Back to school drive eases burden for Hartford parents
Parents and guardians lined up at M.D. Fox Elementary School in Hartford on Monday for free backpacks, food and other resources before the first day of the school year on Tuesday.
Antoinette Alexander’s granddaughter is a student in the district and said the back to school drive is a huge help.
“It helps a lot — her bookbag, her notebooks, her pencils, pens, lunchbox — whatever they give to help her get through the school year,” Alexander said.
Alexander spoke alongside Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, and other advocates and donors at the backpack giveaway for students. Advocates say backpack giveaways meet a crucial need, especially in a district where many students live in poverty and continue to grapple with a shortage of teachers.
Torres-Rodriguez said the district has an 8% vacancy rate for teachers, but said the rate has dropped over the last few weeks as the district has been able to hire more teachers.
Events like these, help the schools focus on academic achievement as well as other pressing issues.
“It also allows us in the district to focus on our recruitment, supporting our teachers and retaining our teachers,” Torres-Rodriguez said.
Backpack giveaways like these, according to Torres-Rodriguez, are more than just parents getting free stuff for their children, referring to M.D. Fox Elementary School as a community school.
“A community school is a very unique structure, a model that includes supports and programs during the school day, after school. We have food assistance throughout, I mean, they have a pantry in the school,” Torres-Rodriguez said.
The backpack giveaway was lighthearted, with school officials chatting up parents as a DJ played music as they lined up for bags. But they didn’t just get backpacks. Goya Foods was also at the event, handing out 6,000 pounds of food to families in the area. Many families lined up. Hartford’s median household income is $37,477 according to the U.S. Census, and 28.4% of the city population lives in poverty.
Goya Foods Division Manager Luis Carrasquillo also attended the event and said Goya’s participation was an act of gratitude to the city’s population who make up much of Goya’s customer base.
“This is a people that made Goya the company that we are right now. And it's our pleasure to be able to give back to the community, our customers,” Carrasquillo said.