Alexandria in ACTion: Smart starts turn into strong finishes

Alexandria in ACTion: Smart starts turn into strong finishes
(File Photo)

By John Porter
(File Photo) 

Back to school — say it ain’t so! The summer can’t be over yet; didn’t it just start?

Well, actually, the summer’s not over, but it is quickly coming to its unofficial end as Labor Day approaches. There certainly will be many more warm days before fall and the dreaded winter months, but Labor Day and the first day of school marks a general return to normal for most.

With classes starting soon, many local and national organizations are sponsoring back-to-school backpack drives to help students less well off return with the materials necessary to help them get off to a good start.

Alexandria City Public Schools is leading the charge, collecting backpacks and school supplies for kids who cannot afford them. Working through their Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Centers, the district is gathering school materials, clothing and footwear to assist students and their families as the year begins. You can go to for more information.

Firefighters and Friends (, a local nonprofit, is taking the typical backpack drive a step further. Not only are they distributing backpacks filled with classroom supplies to kids, but they are providing them with a free haircut as they get ready for the start of a new school year. The Charles Houston Recreation Center is the site of this year’s backpacks and haircuts event, scheduled for August 24.

Many other community-based organizations are doing the same. Whether in Arlandria, the West End, Old Town or elsewhere, you can find Alexandria’s nonprofits doing everything possible to ensure a good start for our children.

Remembering my days in the school system, this also is a time when teachers and administrators are, in addition to getting those last few days of vacation in, anticipating and preparing for the year. From the many exceptional preschool programs in the city to the various public and private schools, all begin the school year with much anticipation and promise, hoping this will be the best year yet for each of the students to walk into their classroom. And teachers throughout our community will, for the most part, do all they can to make the year successful for their students. They will do it not for accolades, but because they care.

The school year also brings an exciting new opportunity for our community as the city council and school board backed the children and youth master plan prior to the summer recess. Available on the city’s website (, this plan “provides a blueprint for Alexandria as it seeks to allocate resources to improve outcomes for children, youth and families who call Alexandria their home.” This collaborative effort will prove extremely valuable in providing a foundation for improving services for our youth.

I wish everyone an enjoyable end to the summer. To those starting or returning to school, I hope you have a successful beginning and a productive year overall. As I used to tell my students, the drive to learn as much as you can and achieve at the highest level possible is something no one can take from you and something that will always serve you well.

Have a great year!

The writer is the executive director of ACT for Alexandria.