunteer, donate or become a major sponsor, visit the

You can also “like” Quiet Givers and B2SF on Facebook.

To learn more about Quiet Givers, ask to join the FB group or visit them online:

This information provided by the Children’s Council of Watauga County.

Pack the Bus! - The Mountain Times

All are invited to attend the Boone and Blowing Rock Fourth of July parades and wave at the volunteers for the third annual Back 2 School Festival.

Those volunteers are inviting High Country residents and visitors alike to “pack the bus.” According to event organizers, the Back 2 School Festival is designed to help Watauga County students start school with the supplies needed to succeed.

“Each year, the cost of supplies goes up, while school budgets shrink,” an event organizer said. “Parents and teachers are somewhat caught in the middle, buying pencils, Clorox wipes, glue sticks and paper towels to help make it through the year.

“Approximately 1,700 Watauga students participate in the free and reduced lunch program. Many of these students and others need help to afford all the supplies modern students need. School supplies cost about $100 per student. Add in costs for school photos, field trips and school fees, and many parents are challenged to afford all these needs. Remember when you routinely bought that new pair of shoes for the first day of school? Many families in our county might not have this option, but you can help.”

Seeing no easy solution to the rising cost of school supplies, area resident Amber Bateman, who heads the High Country’s Quiet Givers organization, teamed up with other creative and passionate people, including members of The Children’s Council, the Western Youth Network, Hospitality House and others, and grew the idea of a county-wide free school-supplies festival.

To make the event fun and inviting, they included hands-on activities and invited local businesses, public service agencies and churches to host booths to share what else they offer local families. Five hundred students attended the first year, and more than 1,000 are expected this year. There will be several bilingual (Spanish and English) translators on hand, as well.

The festival will take place at Watauga High School Aug. 8, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a “soft opening” for students with special needs and their families from 9 to 10 a.m. that same day. Families must be registered to attend the soft opening.

Not only is this festival a chance for local families to prepare their youngsters with school supplies from earphones to backpacks, Bateman said, but it’s also an opportunity to bring the Watauga community closer for the sake of their children.

“We want the festival to be a place where youth understand their role in our community and feel that they have the power to be the change they want to see,” she said.

The festival is organized and staffed by volunteers and funded through local grants and donations. Those looking to volunteer can visit to learn how they can help during or leading up to the event.

Organizers also seek funding from local businesses, and the website explains how individual and business donations of money, volunteers or supplies will be recognized.

Pack the Bus launches July 4, with a school bus and volunteers in both parades. Afterward, the buses will be parked at Yadkin Bank on Blowing Rock Road and New Market Center off U.S. 421 until Aug. 4. They’ll be open and video-monitored, and donors can hop in and deliver the supplies they’ve bought.

For more information, email Amber Bateman at [email protected], or visit www.back2schoolfestival.organd

Our view: Wheels on the bus go round, with our help - Watauga Democrat

Few are the children who would desire, on this first day of July, to give serious thought of returning to the classroom. But for many parents, it’s a thought that comes early, with serious implications and more than a bit of anxiety.

The cost of outfitting a child for the new school year is one that escalates yearly, and one that even with the most prudent of planning can force a hardship on families.

For many families, that hardship is lessened by the volunteers and donations that will fuel the Back 2 School festival in August.

Local residents and the groups Quiet Givers, The Children’s Council, the Western Youth Network, Hospitality House and others hatched the idea of a countywide free back-to-school supplies festival. And while about 500 children attended its first year, this year the festival expects to meet the needs of about 1,000.

Funding and staffing this event requires a community effort from both individuals and business partners. Indeed, there is room for each of us to help, and you can find those opportunities at

On July 4, look for opportunities to help during the Pack the Bus launch, as volunteers will offer collection opportunities — and a chance to view the buses — during both Boone’s and Blowing Rock’s Fourth of July parades Saturday.

And if early July is yet a bit early for you to begin thinking about school supplies, look for the buses between now and Aug. 4 where they’ll be parked at Yadkin Bank on Blowing Rock Road and New Market Centre.

The buses will be available, video monitored and open for you to deliver the supplies that will make a difference in the lives of our local children.

Look for the Yellow Boxes! Recycle School Supplies for the Back 2 School Festival

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.  

Don’t let leftover school supplies go to waste!  Recycle your unwanted, unused or gently used school supplies!   Look for the large yellow boxes located at school entrances starting June 1st. They’ll be there until the end of school.  All collected supplies will be offered at the Back 2 School Festival.

What’s in a Name? (Why teachers request name brands)

The answer is pretty simple:

They are better and will last longer.

Any teacher will tell you that the knock-off brands have to be replaced MUCH sooner than the name brands.  Most schools do not have supplies closets to turn to anymore so the teachers have to pull from their own pockets to restock the class supply.  Elmer’s Glue, Fiskars Scissors and Crayola Colors(markers, crayons, color pencils) are all proven to last longer than most generic brands.

click here to see a complete list of supplies per grade or a general list with average number of items requested.

IF you can afford to, please consider purchasing better brands!

How Socioeconomic Status Affects Children

Do low-income or under-resourced kids feel less confident about going back to school than their affluent classmates?

We’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately as we’re preparing for the 2nd Annual Back-to-School Festival. And the answer is: yes. Yes, they do feel less confident. And, yes, that lack of confidence plays a role in their school success.

According to Eric Jensen, many school-aged children who come from a low socioeconomic status face more emotional and social challenges than their more affluent counterparts (Teaching with Poverty in Mind, 2009). Jensen’s findings show that “when children gain a sense of mastery of their environments, they are more likely to develop feelings of self-worth, confidence, and independence, which play heavily into the formation of children’s personalities and ultimately predict their success and happiness in relationships and in life in general.”

When money’s tight, it’s often difficult for caregivers to provide children with a trusting environment that allows this kind of security to develop. Thus, children feel less control over their home environments, and these emotions likely carry over into the school environment, causing feelings of low self-esteem and lack of confidence among their peers.

And it doesn’t stop there. Jensen further asserts that these feelings affect school behavior and performance, claiming that they “may inhibit students’ ability to work well in cooperative groups, quite possibly leading to their exclusion by group members who believe they aren’t ‘doing their part’ or ‘pulling their share of the load.’ This…exacerbate[s] at-risk students’ already shaky academic performance and behavior.”

A child’s home situation certainly has an effect on the way he or she approaches a school setting. When children feel more confident entering school, they will likely be more engaged and perform better in the classroom and with peers.

Providing students in need with all their required school supplies helps them start off the school year on better footing. That is our mission with the Back-to-School Festival, and we hope you will join us in our vision to provide every Watauga student with what they need to feel confident and prepared.