By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
On the morning of August 21, a large crowd of families gathered, forming a line that extended from the Don Hatch Youth Center gymnasium to the sidewalks along Totem Beach Road. In the warm overcast weather, the families visited in anticipation while Tulalip Youth Services prepared for a busy morning during their annual Back to School Bash celebration.
At twelve-noon, on the dot, the gymnasium doors opened and students rushed in, hoping to get first dibs on the backpack of their choice. Rows upon rows lay a large variety of stylish book bags. The kids received one ticket upon entry and, when finding the backpacks designated for their grade, picked the bag that best suited their personalities. While the preschool through elementary school students gravitated toward character bags, featuring the likes of the Paw Patrol and Marvel crew, the older students went for the trendy fashionable backpacks from Jansport, Adidas and Vans.
“My backpack looks like fishes in the water, red fish,” exclaimed KaLesa Comenote. “I’m going into third grade at Quil Ceda. I’m not ready for school to start quite yet, but the new backpack makes it a little better.”
Altogether, Youth Services purchased over 1,500 backpacks for young Tulalip learners, as well as for students of the Marysville School District who are enrolled at another tribe. Within the first hour, hundreds of backpacks were distributed, ensuring the students start their first day of school well-prepared. Prior to the event, the department held a breakfast social for local special needs students and their families. After breakfast, the kids had the first opportunity to select their backpacks before the gymnasium doors opened to the community. Youth Services also set 77 backpacks aside for the youth who are in foster care.
“The Back to School Bash is one of our favorite events of the year because we get to see the students get excited for school,” said Youth Services Positive Youth Development & Leadership Manager, Jessica Bustad. “We’re also happy to see the kids because we don’t get to see most of them during the summer. It’s a great time for the students and families to get together, have fun and celebrate the new school year.”
Youth Services also stuffed each bag with a school supply kit filled with notebooks, paper, folders, crayons, makers, pencils, glue sticks and scissors.
“I think it’s cool that they do this for us,” expressed high school sophomore, Charles Guss. “It shows support for all the kids. Throwing on our new backpacks gives us something to look forward to when going to school, especially on those early, early mornings. I got an Eastsport and a bunch of supplies too. I’m ready to go back to school now for sure.”
To help get the kids more excited about their upcoming academic year, Youth Services enlisted the Sno-Isle Library Bookmobile. The students and their families were able to sign up for library cards and also check out a number of fun, kid-friendly stories to read together.
“The biggest thing we want to share with our families is to read with your students, invest in books, get a library card and promote reading,” stated Jessica. “Make sure your students read every night, even if it’s just twenty minutes, because reading is important, it creates the foundation for their academic success. And also, we need parent community volunteers for everything going on at the schools, it helps the students thrive when they know they have caring adults there supporting them.”
With their backpack straps fittingly fastened, the kids hurried to enjoy a number of carnival rides stationed at the Youth Center parking lot. A number of departments joined the festivities, including the Lushootseed language teachers who ran a face painting station, as well as the Tulalip Bay Fire Department who gave the kids tours of their fire engine. The Seattle Pacific Science Center taught an interactive physiology mini-exhibit titled ‘Blood and Guts’, giving the students an up-close look real organs from both animals and humans, including the human brain.
“I have two second graders and this is so great because there’s a lot of families who need this,” said parent Sheena Robinson. “We’re really thankful that the Tribe does this event and it keeps getting better every year. My kid’s look forward to this at the start of each school year. They know they’re going back to school, but they at least get to have this day together before they do.”