Written by CAPA-JRC reporters Daniel Li, Joy Jiang, Justin Jiang, and Hongjin Fang
On Saturday, August 21, parents and students of Montgomery County traveled to Westfield Wheaton Mall to attend the annual MCPS Back-to-School Jam. In past years, the event had been known as the Back-to-School “Fair”, but the change of name has not dimmed the number or enthusiasm of attendees. After a year of absence due to the pandemic, this year’s Jam hosted several thousand attendees and featured energetic music, photo booths, and a stage for dancing, as well as over 60 booths for various organizations.
Students dance on a stage at the MCPS Back-to-School Jam. (Angie Shen)
Many of the organizations that attended the event sought to spread awareness of their opportunities and resources. One of these was Choose Respect Montgomery, an initiative to educate students about dating violence. “We hope that people can learn about the programs we have available,” said a representative of Choose Respect Montgomery, “and we hope that they will reach out to us so we can go and talk to their students.”
Others hoped to promote their values across the greater community. “We’re here to promote what athletics stands for,” said Kathy Green, the Systemwide Athletics Specialist at MCPS Athletics. “Respect, sportsmanship, academic integrity, and character… we also just want to make sure that we’re accessible to all of our students.”
At the Chinese American Parents Association of Montgomery County (CAPA-MC) booth, volunteers aimed to promote CAPA clubs as an opportunity for students in the county. They also passed out 1,300 yellow whistles to aid the Yellow Whistle Project to support Anti-Asian hate efforts and shed light on the issue, as well as brochures for information and candy for younger students.
A CAPA-MC volunteer explains the purpose of the yellow whistle to visitors. (Angie Shen)
Some of the other popular booths around the Jam included the Thirst Church, which passed out school supplies for students, and a vaccination clinic for COVID-19 and other diseases.
The Back-to-School Jam attracted visitors from all over the county, many of whom had different expectations and intentions for visiting the Jam. One parent brought her children to the Jam to explore the different information booths and learn about how to support them. “[My daughter] is a new kindergartener,” she said. “We’re excited to learn about what’s going on in the area. It’s our first time here.”
Other parents, however, focused on the importance of getting their children excited about school. “[MCPS] described the event as a Back-to-School ‘Jam’,” another parent said. “When I thought about that, I thought that most of the ‘jams’ that I’d been to had been more kid-friendly.”
For the future, this parent hopes that the event’s activities can be more targeted towards children. “I think they can amp it up a little more for the kids. They’ve had a rough year-and-a-half, … so I was looking for a little more fun,” he said.
Many students also came to the Jam to volunteer, passing out snacks and assisting staff members. “We’ve had COVID for a while; everyone’s been pretty down,” said one such volunteer. “Schools are opening back up again and this event is an opportunity to meet a lot of people and get to know them.”
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.