VILONIA — Some P.I.T. Crew members were manning stations last week at Vilonia Primary School to kickoff a NASCAR-themed school year.
Parent volunteers wearing black shirts with NASCAR patches stood behind tables draped with checkered cloths. On top were miniature racing cars, cones and flags. Referred to as pit crew members, the volunteers were recruiting others to participate in the newly launched program "People In The Community Reaching, Encouraging and Working Toward Student Success."
Marsha Wallace, primary counselor, said school officials have hopes of recruiting at least 100 volunteers to participate in the program as well as additional corporate sponsors.
"This is a program targeting community members," Wallace explained. "It’s about aunts, uncles, grandparents and just regular people who have some time on their hands. They don’t have anyone in the school. It’s about student success."
Heading up the program is crew chief Sam Janski, who is also a parent. Janski’s responsibilities include organizing service crews who will be assigned specific opportunities to rev students’ engines. Listing a few, Wallace said, volunteers will be asked to read with students, participate in and organize games during recess, serve as hallway greeters, provide academic tutoring, become a lunch buddy and help with special events.
Informational meetings dates have been set for next month and training sessions will be held for those wanting to participate. A kickoff rally is set for October and it is anticipated that an official NASCAR representative will be in attendance for that event.
Explaining the NASCAR analogy, Wallace said, the theme and memorabilia are just props which will allow volunteers to perform some "amazing" feats for students.
"The car is like the school, and the driver is the students," Wallace said. "The pit crew is the one’s involved in the student’s lives. And, the driving on a track is potential career paths."
NASCAR races also involve awe-inspiring flurries of sound, color and emotion which children can relate to, Wallace offered.
"Even the little ones know about NASCAR," she added.
To add to the theme, the school’s cafeteria will be turned into a Pit Stop with road signs and stop signs. A portion of a donated NASCAR vehicle will also serve as the focal point.
"That was donated by Susie Platt," Wallace said. "It belonged to her husband (the late Steve Platt, longtime band director). It belonged to Mark Martin."
Summing up the program, physical education teacher Andy Pennington said, "We are just trying to make it easy for everyone to get involved with some children’s education."