06/07/09 — Festival teaches safety, gives resources for families

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Festival teaches safety, gives resources for families

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 7, 2009 2:00 AM

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North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper Benny Grady explains what to do when approaching a stop sign on a bicycle to Elizabeth Mastralonardo, 6, during the fourth annual Born Learning Children's Festival sponsored by the Partnership for Children of Wayne County on Saturday at Herman Park.

As a teacher at Tommy's Road Elementary, Tracy Salter says she sees plenty of children in need of social services -- many of which can be obtained for free by parents who qualify.

And she hoped that the Born Learning Festival, held Saturday in Herman Park, would educate some parents about what's available to them.

One example was the Wee Wings Bus, which attempts to serve high-need children with educational activities.

Because the bus has never visited her neighborhood, Mrs. Salter said she learned what the program was all about on Saturday.

"It's for 4-year-olds, with a lot of hands-on manipulatives, and a place for dramatic play -- a kitchen, where they can dress up, use their imaginations, that's what they call dramatic play.

"They had a lot of math manipulatives too, and letters, to cover the literacy aspect of it all," Mrs. Salter said.

The teacher was there with her friend Jordan Carrasquillo, who brought her 2-1/2 year-old daughter Gabriella and Alexander, her 4-month-old. Mrs. Salter had her son Chandler, 2, in tow.

And although the children were all under the age demographic for which the Wee Wings bus is intended, they still enjoyed themselves, Mrs. Salter said.

"Everything is developmentally appropriate for 4-year-olds -- of course our kids were too young for it -- but everything was done up in bright colors, which is very appealing for a young child, no matter what their age," the teacher said.

Mrs. Salter, the wife of firefighter Chris Salter, said she learned of the festival through her job at school, where pamphlets were passed out and an e-mail was sent to staff.

Her friend Mrs. Carrasquillo, wife of a Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputy, works for Wayne County Social Services.

Although her job makes her quite familiar with what Wayne County has to offer by way of outreach programs, she said she believed many other parents would benefit.

Mrs. Salter agreed, noting that the presence of the Health Department's Dental Program and large bus with the Colgate logo there to check out kids' teeth.

"For example, the dental -- I see some children with bad dental hygiene," the teacher said. "I'm sure the parents don't have the money to go to a dentist, with the economy the way it is."

The day was set up with a large number of activities and booths, sponsored by such community mainstays as the Partnership for Children of Wayne County, Safe Kids, the school system, Goldsboro Parks and Recreation and many others.

At the registration table, a sign named the event's primary financial sponsor, United Way of Wayne County.

The United Way asked parents to fill out demographic forms so they could compile data about who attended and "the impact of this event on our community."

Parents were also told to visit at least eight booths, where they could get an affirmation that they visited.

Completing the eight visits meant a chance to win door prizes, said Amanda Atkinson, an employee of the Wayne County Partnership for Children who lives in Johnston County.

Others said they were just there for the fun of it, like Rhonda McDuffie of the Saulston area.

She brought her two daughters, Marthia Moore and Nina Moore, with all of Mrs. McDuffie's grandchildren. Alijah, 14, Racquel, 14, Elliot, 12, Xavier, 8, Amauri, 8, Aaliyah, 7 and Grace, 3, were all enjoying themselves thoroughly, Mrs. McDuffie said.

"They've been on the swings and the slides, and just running and just being free -- you know, it's an awesome day, where all you have to spend is your time," Mrs. McDuffie said.