LEESVILLE, La. - More than 840 people gathered at Parkway Elementary School in Leesville, Louisiana for the fifth annual Cafeteria Conversation and Resource Fair Aug. 2.
Families were able to meet with school principals and staff, as well as Vernon Parish School Board officials, and learn about different resources available to students including after school programs, military student services, sports, scouting, music, dance, martial arts, health and nutrition, college and career paths, family programs and more.
Operation Homefront was also onsite, and distributed 275 backpacks with free school supplies to military families.
"It was all about information," said James Williams, Vernon Parish School Board Superintendent. "The
event was important because it gave our Vernon Parish school staff a chance to get out and meet new parents and students, give them information, and let the community know all the good things going on with their individual schools."
Cafeteria Conversation was held as part of the Education Initiative - a partnership between Fort Polk Progress, Vernon Parish School District, the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce and community stakeholders - which aims to
improve school performance and educate parents on school curriculum.
"We wanted to give families a chance to connect with the schools and resources available to them, so that they know everything the Vernon Parish School District has to offer to give its students a quality education," said Michael Reese, Fort Polk Progress president.
Williams said he hopes the event relieved any stress that families new to the area may have regarding education.
"When people move here and are new to the community, there are a lot of questions," Williams said. "At Cafeteria Conversation, they were able to find out the facts of what we have to offer, and what we can do to help with their transition into the Vernon Parish schools and community."
Mary McDonald, Parkway Elementary School assistant principal, said this was a great outreach opportunity for the district.
"This is our way to welcome new families, and get them involved and engaged," McDonald said. "Above all, we want parents to know that we love their kids like our ow
n, and that every school represented has their children's best interests in mind."
Fort Polk Garrison Commander Col. Jarrett A. Thomas II stressed the importance of the event for families in the community, both military and non-military.
"It gave parents with school-aged students an opportunity to meet and discuss issues and concerns they have with the Vernon Parish School District and all of our collaborative partners," Thomas said. "The great thing was that you could see every single school in the Vernon Parish School District, and the principals, counselors and individuals involved in any aspect of the schools."
His spouse, Telisha, echoed the benefits the event has for Vernon Parish parents and students.
"It was a one-stop shop. You got a little bit of everything," she said. "They really put forward the good effort to make sure that everything that a student in the Ve
rnon Parish School District would need was represented."
Thomas, who moved with his family to Fort Polk last year, said that Cafeteria Conversation was one of the first events they attended when they arrived.
"We didn't know what to expect before we got here," Thomas said. "One of the first events and interactions we had with the Vernon Parish School District was the Cafeteria Conversation, and from that point on, it's been an awesome experience for us and our children as well."
He hopes that families had the sa
me positive experience from the event.
"I hope they were able to take away that Vernon Parish School District is a school district that cares about the kids and strives to do the best for all families," Thomas said. "They really care and believe in their students."
Attendee Spc. Regina Siler was happy with the event.
"It's a good thing that a lot of different schools came out so they could give everybody information on where they are at and the different programs that they have," Siler said. "As a person who's time is limited as a single parent, it was very helpful. It was nice to meet the principals and find out about the different schools and also see how other schools compare."
Lt. Col. Brian Tritten, who attended the event with his family, said that Cafeteria Conversation was an amazing chance to meet the school administration, especially since they are new to the area.
"It gave us a good opportunity to see, as new families, what was available and the amazing opportunities that our children are going to have here," Tritten said.
Tritten was pleased with what he witnessed at the event.
"I can see the very strong tie
between Fort Polk and the local community, and I can s
ee that the education of our children is very important to them," Tritten said. "I'm really excited for my children to get into their schools and get started. I think they are going to get a great education here."
Let us know your experience at the Cafeteria Conversation and Back to School Resource Fair. Were your questions answered? Did you find what you needed? Was this event helpful? What can be done in the future to improve the event and experience. Log on to the Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) link and submit your feedback: