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  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    Assistant Principle at Pennichuck Middle School, Dan O'Donnell talks with Amiya Dailey and Shania Terruso as well as Amherst Street School Guidance Councilor Kaylene Walton during Thursday afternoon's Back to School Night at the Nashua Public Library.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    Donna Barron stands with her granddaughter, Ella in a line from the front doors of the Nashua Public Library to Main Street for Back to School Night, Thursday.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    Donning a Milk Man t-shirt and a Stonyfield Farm hat, Ryan Lambert shouts out over a speaker system to anyone within earshot that might want some free Stonyfield Farm milk during Thursday afternoon's Back to School Night at the Nashua Public Library.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    Birch Hill Elementary School Principle, Mark Lucas talks with Carson and Asheley Goh during Thursday evening's Back to School Night at the Nashua Public Library.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    The line of people waiting to enter the Nashua Public Library for Back to School Night stretched from the entrance of the library and around the corner of Main Street. Organizers estimated that approximately 1500 people went to get supplies for back to school, check-ups and immunizations.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    Janetlie Varkas cries after Nancy Bissell removes a syringe from her arm which delivered an immunization during Thursday' afternoon's Back to School Night at the Nashua Public Library.
  • Staff Photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph


    Nathan Pedato waits for the flash of a non-invasive eye screening camera during Thursday afternoon's Back to School Night at the Nashua Public Library.
Friday, August 26, 2011

Crowds heavy at Nashua Back to School Night despite rain

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last article in a series promoting the Nashua Back to School event held by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and the city. The series highlights the different people driving the initiative as well as several influential donors from the region that make this event possible.

Milagros Santiago is feeling the pressure and price tags of back-to-school shopping more than ever this year.

Her twin stepsons, Gabriel and Michael Orengo, 13, recently moved to Nashua from Ohio and are getting ready to attend Elm Street Middle School next week.

Santiago is attending Rivier College in the fall to get her masters and become a Spanish teacher – a mission that has already cost her $300 in books – while her husband works a part time job.

Thursday, standing in line for Back to School night at the Nashua Public Library, it was no wonder the Santiago/Orengo family joined over 1,500 other people, anxious to get acquainted with new teachers and to walk away with a bag full of fresh, new school supplies.

“It’s good to get stuff for school and meet with friends,” Santiago said. “(The supplies) really help – everything, the paper, the pencils. The boys were shocked they do this, they don’t do this in Ohio. It’s so nice people give you this and to find out what’s offered here.”

Despite forecasts for Hurricane Irene on the horizon, the crowds were not dampened by gray skies and wet weather. At 5 p.m., they lined Library Hill, down around the corner to the Nashua Telegraph office on Main Street.

In its eighth year, the Back to School extravaganza is something people look forward to at the end of each summer, event organizer Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja, Ward 8 alderman and former school board member, said.

“If a student started going to this in first grade when we started, they’d be in 7th or 8th grade by now,” Melizzi-Golja said. “So it’s really become a staple for going back to school in Nashua.”

Inside the library, Nashua School District Superintendent Mark Conrad and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau greeted students along with representatives from the elementary, middle and high schools around the Gate City.

“It gets the kids off on the right foot,” Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said. “It’s great for Nashua, it shows we have a partnership here in this community that values education, between the city, the schools, and the businesses. It can’t get any better than that.”

For the first time in the history of the event, organizers had to make last minute changes because of the inclement weather.

Parents still had the opportunity to get free immunizations for children through the Department of Health, to register kids for health insurance through Healthy Kids of New Hampshire, or to sign up for an account with Triangle Credit Union inside the library.

But the informational booths and D.J. typically set up in the courtyard out front were cancelled because of the rain. Instead, a wheel-of-prizes put on by the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and a Stonyfield Farm milk and cookie truck parked just beside the library fountain entertained families as they waited to meet their teachers and principals.

“The weather didn’t work in our favor, but our whole staff reacted tremendously,” George Katis, fundraising chair for Nashua Back to School night and owner of Nashua Wallpaper Paint & Flooring, said. “I couldn’t be more proud of how it turned out. It’s so well organized, despite some of the issues we had with the weather, and we’ve had another record turnout.”

Organizers for Back to School Night raised more money than they needed to put on the event this year, Katis said, filling up to 1,700 bags of goodies.

“Now more than ever, its important to be able to do this for people, given the economy the last few years,” Chris Williams, President & CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce said. “The unemployment rate is still high, and all people, it doesn’t matter what their income is, are affected by that.”

Plus, participation from businesses and nonprofits in the community was even stronger this year, despite the difficult economy. Oracle, Triangle Credit Union, and Comcast all upped their donations considerably for the eighth annual event, Williams said.

“People who are donors come to the event and see the excitement and how helpful it is for people,” Williams said. “We had even more participants this year.”

For students like 15-year-old Taylor Suprenant, the night will save her time and money when she goes shopping for her start at Nashua High School South next week.“I haven’t done any shopping,” Suprenant laughed. “I’m pretty much set now.”

Stopping to chat with her principal, Nashua South Principal Jennifer Seusing, Suprenant said she was starting to get into school mode.

“I saw her briefly and waved and said hi, and she asked me how my summer was going,” Suprenant said.

From the principals’ side of things, the ability to meet students and families comfortably, outside of the school environment, is one of the best parts of Back to School night, Seusing said.

“This night brings all the schools together as one, as we are a K-12 district,” Seusing said. “It brings in the families for a great connection with the schools...Everyone is very appreciative of the businesses who donate to give these kids a kick start back to school – so it’s a material feel-good and it’s a school spirit feel-good.”

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashuatelegraph.com.