The word “Hallopalooza” implies a gathering of people having fun.  Learning and fun came together when Jackson County High School teachers, Natalie Gabbard, Promise Neighborhood Art Content Specialist, the local Truett Pumpkin Patch and I collaborated to put on Hallopalooza for Jackson County High School students and their families.

When families arrived, the high school students were given a post card with six check boxes.  At each station, students received a stamp for the card.  They had to visit at least three areas to get the incentives offered by the teachers.

The first area was the corn maze which was cut out in the shape of the USA. Prior to the event art students made large posters for each state that included the population, state flag and flower, capitols and other large cities, and some interesting facts about each state. We laminated the posters and posted them throughout the maze to mark the state lines. This was part of the art station and geography. The other art station was pumpkin painting. Several examples were on display and art students were there to help families make their designs.

Around the bonfire, the history teacher told about the history of Halloween, dressing up, pumpkin painting and bonfires.  On the hayride the English teachers had storytelling. Students were encouraged to write stories in class to share. Under the shelter the families wrote poems that started with the letters of the word Halloween.

One of the more popular areas was the Pumpkin Cannon. The pumpkin patch is owned by the Math teacher at the High School. He explained the math and science behind the pumpkin cannon. The students had to guess the distance and the trajectory of the pumpkin based on the different PSI settings used on the cannon.

In total we had 153 people that attended. The families had a great time and the teachers were already making plans for next year and how we can make it bigger and better.  Hallopallooza 2016 planning starts now!

This edition of the Family Partnership blog is brought to you by Mark Ann Keck. 

Mary Ann Keck is a first-generation college graduate and lives in Jackson County. She started with Berea College as a FAST parent partner during the Promise Neighborhood planning year. She has been involved with parent groups for 22 years, beginning when her daughter started preschool. She served as a school PTA Vice President for 5 years, and as PTO president for 3 years. She worked with Forward in the Fifth and ran the Parent Information Resource Center (PIRC) in Jackson County. She implemented Grassroots Leadership workshops in 7 counties. She is a Prichard Committee Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL) graduate. She serves as chairperson for the JCHS youth service center. Mary Ann is passionate about this work because of her own children but also because this is her home. She taught her children that you give back to the community you live in and she feels she can help parents by being a resource to them. The 3 E’s of parent work-Engage, educate, empower!

Adventures in Sustainability

Sustaining long-term change takes a whole community working together.  Citizens of Clay County and representatives of the Promise Neighborhood grant understand that if you want to go far, you must go together.  With that in mind we are venturing together into a space where we can address pressing issues in Clay County even when different funding streams end.

3CPC – or the Clay County Community Prevention Council is made up of 40 community members, school personnel, health department staff, hospital staff, school board members, Save the Children staff and many more community leaders and servants.  This council has adopted the action statement: “Addressing community concerns TODAY—for Clay County’s brighter TOMORROW.”  Subgroups (action committees) address three pressing issues:  Green Dot/Violence and Bullying prevention, Grandparents as Parents and Young Parents Services.  All three groups are planning programs at this time and will be presenting final plans in upcoming meetings.

The Grandparents as Parents (GAP) group will be holding a region-wide GAP conference here in Clay County, with Judy Murray, Family Engagement Specialist, at the helm of that project.  Sessions will be held on safety, legal issues of adoption and custody, nutrition, school engagement, and other issues vital to grandparents taking on the task of raising their grandchildren.

The Green Dot group is focusing their efforts on the Green Dot program, which supports community members to make stands for ending violence and bulling in their schools and town. Kayla Hubbard, Intervention Specialist, and the Green Dot group are sponsoring a Green Dot Night at the Clay County High School football game on Friday the 23rd, where they will be playing Russell County.

The Young Parents Services group is taking on a challenging task in creating an 8-week Young Parent Success Program that will focus on healthy pregnancies, high school diploma completion/college and career planning, child safety, domestic violence and child abuse, self-esteem, and two workshops specifically aimed at young fathers.  Chelsi Hinkle, Early Childhood Specialist, and Vonda Martin, Family Engagement Specialist, are heading this endeavor in April of 2016.

All of the subgroups have active and excited members, who have a vision for their county.  Citizens of Clay County want a legacy of hope, action and involvement and 3CPC will enhance the work of organizations and citizens through collaboration in Clay County.

Image credit: Vonda Martin

Image credit: Vonda Martin

                                                                                  Vonda Martin, Family Engagement Specialist