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Local organizers reflect on 15 years of Nashua’s Back to School event

By Grace Pecci - Staff Writer | Jul 20, 2019

NASHUA – The city is gearing up for its 15th annual Nashua Goes Back to School event, and for some, this is a very special reminder of all the hard work that has been put into the event through the years.

“It’s like a well-oiled machine,” Alderwoman Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja, who has been a part of the event’s planning committee since the beginning, said.

When Nashua’s annual event took off in 2004, Bernie Streeter was mayor, Joe Giuliano served as superintendent of the Nashua School District, Terry Williams worked as the publisher of The Telegraph and Chris Hodgdon served as president and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

“Every year, it’s cool to see who is going to be sitting around the table,” Melizzi-Golja said regarding the planning of the event. “Even though it runs like a well-oiled machine, it does that because we’ve recorded it, we know what to do. Every year, there are a few changes, but it works.”

Each year, representatives from the city, the school district, the chamber and local organizations get together to host an event that provides all students of Nashua the “one-stop-shop” for back to school items.

Backpacks and school supplies are purchased through donations and given to students. During this large event, businesses and nonprofits also operated booths to offer other school supplies, while all school principals are in attendance to meet their future students.

The event aims to bring the community together and help give students and their families a positive start in the new school year.

“It was something to look forward to every year,” former Mayor Bernie Streeter said, when reflecting on the last 15 years.

Streeter said he was always pleased with the number of students and volunteers who wanted to be involved in the event, whether it was packing backpacks or handing out supplies.

Streeter said his fondest memory from the last 15 years is the local businesses and the schools coming together for this special event – and the sense of community it drives.

He also enjoyed the fact this event helped students who were underprivileged, while aided in reducing the school drop-out rate, which was relatively high in 2004.

There have been many key figures who have come together to make this event possible.

Nashua entrepreneur and philanthropist George Katis played a massive role in bringing in funds for school supplies, through both his own company, Nashua Wallpaper, and from his other connections.

“This has been one of the best things I have ever been involved with,” Katis said. “Nashua Goes Back to School is the best event the city has ever done. For some of the students, this event could have been the only thing they had to look forward to. It made them feel included with everyone.”

Katis said it is also heartwarming to see all the children with their parents at the event every year.

“I thank the parents for taking the time to be involved in their child’s schooling,” Katis added.

Katis was the one who reached out to Williams for sponsorship of the event.

“This went from a concept to happening very quickly,” Williams recalled. “The overall effort that went into this event made it extremely successful. It speaks to how the community was able to rally.”

Soon, they were able to get a connection from the chamber.

Katis said Hodgdon was a great help in bringing the community together. Though Hodgdon left the chamber in 2006, he’s continued to support the event.

Hodgdon said one of his strongest memories is watching parents tentatively walk up to the tables to grab a notebook and being told they can take as much as they need.

“Seeing that parent and knowing you’ve taken that burden off, seeing that on their face, is what I’ll never forget,” Hodgdon said.

Streeter and event organizer, Alderwoman June Caron, recalled the principals stepping up to the plate at the events as well.

Streeter said Giuliano, the school district’s superintendent at the time, made sure every single principal was in attendance.

Nashua School District Director of Communications Stacy Hynes, who has also been involved with the event since its start, said she knows the principals are very grateful for the Nashua Public Library and for the event, in general.

“It’s an ideal spot to hold the event because so many of our families can walk there. We really tip our hats to (the Nashua Public Library),” Hynes said.

“This is truly the kickoff to the school year,” she added. “It is such a positive event, and that’s the way you want to start off a school year.

What also makes it special is that for many of the students, and even with the seniors now, this event has been around each year they have gone back to school.

“We’ve had students come running up to us asking, ‘Where’s Fairgrounds?’ and off they went,” Melizzi-Golja said. “It really is a part of their back to school routine.”

Katis said this wonderful event is a result of a team effort.

This year’s event will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Nashua Public Library. The event is open to all Nashua families, not just public school families. All supplies will go to children, while Melizzi-Golja said nothing goes to waste. All materials that are left unclaimed will be donated to local nonprofits after the event.

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.


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