Kids have fun, get supplies for school
by Courtney Stevens
Aug 11, 2013 | 5444 views | 0 0 comments | 677 677 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kids feasted on watermelon, hotdogs, jumped in a bouncy house and listened to music well into Saturday afternoon at Sterling Anderson Park for the back to school rally hosted by The Mississippi Minority Healthcare Providers Association and Zion Hospice.

"This is where I grew up as a kid," said Bishop Carley Sparks, the coordinator of the events.

"We wanted to give back to the community."

Music was provided by local DJs while church members and friends of Sparks helped to pass out backpacks and school supplies.

"Most of these kids are low income kids, coming from a single parent background. We just want to touch them.

"We bend over backwards and got a couple of sponsors to help us," said Sparks.

Sparks has done five back to school rallies this summer in Shelby, Mound Bayou, Ruleville, Clarksdale, and Cleveland.

Along with putting school supplies in the hands of these children, Sparks is also working on establishing a charter school in Cleveland called the Delta Charter Achievement Academy.

"My initiative is going to affect low income children. We want the D and F students to have a good productive teacher," said Sparks.

According to a study done at Brookings Institution in March 2012, fewer than half, 48 percent, of poor children are ready for school at age five, compared to 75 percent of children from families with moderate to high income, a 27 percent gap.

Sparks wants to collaborate with legislators, Cleveland officials and members of the community to better the education of low-income children in Bolivar County.

"You hear them say it takes a village to save a child, but it takes more than that now because of the economy," said Sparks.

Having grown up in Cleveland and the area around Sterling Anderson Park in particular, Sparks said he is able to sympathize with the children that stood around him at the rally.

"A lot of people are fighting charter schools but don't really understand what charter schools are," said Sparks.

Charter schools are independent public schools allowed freedom to be more innovative, while being held accountable for improved student achievement.

"If it’s going to do good, I can't understand why anyone would fight charter schools in the Delta if they have never had one," said Sparks.

Charter schools are unique in that they work to address the issues of the students to further education.

"I've been in Jackson exposing the legislators and exposing the educators to charter schools," said Sparks.

Sparks passed out backpacks and brightly colored drawstring bags to each child that was at the rally.

"We don't have problem children, we have children with a problem," said Sparks.

Children were also able to obtain school supplies such as markers, pencils, and paper.

Sparks believes the children of this particular area will be better prepared on their first day of school with these supplies.

"This is where my heart is right now. The Lord is leading me to educate our own children," said Sparks.