08/08/08 — Back-to-school rally focuses students on staying in school

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Back-to-school rally focuses students on staying in school

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 8, 2008 1:38 PM

Linda McFarland strolled through the hallway at St. Mark Church of Christ Thursday evening with her three grandchildren -- Diayania Coley, 3, and Demoregea Coley, 6, and their cousin Mykira McFarland, 7.

They were attending the "Back to School -- Stay in School" rally sponsored by the church and the STOP the Funeral organization.

Demoregea will be a first-grader at Grantham Elementary, while Mykira will enter second grade at School Street Elementary School in the fall.

Mykira said she was there "to have fun."

But attending was about more than just having an enjoyable evening together, their grandmother said.

"It informs the children to stay in school. You have got to give that message to them young," she said emphatically.

Lauren Grantham was also there, with 9-year-old son Aaron, who will be in fourth grade at Faith Christian Academy. Ms. Grantham said she had enjoyed the first event last year enough to return.

"The guest speakers were great. It's just a matter of getting information out, taking information to heart," she said. "We just want parents to get involved."

Glenda White, a member of St. Mark and the STOP the Funeral group, said it was vital to have parents and youths attend.

"We're hoping the information that they get, that they can take it and go to school on a more positive note and create a better learning environment for them," she said.

Others echoed the message.

"You can't teach children if they're not in school," Bishop William Phillips of Word Faith Ministries told the audience. "You can't really succeed in life without the proper education.

"Information's a powerful thing but you won't receive it unless you put yourselves in a position to get it."

The nationwide "back-to-school rally" concept, aimed at K-12, was created to improve student achievement by reducing absenteeism and the dropout rate, Phillips said.

"We need to understand that things that are worth having will not just happen automatically," he said. "Training is not just done by those that are in the schools -- it takes concerned parents, it takes concerned friends."

Moderator Rodney White of Greenville, a 1985 graduate of Goldsboro High School, encouraged parents to create a contract with their child to work toward one day going on to college.

"Make a pact contract with your child .... Put it on the refrigerator so you can see it every day," he said, suggesting regular school attendance also be encouraged.

It's all about incentives, said the Rev. Keith Copeland of Word Faith Ministries, describing the concept as being "something that you give to someone to support them or encourage them to accomplish some goal."

"We at STOP the Funeral initiative are encouraging churches and parents to provide some incentives for their children to do well in school," he said. "As parents we get the idea that they should just want to go to school and learn because it's going to help them out. ...

"We need incentives, we need to encourage these children -- to get honor roll and perfect attendance."

The pep rally-type atmosphere culminated in a roll call of schools. Among those represented were Carver Heights, Eastern Wayne Elementary, Grantham, North Drive, Northeast and Northwest elementary schools, Greenwood and Norwayne middle schools, Eastern Wayne High, Goldsboro High, Southern Wayne High and Wayne School of Engineering.

There were also workshops for students and parents during the three-hour rally, as well as school gift packs given to students in attendance.