Inaugural Teen Expo seeking donations

Coffee County Raider Academy Student Management Coordinator Taylor Rayfield, left, Raider Academy Principal Angela Gribble and Coffee County Central High School Principal Dr. Joey Vaughn are pictured with some of the items being collected for the upcoming Teen Expo planned for Aug. 1 at CHS. (Staff photo by John Coffelt)

Coffee County Raider Academy Student Management Coordinator Taylor Rayfield, left, Raider Academy Principal Angela Gribble and Coffee County Central High School Principal Dr. Joey Vaughn are pictured with some of the items being collected for the upcoming Teen Expo planned for Aug. 1 at CHS. (Staff photo by John Coffelt)

By John Coffelt, staff writer Organizers of the Coffee County Central High School Teen Expo are working to raise funds for the upcoming event that aims to provide assistance for less fortunate students as well as offer the general student body information about beneficial programs. “This is an opportunity not only for businesses to be involved, but the whole community to be involved,” said coordinator Taylor Rayfield. The event, slated for Aug. 1 at CHS (100 Red Raider Dr.), is loosely modeled after Manchester City Schools’ WeCARE event, but has expanded its focus to a wider range of the student population, offering a variety of resources for students. It is open to the public, but only students in grades 9-12 will receive supplies and health care. At the core of the event is the goal of providing students who are less privileged with health care, school supplies and hygiene items. “It’s unfortunate that items that cost less than $3 are hindering students’ academic success,” Rayfield said. “Students come to school to reach their full potential. They shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they’re going to have those necessary items. That’s where Teen Expo comes in.” Rayfield noted that drop boxes are located at all Manchester area banks, several restaurants and the Manchester Recreation Complex (557 N. Woodland St.). “When this started we worked with Manchester City Schools, and we know what a good work that is,” said CHS Principal Dr. Joey Vaughn. “Early on, First Baptist Church wanted to know what they could do. We had the dream that at the secondary level, we could do something like WeCARE, but there are so many kids at the high school level that need more than just supplies, so we decided we would take care of the needs of kids, but also make sure that the families understand the services that are out there for teenagers.” Some of the programs and organizations offering information during the event are Coordinated School Health, the Manchester Recreation Complex and the Family Resource Center as well as information on Tennessee Scholars, Tennessee Promise and the range of scholarships that might be available to students. “This is about the resources that the community has to offer. It’s not just about people coming in and getting supplies; it’s about people coming in and getting information as well,” Vaughn said. Vaughn cautioned that both the supplies and the information sections of the event are crucial. “The supplies part is huge. The need is tremendous. I don’t think the community understands we actually have homeless teenagers in Coffee County. There is a great need.” Raider Academy Principal Angela Gribble noted the stigmas of when students need help. “We have many students that have approached us needing basic food items,” she said. CHS and Raider Academy both offer a general store, with free clothing and supplies, as well as a weekend food backpack program to help students during the school year. At the Raider Academy, as many as 25-30 students pick up food baskets each week. Others only need basic items like notebook paper and pencils. “[Teen Expo] made me aware that we have families in our community that have great needs. [Needs] that might make the difference of a child’s success in school,” added Gribble. Rayfield added that nearly 300 high school students need assistance through the county school’s Family Resource Center and the Raider Academy general store. “It’s vital for our community to take part in this support service. Partner-ships and sponsors foster this program to provide the necessary items,” he said. Vaughn added, “If everybody gives a little then it works. This is not a one-time thing. And every dollar that is donated will go to students.” He said funds will be used to assist students throughout the year and to seed next year’s event. School supplies, shoes and backpacks are some of the most needed items for the event, though students must preregister to receive shoes. Those forms are being accepted until July 7 and are available at both schools and at Coffee County Central Office. A voucher will be mailed to eligible students. On the day of the event, students with vouchers will be able to receive dental and healthcare services, supplies, vision and dental screening and even a hair-cut. “We want this to be something that the community can be proud of be-cause we’re proud of the work that’s going on,” Vaughn said. “Our goal is to create a situation where our kids are comfortable and are willing to let us know what they need so that as adults, they will be able to function more independently in society. “There is nothing wrong with needing help – there is something wrong with not letting anyone know,” he said. How you can help Contact Teen Expo coordinators June Fann at 723-3309 or Taylor Ray-field at 723-5159. Checks can be made payable to Coffee County Central High School, with Teen Expo in the memorandum line. For those wanting to donate supplies, drop boxes may be found at area banks, the Manchester Recreation Complex and at several restaurants. Donations may also be brought to CHS, the Raider Academy and Coffee County Central Office. Needed items include: -Notebook paper -Pencils and pens -Graph paper -Folders -Notebook binders -Backpacks -Hygiene items -New clothing (Gently used clothing and new packs of underwear and socks)