PORTLAND – Suzanne Trask made many students and parents who came to the Riverton School on Wednesday night very happy.

Trask, who oversees a new after-school learning program at Riverton, was in charge of the ultimate start-of-school giveaway.

Trask and her helpers hoped to give away 400 sleek, lightweight backpacks, each stuffed with an assortment of school supplies, from crayons and rulers to pencils and even a glue stick.

The plan was to raise awareness about Riverton’s after-school program for students in grades 1 through 5. Several parents signed up their children during the giveaway.

“This is a way to get the parents and the kids involved in our after-school program,” said Trask, an educational technician at Riverton. “We’re hoping backpacks will provide the incentive.”

The backpack giveaway was held in conjunction with the annual city fair and the school’s welcome-back barbecue. Hundreds of people showed up at Riverton to eat and to learn about city services.

The giveaway was made possible by LearningWorks, a Portland-based organization that operates after-school programs at Portland’s Reiche and East End elementary schools. Trask is LearningWorks’ site coordinator at Riverton.

During the 2009-10 school year, LearningWorks served 170 students who were falling behind academically. Riverton’s program is open to all students, regardless of their academic standing.

Riverton’s program will run from 3 to 5 p.m. daily and is designed to support students in their reading, science and math studies.

Trask said she ran a similar learning program this summer that proved to be a success.

Neville Griffiths, whose daughter Jada, 8, stopped by to pick up a black backpack, said, “She learned a lot of new stuff and she loved it. If it hadn’t been for the summer program, she would have been bored sitting at home.”

Griffiths said his daughter will participate in the program this fall.

Christina Merrill enrolled her daughter, 11-year-old Desirae Merrill, in the program. Desirae collected a backpack in the process.

“It helps them with their homework and it gives them more time to socialize with their friends. It really helps with learning the new math,” Merrill said.

Adam Hurtubise and his wife, Carol, enrolled their 6-year-old daughter, Haleigh.

“It provides the kids with a safe atmosphere, especially for those parents who work,” Carol Hurtubise said. “It also keeps them off the streets and offers them an opportunity to swim or go to the library.”


Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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