By Terry Harris
The Surry County High School parking lot was overflowing with fun Friday as cars filled with smiling faces lined up for the first ever Family Fun Movie Night. According to SCPS Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims, the free event, which also featured free popcorn and candy and a beach towel to keep for every vehicle and a free book for every child, owed much of its success to its sponsorship by VTSS (Virginia Tiered Systems of Support) and to the tireless efforts of Surry County’s VTSS Coordinator, Ann Marie Nelin, who is also the principal of Surry Elementary School.
Nelin, who said that she was thrilled with the success of the event, commented afterward on how the drive-in movie allowed families to spend time together in a safe environment while also complimenting the schools’ SEL (Social Emotional Learning) curriculum and providing support for all the students who have endured such drastic changes from a normal school year.
“Our students have had to deal with new emotions this past year as it pertains to the pandemic,” Nelin explained. “The animated Disney Pixar movie Inside Out was shown, which followed a young girl who moves across country and has to figure out how to deal with her emotions of joy, fear, anger, sadness and disgust.”
“I would like to thank VTSS for financially supporting our family engagement night,” she added. “I would also like to thank the volunteer staff, which included members from SCPS and the community, who helped make this a successful event. A fantastic evening was had by all!”
Sims said that she was particularly pleased with how Nelin had set up the evening to be all about fun with a purpose – to allow for social engagement with an emphasis on social emotional learning and to provide the students, families, and the entire community with a free, nighttime activity to replace the Homecoming Football Game generally associated with that event when held in the fall. Then she laughed as she confessed to the one detail that might have been a bit skewed in the initial planning for the Free Movie Night.
“Apparently we don’t know what time the sun goes down this time of year!” she exclaimed. “We had cars pulling in at 7, as planned, but the sun didn’t go down far enough for the movie to show up on the screen until 8! But you know what? No one cared! Everyone just seemed to be so happy to be there! And I was so proud of how the families did as directed – stayed in their cars and family groups with their popcorn and snacks. And the weather was perfect! Some of them even took their beach towels and sat on top of their vehicles or backed in and opened up the back door of their vans for the kids to be able to see the movie stretched out in the van! Surry County folks apparently are pros at drive-ins!”
Sims also expressed her joy at being able to walk around and talk with the families in cars as they were waiting for the sun to go down.
“You could see the kids just enjoying reading their free books and the time together outside doing something around their friends, even socially distanced,” she said. “You could just see the enthusiasm, the joy from this fun day of family engagement, and that the kids were so happy to reconnect with the schools in this manner as opposed to just reconnecting with schoolwork. As far as I am concerned, this is JUST as important as any school subject taught between eight and two, and I am just so happy that we had a chance to do it.”