Local organizations and businesses join forces to equip students

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire Shown is a sampling of some of the school supplies collected by The Telegraph and other supporters of the 2018 Nashua Goes Back to School event.

NASHUA – Most of the roughly 11,000 students who will walk through the doors of Nashua schools in less than two weeks have known a world in which “Nashua Goes Back to School” is an annual tradition.

While perhaps not all have participated each year, it has been a crucial event in the community for 13 years– meaning that some of Nashua’s seniors participated when they were no more than kindergartners themselves.

The city of Nashua, the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and The Telegraph join many generous business partners and volunteers to celebrate the event. It is set for 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Nashua Public Library, 2 Court St.

Nashua Goes Back to School is the kickoff for school and the end of summer, but is first and foremost a celebration, said city Alderwoman Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja, an organizer.

The event evolved out of a committee that explored ways to support students and reduce the dropout rate, she said, and developed as a way to foster the connection between communities, families and the local schools.

“It was the year both high schools were coming online, so we organized a meet and greet,” Melizzi-Golja recalled.

“It speaks to creating the enthusiasm and excitement we all feel at the start of the school year,” Stacy Hynes, director of communications for the school district, added.

Melizzi-Golja works with the city’s various departments, such as Parks and Recreation, as well as community partners. George Katis, owner of Nashua Wallpaper Co., is another driving force in the planning process. He works with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and organizes the fundraising.

During the Thursday event, students and families meet school officials, see their friends, enter raffles for new backpacks, get new school supplies, and find out about local community resources and programs.

“A lot of people will say (to the principals), ‘Oh, it’s nice to see you and not be in the office,'” Melizzi-Golja said, adding the library is good location for the event.

Various local organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Nashua, the Arlington Street Community Center, 21st Century, Nashua Lions Club, Nashua Community Music School, the YMCA of Greater Nashua, Nashua Police Athletic League and many others will participate in the event, offering services and giveaways, according to Kellie DeSimone, program manager for Nashua Parks and Recreation.

Also assisting will be dozens of Nashua athletes, possibly as many as 100, all while donning their Titan blue and Panther purple.

“It’s a nice way for students to give back,” said Lisa Gingras, athletic director, who corrals the student volunteers each year.

“We talk a lot about how athletics teach life skills like being part of a team, giving back … the younger kids see them as role models,” she added.

Through the years, the district’s dropout rate has indeed gone down, although whether the event plays a role in that is difficult to tell. Either way, as Nashua Superintendent Jahmal Mosley put it, “it’s a slow wake up call to the start of the year … it’s an exciting event.”

Whatever supplies are not distributed are later donated to local youth-serving organizations, while principals usually take some to their schools to welcome the new students who come in throughout the year, Melizzi-Golja said.

She thanked the community and organizers, including the chamber, the city and the school district for their collaboration.

“Not just a couple of people do this — it’s a whole community,” Melizzi-Golja said, adding, “You can’t put a dollar amount on that.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.