News and Tribune

March 21, 2014

Family focused: Hazelwood’s We Are Family Night brings parents, students, school together

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — After teaching them for a full day and getting ready to release them for spring break, Hazelwood Middle School invited students and their families to just hang out Thursday night.

For the third time this year, the school hosted its We Are Family Night. Though a topic of awareness is usually associated with it, principal Jessica Waters said they mostly want to give families time to be families.

“We pride ourselves on having a family atmosphere here,” Waters said. “Sometimes, parents don’t get a chance to come home and spend time with their families or may have questions and not feel comfortable talking to me. It’s easier for them right now because I’m in jeans. But we want to show them that we don’t just educate their kids, we love their kids.”

Allyson Kiesler, a social studies teacher at the school, said the format has changed since last year. Instead of meeting every month, they meet once a quarter. Rather than just giving information about what’s coming up at the school, she said they really just want to give families a chance to have time to themselves.

But Waters said since this one was held right before spring break, it was also a chance to make sure students had what they needed at home for the next week.

She said in a school where more than three quarters of the student population qualifies for free and reduced lunch, parents were invited to take boxes of non-perishable food.

“Sometimes, school breakfast and lunch may be the only meals [students] get,” Waters said.

She said one of the teachers got a lot of donations from their church.

Burger King donates food and teachers raise money to help fund each of the events, as well as chipping in themselves.

But Kiesler said after everyone gets a hamburger or hot dog, the school doesn’t keep the leftovers. Families get to take home whatever is left.

Jennifer Kennedy, a parent at the school, said she likes the fact that Hazelwood staff care so much about getting families involved on campus.

“I think it’s great,” Kennedy said. “We’ve never been to a school that’s so family-oriented. It’s really nice, they try to do as much as they can for families.”

But this time, the school was also asking for a hand from families.

The school’s annual Hazelwood Gives a Day event is just three weeks away. Families come out to help clean up the campus on a Saturday and plant flowers.

Waters said she’s glad Kiesler spearheaded the idea.

“Allyson started this about three years ago because the building looked pretty institutionalized,” Waters said. “So getting some help to beautify the grounds really does a lot for us.”

Kiesler said they’ve got a few donors on the list for this year’s program, but they’re hoping for more help from businesses and organizations. She said they still need more perennials to plant around campus. She said the school will accept monetary donations, but would also like families to put in some time.

Waters said about 30 families usually show up to help out with Hazelwood Gives a Day.