I never envisioned that I would get to brag about my perfect attendance in elementary school as an adult. However, after experiencing the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Attendance Awareness Poster Contest, I couldn’t help but pull out one of my old awards and reflect. Every year, my parents could always count on me to bring home the perfect attendance award. I maintained perfect attendance throughout my elementary education and never missed more than five days a year after that.
This year was the first time DeSoto County students participated in the contest. More than 2300 elementary students created posters that depicted why school attendance is important to them. Winners of the Attendance Awareness Poster Contest were selected from every grade level at participating elementary schools. School-level winners received a framed copy of their poster, a certificate of achievement, and four tickets to a Major League Baseball Spring Training game as a gift from the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR). On January 22nd, regional winners from DeSoto County School District celebrated with supporters, including, family members, the School Board, and The Patterson Foundation. The winners received an iPad as a gift from SCGLR through support from The Patterson Foundation.
As I handed these brand new iPads to kids in my hometown during the event, I beamed with joy. Although this was a contest, there was a lesson for these students. The Attendance Awareness Poster Contest aims to raise awareness among students and parents to emphasize the importance of going to school every day. We know that students in DeSoto have a high rate of absenteeism. We also know that this is likely one of the reasons for other statistics such as the 65% graduation rate and the fact that only 29% of third graders are reading on grade level.
As an elementary student, the other award that always accompanied my perfect attendance was one for earning a spot on the Principal’s List. As a kid, I never knew the correlation. However, as an adult working with the SCGLR, I now know and understand the importance of attending school. I didn’t have much of a choice as a kid. Going to school every day was a strict rule in our home. My parents rewarded us and provided other incentives.
The Patterson Foundation is now providing that same education, encouragement, and incentive to students in DeSoto through SCGLR’s programs like the Attendance Awareness Poster Contest. As these students walked out carrying their brand new iPads, I couldn’t help but smile knowing that they also carry the understanding of the importance of attending school so they can learn.
The Attendance Awareness Poster Contest is an initiative of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, fully funded by The Patterson Foundation. The campaign seeks to increase the number of children reading proficiently by the end of third grade, a key indicator of lifelong outcomes such as high school graduation rates.