Several children in the Huckabee Heights neighborhood in Conway woke up to two bright yellow school buses Monday morning, bearing buckets stuffed with school supplies as part of Conway Elementary School’s “Fill-A-Bucket” event.
Teachers, administrators and volunteers from Coastal Carolina University piled into two buses to deliver the buckets to neighborhood kids during Monday’s teacher work/staff development day.
After the buckets were safely unloaded into an empty parking lot, the buses paraded down each street – with a gaggle of teachers and CCU students – honking horns and shouting their arrival.
This is Conway Elementary School’s third year handing out buckets to the Huckabee Heights area, and the idea stemmed from Carol McCloud’s book “Have you Filled a Bucket Today?” The book encourages positive behavior in children and illustrates the rewards gained by being nice.
Neighborhood kids came running to their favorite teachers while parents followed behind with younger siblings. Principal Maquitta Davis kicked things off with a short speech, then volunteers started handing out the small black pails.
“I like my bucket,” said Jeremiah Grisset, a second-grader, while he showed off his stash that included protein bars and a blue CCU shirt. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with all my stuff.”
Laura Randolph, physical education teacher and event coordinator, said the original 2012 “Fill-A-Bucket” event has become a way to reach out to children in the Huckabee Heights area.
“It’s just a neat program. It’s good to see the kids do things other than just grab their buckets – they were playing football, talking to teachers and mingling with parents,” Randolph said.
The event allows the neighborhood children to realize their teachers care about them outside of school, said Laurie Jackson, fifth-grade teacher. She said she wishes the school started the program several years ago, because it would’ve given teachers and staff a much better relationship with parents and students.
“It helps students gain that community feeling,” Jackson said. “Like now they know they’re not just students in our classroom, we actually care about them.”
CCU volunteers, mostly Early Childhood Education majors, coordinated the donation drive and stuffed buckets a few weeks before the event. Students asked area businesses and retailers for donations or money and purchased stuffed animals to hand out. Donations included nonperishable food items, personal hygiene products, clothing and school supplies.
“We partnered with Conway Elementary to help make ‘Fill-A-Bucket’ a little bigger than usual,” said senior Toni Williams. “We just wanted to give these kids some things they don’t always have access to.”
“We had a lot of companies donate things, including Wal-Mart and local lawyers offices, so everyone could get a little something,” Kayla Richardson, senior Early Childhood Education major, said.
The Huckabee Heights community, located near Whittemore Park Middle School in Conway, benefits from “Fill-A-Bucket Day,” said resident Robert Thomas, but more needs to be done.
“This is a good program, because the kids get school supplies, but the parents need to be more involved. Right now, everyone is just out to get free goodies,” Thomas said. He said programs such as Freedom Readers – which strives to improve reading skills in low wealth communities by providing one-to-one literacy tutoring, free books and more – are the best way to improve the neighborhood.
“A few houses here make bad for the whole community, but this is a good place,” Thomas said. “There’s good people here.”
Thomas, who moved to Conway six years ago from Florida, has six children. Four currently attend Conway Elementary and all were present Monday morning to nab free supplies and joke with their teachers. Chanel, Thomas’ 13-year-old daughter, said seeing her former teachers outside of school was pretty awesome – and so is the free stuff.
“Usually I trade with my brothers or sisters,” Chanel said. She now attends Conway Middle School, but enjoys the yearly opportunity to catch up with her former teachers. Ana Rosashernandez, Chanel’s classmate and friend, said “Fill-A-Bucket” is an “awesome” and helpful event for the neighborhood kids.
“We’re out here to support the teachers and to just be around for this really cool event,” Rosashernandez said. “It’s just so awesome.”
Principal Maquitta Davis said “Fill-A-Bucket” promotes good behavior and a sense of community, which leads to better grades and better behavior.
“There’s a need there, so teaching them to do positive regardless of their situation is important,” Davis said.