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Back-to-School Cookout Connects Community and Schools


A week before the start of school, the courtyard of Leesburg Apartments was full of students of all ages and their parents as well as teachers and staff from three Loudoun County schools – Evergreen Mills Elementary, J.Lupton Simpson Middle and Loudoun County High – all ready to celebrate the return to school with a community cookout. Teachers and staff grilled hamburgers, served up cotton candy and snow cones, and gave out school supplies and T-shirts while students met new teachers and greeted former ones with smiles and hugs.

This back-to-school cookout is an effort to bring the schools and their teaching and administrative staff to this community and to help make connections that may otherwise not be made, according to J.Lupton Simpson Middle Principal Lenny Compton who began this tradition in 2018 during his second year as principal of Simpson. With the exception of 2020, when the cookout was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Simpson has been hosting it ever since. This cookout helps connect with community members who may not be able to attend the in-school back-to-school orientation, said Compton. Staff from Evergreen Mill Elementary and Loudoun County High School participated in this event for the second straight year to promote a deeper level of community involvement. 

“Our goal with this event is to come here and really make some connections. That’s what is so important about this event – the connections,” said Compton.

Loudoun County Principal Michelle Luttrell said that the cookout is very popular with her staff. “We put out an email to staff about helping with this event and we had an overwhelming response. It’s just awesome.”

Evergreen Mill Principal Dan Lani agreed. “This event is great for the staff. It really gives them an understanding of the entire community that our school serves.” 

As students and parents mingled in the courtyard, teachers joyously greeted former students, marveling at how much taller they were or the new hairstyles they were sporting. The students shared with their former teachers thoughts about the new grade or school they were about to enter and received warm wishes of encouragement. Other students sought out new teachers, connecting in this informal setting with lots of smiles.

“This event is a great way to meet incoming students and send old students off to school,” said Mica Thomasson, guidance counselor at Simpson. “This is one of my favorite events.”

As the crowd flowed in and out of the courtyard, feelings of goodwill and connection were abundant. “The best part of this event is the people. It is just wonderful to come and meet so many students and their families,” said Luttrell.

Published August 24, 2022