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North Marion School District has Back-to-School Night featuring first responders

COURTESY PHOTO: PETE WALKER - Joan Bonser takes a moment to enjoy a real police cruiser. Photo by MCSO Deputy Pete Walker The North Marion School District offered a Back-to-School Night on Wednesday, Aug. 31, featuring the chance to meet new people and learn more about the school — and check out four gleaming police cruisers and a cherry red fire engine.

Kindergartner Bella Larson loved touring her school and meeting real-life firefighters who showed her the rescue tools stowed on the engine. Bella especially enjoyed the Jaws of Life.

"Can I take it home?" she asked her parents.COURTESY PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Susana Lopez and Tom Chavez enjoy an evening with kiddos Layla and Damien.

Back-to-School Night offered thrills at every school on the North Marion campus, with informational tables (clubs, sports, parent groups) and activities. With such amazing tools and vehicles, one of the most popular activities was visiting with local heroes from the Aurora Fire District, City of Hubbard Police, and Marion County Sheriff's Office. Yet it was also one of the most important things happening that evening.

Four cruisers and a fire engine parked at the Intermediate School added an atmosphere of festivity to the event, with students lining up to sit in the cruisers or get a badge sticker, or shyly asking the firefighters about their rescue tools and red truck. The visitors definitely delighted the kids, especially Hubbard Police Chief David Rash, who handed out Matchbox cars to the K—5 students.

Marion County Sheriff's Deputy Pete Walker said sharing those toys made Rash just about the most popular person there. Yet the connections first responders make help families feel safe and can be important for children's growth and safety.

"It's a great opportunity for the kids to see our vehicles and get to know us," said Walker, who is the MCSO deputy who serves the City of Aurora, "and they need positive role models."

Aurora Fire District Emergency Medical Technician Melissa Coggins said she was glad to have the chance to show how much she and her colleagues care about local families.

"We come to these to be a part of the community, to support the kids going back to school, to let them know we're here to help," Coggins said. "We're just making good connections with them, so they know if they ever need help, they can rely on us."

The kids seemed to get the message. After taking a seat at the wheel of a police car, fifth-grader Joan Bonser said, "It was cool," before smiling at a friend and rushing off together.

For parents, the event was an opportunity to gently step back into the school year and to see how safe schools are.

Susana Lopez and Tom Vallejo-Lopez mentioned security as their priority for visiting.

COURTESY PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - From left to right are Aurora Fire District Engineer Skyler Moffett, Engineer Paul Tice, Emergency Medical Technician Melissa Coggins.

"We're checking that the kids are safe here," he said. "Everything we've been seeing, it looks safe."

She agreed, and they elaborated that the locked doors and other security devices made them feel better about having their fourth-grader Layla and kindergartner Damien at school.

Kids had their own perspective on going back to school, although starting fresh is different for everyone. Isabel Betancourt Cruz's children are fourth-grader Joshua, kindergartner Ariana, and sixth-grader Giovanni. The younger two are simply being excited for day 1, while Giovanni expressed a few more qualms about opening a new chapter.COURTESY PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Isabel Betancourt Court Cruz stands with her children: fourth-grader Joshua, kindergartner Ariana, and sixth-grader Giovanni.

"I'm okay, but a little nervous," Giovanni explained. "It's a new school, and everyone is going to be nervous."

Student Services Specialist Brad Horton said that Giovanni is right; everyone else will be nervous too. He said that he has some ideas to help sixth-graders. He says that they probably remember how nervous they were entering Primary School or Intermediate School.

"Think to yourself, 'I CAN do this!'" Horton advised all sixth-graders. "You have done it before, and now it's time to do it again."

Horton will be supporting students during the Sixth-Grade Orientation:

• The Sixth-Grade Orientation will be held on Sept. 6 in the middle-school commons

• Freshman Orientation was held on Tuesday, Sept 6 in Gym 1 at the high school

Horton said he's excited about the start of the school year and students should be too.

"Start thinking about the best things that could happen to you on your first day," Horton said to all. "The best thing is there will be lots of people there to help you. … It's going to be a fantastic day."

If Back-to-School Night was any indication, Horton is right.

To share stories on the North Marion School District, email Communications Specialist Jillian Daley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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