More than 800 people attended the 18th annual Back to School/Stay in School Rally and Symposium on Saturday at Killeen High School sponsored by the Killeen Branch of the NAACP.
The theme of the event was “Courage Will not Skip This Generation.”
The day’s activities began with greetings from John Craft, interim superintendent for the Killeen Independent School District, and a keynote speech by James Jones IV, an incoming sixth-grader at Charles Patterson Middle School. More than 400 school backpacks were distributed, 10 vendors showcased their services, and breakout sessions were held for parents and students.
“We live in a community where we lean on one another,” TaNeika Driver-Moultrie, president of the local NAACP, said. “Our organization wants to make sure that we’re doing all we can to set our kids up for a successful school year.”
At 10 years old, Jones was named 2014 Middle School Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. He is the youngest guest speaker in the history of the rally.
Jones’ thoughts focused on courage and he told the group it takes courage to go back to school especially if it’s a new school.
“When I think about going back to school, there are a lot of questions that go through my mind just like you,” he said. “Will I be able to adjust to this new school or this new teacher? How much harder is the work going to be? Are my teachers going to help me? Will I be popular? Or are people gonna make fun of me because of my clothes.”
He added that students today are not generation X, Y, Z or any other label that someone wants to put on them.
“We are the next generation of overcomers so let’s commit to do our best next school year and everything we do from now on,” he said. “Our future is in front of us. The sky is not the limit it is just the beginning.”
Besides the rally, many came for the backpack giveaway, like Barbara Foglesont, of Killeen.
With eight children, ranging in age from 4-15, getting ready to head back to school, she knew she needed all the help she could get.
“My husband also just recently passed away and I have no job, so I can really use the help provided by the NAACP.”
A breakout session for boys in grades 9-12 was presented by Tim Norman, co-star of “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” a reality show on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“I’ll be talking to the kids about the importance of staying in school and how important it is for a young man to plan his future,” he said before his session.
The audience was hushed as Norman told the boys of his experience of going to jail when he was 17 and spending seven years in prison.