School's fun night is chance for families, staff to mingle

September 21, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

Eva Neissner, a sixth-grader at Hagerstown's Northern Middle School, couldn't wait to get to Antietam Recreation Center near Funkstown Saturday evening for the school's first-ever family night event.

"I like getting together with other families," the 10-year-old said as she and her parents headed for the pavilion with their covered dish.

And Pamela and Jim Neissner were equally impressed. "We got the flyer from school and thought it was a great idea," Pamela Neissner said. The family's younger children also came along for the night of fun, food and fellowship.


Sherry Keeney is school/family liaison for the Northern Middle School Family Support Program, which is in its second year. "Our goal is to help families and children strengthen their relationship with school," Keeney said.

There was a need at Northern Middle for such an effort, Keeney said. A 5-year grant was secured, and the program got up and running last year.

So far, Northern Middle is the only Washington County school with such a program.

It includes having a full-time family support worker on site at the school.

Saturday's event centered around outdoor fun so parents, students and staff could feel more comfortable with each other. Activities offered from 6 to 10 p.m. included swimming in the heated pool, pony rides, a petting zoo, the boat slide, giant rope swing, tennis, volleyball, cable rides and a water balloon toss.

"We couldn't do any canoeing or kayaking because the Antietam Creek is too high," said Mary Rotz, co-director of the outdoor center on Garis Shop Road.

Keeney said she sees Saturday's event as only the beginning of a host of interactive events designed to bring the parents and the school closer for the benefit of all.

"There is a possibility of a pumpkin painting party in the fall and maybe some caroling at Christmas," Keeney said. "Hopefully, we will have something every other month."

Kimberly Grunberg was headed toward the petting zoo with her daughter, Megan, 11. "It's nice to get to know some of the other families," Grunberg said.

Monique Evans accompanied her 13-year-old son, Michael, a seventh-grader at Northern Middle,l to the event.

"This is awesome," Evans said. "It's great to get together with other parents in a social setting. Plus, we love Antietam Recreation."

As the parents trooped off to the pavilion for the meal, many of the youngsters opted to keep playing while there was still some light.

Keeney was pleased with the turnout which was expected to draw as many as 325 students, family members and staff.

She also stressed that while it was her idea, many people helped make the event a reality. These included Jessica Selser, an intern with the program, who handed out contest tickets.

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