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Educators reach out to families in Cumming
Three schools part of Project Connect
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Steve Miller, principal of Otwell Middle School, addresses educators at the Project Connect event. - photo by Megan Reed

CUMMING — The staffs from Cumming Elementary, Otwell Middle and Forsyth Central High came together Thursday to distribute school supplies to their students and help them prepare for the upcoming year.

Project Connect, which is in its second year, reached out to more than 300 families in the area.

The entire staff from the three schools in Cumming visited homes to introduce themselves and offer backpacks and school supplies to students who needed them.

The United Way of Forsyth County and Browns Bridge Community Church donated 650 backpacks for the initiative.

The Forsyth County system starts the 2014-15 school year on Thursday.

Amy Gamez, the school social worker for the three schools, said the project aims to improve the relationships between students, parents and school staff.

“We see the value of connecting with kids,” Gamez said. “We feel like kids get so excited when we go out to the homes and they say, ‘Do you know my teacher? Are you my teacher?’”

Families in the district received phone calls informing them that the educators would be visiting.

Gamez said 10 schools in the county are doing similar outreach programs.

Mary Vaughn Smith, a kindergarten teacher at Cumming Elementary, agreed that the project helps school staff connect with both parents and students.

“It’s a good outreach to our community so they can meet the teachers and make the parents feel more comfortable about the children coming to school,” she said.

Scott Carpenter from First Baptist Church addressed the gathering of educators, offering some words of inspiration before they set out on the home visits.

He brought along a chainsaw to illustrate how teachers can improve their surroundings but also harm those they work with if they don’t do their job well.

“None of you have the privilege of just being a teacher,” Carpenter said. “You’ve been privileged with a position of power, whether you like it or not … with that comes great responsibility.”

Elizabeth Chilson, a counselor at Central, said the project helps staff assume that responsibility.

“Every area has needs that need to be met,” she said. “It’s our job to help fill the void.”

Last year, the project reached about 180 homes.