At one Hartford, Conn., school, the first day back looked a bit like a celebration normally reserved for athletes. As students approached Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, they were greeted and asked both their name and grade.
Then their credentials were called out loud before an enthusiastic group of black men who lined both sides of the entrance. As the students walked down the middle of the aisle, they were high-fived and given words of encouragement.
"We want to start off the first day right with a lot of enthusiasm and encourage them to put their best foot forward," organizer DeVaughn Ward told WFSB last week. Ward had the approximately 100 professional black men lined up outside the school first thing to show support for the kids' first day.
"We have insurance executives. We have attorneys. We have TV producers," Ward said. "We have banking executives. We have nonprofit executives, law enforcement, firefighters, chefs."
Ward told the news station that the inspiration for the event came from hearing about an Atlanta group of men who did the same thing. A Facebook post had immediate impact, and Ward noted that while the men aren't affiliated with any group, they are all committed to making sure that children know they are loved and supported.
"They need to know education matters," participant Brian Martin told WFSB. "They need to know there are people there supporting them, even if they don’t know their names."
Ward added that he doesn't want the men's commitment to end here: "What I want to do going forward this year is to bring as many career professionals back to the school and have them talk about their career experiences."
Once all the high fives and words of encouragement had been doled out and the kids were all inside, the men gathered for a prayer.
"Lord, we thank you for allowing us to usher in these kids back into school with some positivity and momentum," a pastor, A.J. Johnson, said.
And with that, the men returned to their day, a tad late but better for it.
Read more at WFSB.