The Scotland County NAACP’s 13th annual Back to School/Stay in School event this weekend promises both a motivational word and a helping hand to students returning to school in the coming weeks.
“We’re expecting a great turnout and we’re having a good faith effort to add some supplemental supplies - we can’t give them everything that they need but we want them to know that we’re going to be supporting them this school year,” said Terence Williams, president of the Scotland County branch of the NAACP. “The level of expectations have to increase and we want to make sure that they’re starting off on the right foot.”
The event will begin at 10 a.m. at I. Ellis Johnson Elementary School, and the NAACP branch has prepared for some 1,000 students and parents to attend.
The local NAACP is also planning a panel discussion the next day with members and county school officials.
I.E. Johnson principal Barbara Adams will speak at the event, as will state Rep. Garland Pierce and Gregory Cole, a former U.S. Navy security specialist.
Having enlisted in the Navy directly after high school, Cole earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts while also serving at Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy as an investigator and protective security officer.
After his tour in Italy, Cole transferred to NATO in Norfolk, Va., where he served as the deputy security officer. After retiring from the U. S. Navy in 2010, he worked for New Horizon Group Security and in 2012 he was hired as a senior counterintelligence analyst for Intel Trac.
In 2012, Cole finished his B.S. degree and he is currently enrolled a master’s program in criminal justice with Arizona State University. During his military career, Cole’s awards include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, and Good Conduct Medal. He was an Instructor for Navy programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Managers/Supervisors.
Williams said that going forward the event may get a facelift because of the increasing modernization of the classroom setting.
“The relevance of this program may need to be upgraded because of the move to paperless, so we’re hoping to move to some bigger and brighter things in the future,” he said.
Following a check presentation from AT&T for $2,000 in school supplies donated for the event, lunch and school supplies will be distributed to students, with bags for students in grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.
The NAACP panel discussion and open dialogue on education is Sunday at 4 p.m.at Bright Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church at 601 Main St. in Laurinburg. The public is welcome.
Williams said he has invited School Superintendent Rick Stout, other school administrators and school board members.
“Educational policies are constantly evolving, and dialogue between educators and community are now more important than ever,” said Williams, a former school board member.
Williams said he hopes the meetings will serve as a template for ongoing discussions between school officials, elected officials and community.