A Back-to-School Bash Aimed at Curbing Chronic Absenteeism

Last week, Avondale Elementary held its first – and very successful – Back-to-School Bash. The event was born out of the Bold Goals Coalition’s efforts to curb absenteeism among schools in Central Alabama. It began as an effort to build relationships with students and families and make school a place children long to be. The organizers engaged parents, community partners and staff to create intentional experiences that research says have long-lasting effects on school attendance throughout the year. Here’s how the day unfolded.

On Wednesday, August 1st, the halls of Avondale Elementary School were buzzing with young scholars who all had their own customized “passports” for the day. Their destination was the Family Fun Zone, which included a moonwalk and bouncy slide, face painting, a dance party, carnival games, freshly grilled hotdogs and homemade desserts. But in order to get there, their passports had to be validated by first making a series of important stops along the way.

  • Redeemer Community Church and Rotaract volunteers served as navigators, directing students first to the Photo Booth, where they were asked to share their aspirations for success and “picture” their futures.
  • Next on their route was the Attendance Zone, where Melissa Niven from the Helping Families Initiative at the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office spoke to students and parents about the importance of attending school every day. Participants also filled out an attendance success plan, and received information about the resources available to help them achieve their attendance goal.
  • Students were then directed to the Backpack-Giveaway Landing, where Rotaract volunteers distributed free backpacks and supplies to the first 150 Avondale students.
  • Next it was time to explore the Partner Fair, where students were offered information about, and the opportunity to sign up for, 11 afterschool programs from community partners.
  • The final stop before the Family Fun Zone was an introduction to Dr. Sonya Lloyd, the new Principal of Avondale Elementary.

As a result of the Back-to-School Bash, students and families received helpful information and necessary supplies to make for a successful school year, and built relationships with other members of the community who care about their success. This all started because of a bold idea that was shared several months earlier during a Bold Goals Education Attendance Action Network convening, where principals received training and a challenge to create outreach programs for chronically absent students. The passport theme was originally conceived by Oliver Elementary. Kelli Bell, an Action Network participant, brought the vision to reality at Avondale Elementary.

In keeping with the Bold Goals concept, this event was made possible through the support of more than 100 volunteers, 15 organizations, school staff, parents, students and community friends. It’s a great example of diverse parties in the community aligning their resources to rally around a specific cause, and coming together to make a collective impact for students’ success!