The 18th annual Back to School Rally returned Saturday to Briar Bay Park near Riceboro to get parents and students excited for the upcoming school year.
The rally, hosted by Project Reach GANG (God’s Anointed Now Generation) Inc., was at the Riceboro Youth Center the prior two years.
Community members gathered underneath large oaks at the park and listened to singing, inspirational speeches and prayers for the school system.
The theme for the rally was “Preparing for Success.”
Liberty County Board of Education member Verdell Jones was the mistress of ceremony.
Posting of colors was done by 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, which also brought along Rocky, the 3rd ID mascot, to greet children.
Various people spoke, including Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin and keynote speaker Lt. Col. Joshua J. LaMotte, the commander of 703rd BSB.
“We can’t do enough in these kids’ lives now,” Austin said. “Whether it’s basketball or football or soccer or vacation Bible school. … We’ve all got to have a hand in it because we’re up against some terrible, powerful forces after our kids. We’ve got to work every day.”
Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Lovette told students that they are “our investment.”
“We are investing in you. We do this because we want to put our support to you because in the end we want to see the dividends come back. We don’t want our investments to fail,” he said. “Whether you decide to make Liberty County your home, or wherever you’re at, just do well. Remember that somebody took the time and effort to invest in you, and you have an obligation to give back.”
LaMotte talked about “the three C’s to getting an A this year.”
The first point was character.
“Whatever you do, your character reflects you. Not only you but your family,” LaMotte said.
Next was competence.
“What are you doing to prepare yourself? Learning not just the minimum, but going beyond the minimum,” he said. “Don’t let good be the enemy to great. You want to be great. The only way to do that is you’re going to have to invest.”
The last C was commitment. He asked everyone to make a pledge to be committed to character and competence “the whole way.”
LaMotte mentioned that the Army has something called “oak tree counseling,” which refers to informal counseling for safety briefs or motivational talks. He pointed out that everyone was together underneath oaks. He then encouraged the crowd to “maintain the line and never quit.”
Pastor Alan Darsey of Restoration Church led the prayer.
He prayed for principals, teachers, school board leaders and the students.
Lavonia LeCounte, executive director of Project Reach GANG, said the rally gives back to the community.
“We are helping prepare our parents and students to get ready to go back for the upcoming school year. It’s a giveaway — everything is free,” she said. “Parents are so appreciative of what’s taking place here — and not only here.”
LeCounte talked about other local organizations hosting back-to-school events with free school supplies, after Project Reach GANG held its first rally in 1998. She was grateful for others holding similar events “because we cannot serve the whole Liberty County.”
Tyrone and Sandy McGill host a back-to-school event in Jesup. The couple and their granddaughter attended the Liberty County rally for ideas and to learn how they can incorporate different vendors into their event. They have been to past rallies and view them as successful.
After the program, attendees visited vendor tables, including churches, businesses and other organizations, for free school supplies and other information. Families also enjoyed hayrides, shaved ice, water slides, a mobile gaming truck and displays from the Georgia Forestry Commission.