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Flint high schoolers start the new school year with a handshake

Sep 8, 2015

It’s the first day of school in much of Michigan.   

Before they could get to class, students at Northwestern High School had to pass through a line of local men there to wish them well on the school year ahead.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Dozens of men stood in the rain at the entrance to Flint’s Northwestern High School greeting students as they stepped off the bus.

From politicians to pastors, the men shook the students’ hands and wished them “good morning”.  

Pastor Jeffery Hawkins organized the show of support to send a message to the students..

“We care about your education. We care about your well-being,” Hawkins said as he stood holding an umbrella in steady drizzle, “We’re willing to…go the extra mile to get up…even if it’s raining….just to show you that.”

Hawkins, who’s lost two sons to gun violence, says it’s important for young people to know they are not alone.

For many Northwestern High students, this was their first day of school.  

This is also the first day of school in Flint for the district’s new superintendent.

Bilal Tawwab has been on the job for less than a month.  He previously worked in the Detroit public schools.

Tawwab says he has high hopes for the school district that has struggled with finances and enrollment.

“I’m not going to buy stuff.  I’m going to invest in people,” Tawwab said last week.

Tawwab says that’s key if Flint schools are going to hang onto students in the years ahead.

Among other things, Tawwab has set a goal of making sure all Flint third graders read at or above grade level.