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Haircuts, hot dogs, and pews full of bookbags: How churches prepare students for school

Back to school for students can be a tricky time. Excitement can lead to tears, a new year can mean new nerves, and the first day can feel simultaneously ominous and thrilling. What are the essentials to get kids ready for a positive year in school? In Faison and Ramseur, North Carolina, communities band together to provide school supplies, sno cones, and much more to prepare their kids for school. Styled with fresh haircuts, carrying new bookbags and a little more confidence, these students are ready to start the new year.

On Saturday, August 25th in Ramseur, you could find every community member regardless of age on Main Street. Jordan Memorial United Methodist stood at the helm, welcoming students to pick out the first essential school supply, the bookbag. In the first forty-five minutes, one volunteer alone tallied 103 bookbags given out, and that didn’t include the other entrance. Backpacks of all shades lined the pews, and congregation members encouraged students to walk and pick out whatever color most suited them. 

Bookbags at Jordan Memorial UMC. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

“Being in a rural community, a lot of times the resources are not all together, and so that is our hope for this day, that people can connect to the goodness we have to offer here,” says Joshua Kurtz, minister at Jordan Memorial United Methodist Church.

That goodness comes from churches, nonprofits, boy scouts, local law enforcement, local businesses, and more. The health department has an in-house dentist who was there giving out pencils, brush timers, healthy teeth tips, and promoting the comprehensive services offered to children birth to eighteen. 

Other volunteer groups donated time and money to provide food, clothes, books, and more. The Randolph County Partnership for Children was there educating families about high-quality early learning experiences and programs focusing on building early literacy skills. 

The spirit of giving permeated Main Street and was matched with energy and excitement from children playing on bounce houses and activating the siren on top of police motorcycles. 

110 miles and 24 hours later, we were standing in front of RJ’s Kutz Barber Shop in Faison visiting with families and asking the same question, “What are you most looking forward to in school?” The line was out the door when we arrived, and more came from surrounding counties to get a fresh look for the first day of school. 

This is the third year RJ’s Kutz has given free haircuts for students going back to school. Next door, Whitfield’s BBQ joined in and supplied hotdogs and fries to every student who participated. Faison United Methodist Church donated school supplies and helped get the word out.  

Jabe Largen, minister at Faison United Methodist Church, sees more opportunity for the free haircut day and is excited to see it grow in the coming years. He likes the idea of local businesses getting involved because it creates loyal customers and promotes economic development. I mentioned how it was easy to see where the common thread lies in good things happening in Faison. He replied, 

“The common thread is good relationships and the utilization of them at the right time to do the most good for the most vulnerable in our midst.”

If the first day of school sets the tone for academic achievement, these rural communities are stepping up to the plate and helping their students get ready for success. 

Students with free hotdogs and fries at Whitfield’s BBQ in Fasion, NC. Caroline Parker/EducationNC
Caroline Parker

Caroline Parker is the director of rural storytelling and strategy for EducationNC. She covers the stories of rural North Carolina, the arts, STEM education and nutrition.