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Men Surprise Hartford Students With Back to School Welcome

When Kerryann Heron arrived at Martin Luther King Junior School to drop off her two sons, she was overwhelmed by the sight of scores of African American men lined up on the sidewalk to greet kids on the first day of school.

"It brought tears to my eyes," she said. "I was like, 'What! Get off of me, get away from me!' But they mean well, this is really, really good, I've never seen this. This is awesome."

Her son, Chase is heading into fourth grade. He says being greeted by high-fives and applause made him more excited to come to school.

"Everyone was happy and they were clapping because it was the first day of school," Chase said.

About a hundred men gathered at two North Hartford schools on Tuesday, to welcome students to their first day of the school. The event began as an idea on social media. Local pastor AJ Johnson and his friend DeVaughn Ward partnered with community activist Maurice Eastwood to  make it happen.

The idea was to get 200 black men to Martin Luther King and Simpson Waverly schools, and to give the students a warm welcome along with some inspiration, says Pastor Johnson.

"Most of the kids there are raised by single moms, and you can see that as they were being dropped off, a lot of them had their moms drop them off," Johnson said. "I think that this is an opportunity for educated black men to go in and grab a young man and show them what it really means to be a black male."

He says that it's important for those involved to continue working with kids. Maurice Eastwood agrees.

Eastwood gave out 100 backpacks to students earlier this week, and organized the event at Simpson Waverly.

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Credit WNPR/Chion Wolf
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Maurice Eastwood.

  "Some of my friends out there -- I'm not gonna say who -- but are felons," Eastwood said. "They can't go out and vote, but they're willing to wake up early in the morning and greet kids they don't know. So it means a lot."

Both Eastwood and Johnson say they'd like to spread out the meet-and-greet to other Hartford neighborhood schools next  year.

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway.

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