KINGSPORT — Sometimes, making an elementary school student happy and well-rounded takes nothing more than a trip to a movie theater, something some local kids recently got to do as COVID-19 wanes.
Or maybe a trip to a Lady Vols basketball game, or maybe a scooter and helmet giveaway.
Also, a Candyland Christmas event near the holidays could do the trick as held in December of 2022.
However, cinema was the focus, the medium of the Dec. 14, 2021 lesson, for a whole local elementary school you could call Moviegoing 101.
Nearly 300 people from Kingsport City Schools’ Roosevelt Elementary, including more than 240 students, converged on the Fort Henry Mall in school buses that morning to see “Clifford the Big Red Dog” at NCG Cinema.
That might not seem astounding except that Principal Phillip Wright said for some of the kindergarteners through fifth-graders, that Tuesday marked their first time in a movie theater.
“We have kids at Roosevelt who have never been to a movie before,” he said.
The Roosevelt BTA (Business Teacher Association) made the trip possible through fundraising. The fundraiser brought in enough money to pay for admissions; gas for five school buses used for transportation; and popcorn, fruit snacks and drinks for all 242 students and 39 adults on the trip.
Bennett said a few students were absent, although one showed up at the theater with the help of a parent.
“We expect your very, very, very, very best behavior,” Assistant Principal Misty Keller told a group of students outside the theater, repeating a speech she gave to each group.
Keller and family liaison Marty Meade handed out the concessions trays to the students as they came into the theater. Interventionist Tonya Warner said the students loved the movie and the trip.
NCG held special viewings of the movie just for the Roosevelt students, faculty and staff, although two senior citizen mall walkers jokingly tried to look shorter to pass for elementary students.
NEED A STRAW?
Vanessa Bennett is executive director of Operations and Talent Development for the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce.
But on that Tuesday morning at the theater, she was helping pass out straws to students, one of whom ran up and hugged her when the teacher said Bennett had helped with efforts to get the students there.
The theater trip, which Bennett called a “Christmas experience” for the group, marked the first anniversary of the BTA, which grew out of Project Hope, organized by the chamber. The school doesn’t have a PTA (parent teacher association), so Bennett said the BTA was formed.
The program helps the economically disadvantaged Roosevelt student body through the efforts of local businesses, other groups and the chamber.
The first event for Project Hope was a trip to Knoxville to see the Lady Vols play in December 2018. Last year, the BTA through Project Hope provided a scooter to each Roosevelt student and got Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City to donate helmets.
Because the fundraiser brought in more money than the cost of the theater trip, Bennett said the surplus will go early next year toward making racks for the scooters many of the students ride to school.
The group was split among four screening rooms, including one for special needs students with sensory issues that left lights on and the volume down.
The school also had at least one movie reviewer who gave the show a thumbs-up before it began. “This is my second time watching it,” he volunteered to Bennett, who responded, “Is it good?”
He said, “Yes.”
Project Hope helps facilitate and encourage community involvement in schools. It has grown at Roosevelt and also serves Kennedy and Jackson elementary schools as well as Robinson and Sevier middle schools, and plans are to expand it further.