WARREN - Kiyah Coleman said she came to Courthouse Square on Monday to see her sister, Tyra, cheer at the Back to School Celebration.
But the 11-year-old soon realized she was also able to see some classmates she'd lost contact with over summer break.
"It's neat. There are a lot of people here," said Coleman, who is going into sixth grade at Warren City Schools' McGuffey K-8 building this year.
Some 500 community members, including students, parents, teachers, school administrators and city officials, made their way to the square downtown for the celebration. The event, hosted by Warren City Schools in cooperation with the city of Warren, was a first for the school district, explained superintendent Michael Notar.
"We just thought this would be a good way to kick off the start of the new school year, to encourage community participation and bring everyone together," he said.
Notar pointed out that the school district worked closely with Warren Mayor Doug Franklin's office to organize and hold the event.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Madison Curtis, 4, and her friend Sarah Hays, 12, an eighth-grader, both of Warren, move through the food line during the Warren Back to School Celebration on Courthouse Square Monday afternoon.
Highlights of three-hour celebration, which ran from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., included a raffle for students, entertainment by the Raider Marching Band and other school groups as well as free hot dogs and refreshments.
Notar said organizers started with 400 hot dogs but had to restock after running out within the first hour.
"But it's great. When we first started talking about this we said we'd be happy with 100 maybe 200 people. But this is a nice crowd. We couldn't be happier with this turnout and to see so much community support."
Parents had a chance to sign up for the Warren PTA or to be school volunteers. Students also received free books, backpacks and school supplies. They were also able to meet with their teachers, learn about their schedules and receive other information to help them get started with the 2013-14 school year.
Rukiya Pugh, a community liaison for Warren City Schools, said she is hopeful the event provided a firm foundation for the new school year, set to begin on Monday.
"This is exciting. It's given us an opportunity to meet with parents and community members and to start things off on a positive footing," she said. "There's so much excitement here. The kids are excited. It's great to see so many parents here. It's been a great day."
LaShonda Coleman, Kiyah's mom, said she appreciates the chance the event gave her children to reconnect with other students, teachers and friends.
"I think it's nice. I don't remember having anything like this before. It really gets kids pumped up, excited and ready for school. It was a really nice, good thing to do," she said.
Ta'Jon Williamson proudly carried his new bookbag across his back after receiving it on Monday. The 7-year-old boy, who will start second grade at Warren's Jefferson K-8 building next week, said the backpack stocked with school supplies was just what he wanted.
"I didn't think I'd be getting all this," he said. "It's nice. I'm gonna take it to school. It's really nice."