Back to School 2018
From District 2 Orange County Commissioner Rod Love
This past Saturday, Apopka celebrated its Back to School Fair at the John H. Bridges Community Center. With the support of partners and members of the community, over 1,000 backpacks were given to eager and deserving students in the Apopka area. 266 families had pre-registered their students for the event. I would like to thank all that volunteered, donated, supported and contributed to making this event happen, especially the John Bridges Advisory Committee for handling the logistics for the event as well as Sam’s Club for their generous donation. Additionally, I would like to give a special thank you to Mr. Brandon Meriweather, an Apopka High School graduate who was an all-pro for the New England Patriots, for his donation of backpacks and for attending. Furthermore, I would also like to especially thank my predecessor, City of Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson, who has continued to champion this event, both as a Mayor and Former Orange County Commissioner. Just prior to the event, City of Apopka employees (AKA Team Apopka) raised $299 through their own fundraising efforts, which equated to 25 supply-filled backpacks for students. As a result of Mayor Nelson’s hard work as a County Commissioner, over 1,000 backpacks were given to students last year. In total, this year’s Backpack Giveaway had 94 volunteers, 50 sponsors, and 28 vendors.
Although they are a very important part, school supplies are not the only things needed for a new school year. I mean, New School Year, New Haircut, right? Cheesiness aside, Downtown Barbers offered free haircuts for students so that they could get a touch-up or try a new doo. While making that good first impression is crucial in the workplace, it can also have some benefits whether you’re the new kid or just want to make some new friends.
Thanks to Community Health Center, Lake Sumter Lion’s Club and Florida Hospital, students were given the opportunity to get a medical and eye checkup during their visit at the Fair. Additionally, I would also like to thank Davis Lodge #47 for handling the delicious food and AACC for providing security for the Fair. Furthermore, I would like to thank the various vendors that educated visitors on their resources and for providing tokens.
After receiving their backpacks, haircuts, medical/eye screenings, goodies, and food, the fun did not stop there—students and their families had the pleasure of meeting and taking a picture with Mr. Brandon Meriweather. Despite his successful football career, Brandon is a down to earth guy. I consider Brandon to be a great role model to the younger students in having returned to his hometown to give back to his community. My hope is that we can continue to partner with Brandon, as well as other members and organizations in the community, to put on great events like this in the future.
While this event was referred to as a “Backpack Giveaway”, the backpacks, however, were not free. In fact, the backpacks were a loan to the students and parents—in exchange for a backpack filled with supplies, students “agreed” to earn good grades, attend school, and exhibit good behavior (good GBA’s=good GPA’s). I encourage parents to sit down with their children and talk to them about the expectations that come with the backpacks they received at the event. It is important for students to realize that everyone involved in making this event happen contributed their time and efforts for many but one common reason: To provide the tools necessary to help deserving students in the Apopka area be successful. By taking part in the Back to School Fair, families of students showed that they cared for their students’ success and ensured that they got what they needed to start the school year off right. By supporting events such as these, the community not only puts students on a level playing field with their peers but embraces them in encouraging them to be the best that they can be.
Given not only the great success of this event but also the partnership between Orange County and the City of Apopka, my hope and focus are to continue to build and maintain Orange County’s relationship with the City of Apopka to empower the community.
Since there are so many to name, in closing, I would like to once again thank everyone for their time, efforts, and generosity in making this event a great success. This event would not have been possible without you.