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Mon Schools hosting backpack giveaways, meet-and-greets with outreach coordinators ahead of the first day of school

The way to a student’s heart is through his backpack.

The way to his heart is knowing someone in the school system cares, really cares, about him and his family.

That’s the philosophy of Donna Talerico, the deputy superintendent of Monongalia County’s school district — and that’s why the dates of Aug. 15-17 are firmly etched in her day planner.

The district is hosting a meet-and-greet, backpack giveaway event those days for students who have had to turn to a district outreach coordinator for help during the school year.

School begins in the district for the 2022-23 year the following week.

Meanwhile, such coordinators are the district’s equivalent of social workers, Talerico said.

In fact, many of them were actual social workers before entering the system, the deputy superintendent added.

Others are teachers and staffers in the district, working in the schools they attended as children and teenagers.

Their goal, Talerico said, is to forge and tighten bonds between the neighborhood and the school on the corner — and their job got more visible during the pandemic.

If they sound like a pandemic byproduct, she said, they aren’t.

The outreach facilitators pre-date COVID. The district created the program in 2019, the year before the coronavirus started acting up in the back row.

“Our facilitators had an important job before the pandemic,” Talerico said.

“And that’s to knock down any and all barriers that might keep our kids from being successful.”

The program offers transportation in some cases for families needing rides to medical appointments or the pharmacy for their prescriptions. The storehouse of supplies there for the distribution includes inflatable mattresses — so a child who may not have his own bed can get a good night’s sleep before the school day.

“These things are critical,” Talerico said.

During the August distribution, backpacks laden with notebooks, pens, pencils and all the necessary implements will be given out, along with nutritional snack boxes, the deputy superintendent said.

Don’t forget the business cards and other contact info.

Those will come by way of the outreach coordinators who will also be there, introducing themselves to those families newly in need of their services — while reminding the families they already know that they will continue being there for their kids.

Check the district’s website and other Mon Schools’ social media for details as those days get here, Talerico said.

The event runs the width and breadth of the district, she said, from Clay-Battelle High School to River Road Volunteer Fire Department, and all points in between.

“This is about making connections with our families,” she said.

“So their kids can achieve and be successful.”

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