Backpacks with Pre-K educational boost


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Some local four and five-year-olds now own something that could help pay serious dividends when they’re adults. They received special gifts Tuesday while attending their pre-kindergarten class. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller was there when kids got their big surprise.

It was not a backpack full of hockey pucks that Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins mascot “Tux” carried into a classroom of young children at Heights Murray Elementary School. So each of the roughly two dozen students enrolled in the Pre-K Counts program wanted to know what was inside the shoulder-strapped bag. Once opened, children saw books, other school supplies and even a few goodies to nibble on. But the group behind this giveaway saw opportunity. “We’re just so happy to come in and offer them those resources that they need that are essential for their educational growth,” said Joell Yarmel with Leadership Wilkes-Barre’s Class of 2019.

This Leadership Wilkes-Barre group calls itself “Little Leaders”. They raised roughly $5,000 to provide the backpacks and contents for the kids to take with them to kindergarten in a few months. Pre-K Counts teacher Deanna Roulinavage said, “These backpacks are going to be a very big tool for them to use over the summer and then take with them on their first day of kindergarten.”

While Pennsylvania makes “Pre-K Counts” available to at-risk young children for free, these backpacks would have been the financial responsibility of their families. Leadership Wilkes-Barre Class of 2019 Group Member Rachael Stark said, “I think a lot of them might not have been able to get those things otherwise so we’re able to provide that to them and let them hit the ground running and be with all of the other kids in kindergarten, be just as prepared as they are.”

It’s more than just backpacks filled with essential educational materials that were handed out. The Leadership Wilkes-Barre group also donated bookshelves and iPads for both Pre-K Counts classrooms. Those items are considered legacy gifts — much like this Leadership Wilkes-Barre group’s impact on these children as they continue on their educational path. 

Tuesday was the third of three programs Leadership Wilkes-Barre’s “Little Leaders” held at Heights Murray Elementary School. The previous two visits emphasized good oral hygiene and what emergency responders do. Group members say both of those visits can also have a positive impact on kids as they get older.

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