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Back to School Florida Style: Rolling out the Red Carpet

• Cristal Cole

Florida Back to School_Red Carpet EventRecently, I attended a red-carpet event in an unlikely setting.

After dropping my daughter off for her first day of class, I headed to the Liberty City area of Miami for the second annual Red Carpet Event at Brownsville Middle School. Dozens of community leaders, law enforcement officers and residents came together for this event to welcome children, families and teachers back to school.

Joy was evident in the smiling and excited faces of these middle school students and their parents (and even grandparents) as they walked down the red carpet, experiencing the love and support of their community.

Through the applause, cheers and individuals holding signs of encouragement, this event was an incredible reminder of the important role community partnerships play in making neighborhood schools a better place to learn, grow and excel. These families at Brownsville Middle School are entering the new school year knowing they are surrounded by a community that is committed to improving student achievement and developing greater parent engagement.

This event is a glimpse of the level support and encouragement all students and teachers deserve. Every year, children walk into school with some of the most brilliant minds, but start the year discouraged because their families are unable to afford school supplies, clothes, the necessary technology or even a healthy meal. These disadvantages undermine their confidence and make them question their abilities. Then there are students who are terrified because they are walking to and from school in an unsafe environment, day in and day out.

This heartbreaking reality makes me realize even more what a blessing it is that my child is able to receive a quality education in a safe and nurturing environment. Even as moms and dads across the state of Florida (myself included) rejoiced at the start of the new school year last week, many parents were terrified of the thought of sending their children to schools that don’t meet their children’s needs.

Doesn’t every child deserve to return on the first day of school to enthusiastic teachers and administrators who are ready to help them learn and excel? Don’t these same teachers and administrators deserve the benefit of knowing they are doing their best work every day with the support of the local community they serve?

The Red Carpet Event re-energized me for this 2015-2016 school year. And I’ll take this with me as I work to educate and support Florida communities, while advocating for policies that help ensure all students have the chance to return to school with a smile on their face as bright as the ones I saw on the red carpet.

This is what we must continue to work toward – a future where all parents can confidently send their son or daughter to school knowing their child will be met by an army of supporters who are committed to seeing each student graduate as a proficient learner.

About the author

Cristal Cole

Cristal Cole serves as a Director of Community Engagement for the Foundation for Florida’s Future (AFloridaPromise). Contact Cristal at