It's been a seemingly long couple of weeks since the employees and students from the Hattiesburg Public School District have had a chance to spend time together, as the threat of COVID-19 has forced the temporary closure of public schools throughout Mississippi.
To show their love for the students - while still adhering to social distancing guidelines put in place during the pandemic - teachers, administration and other staff from Hawkins Elementary School participated in a drive-thru parade Friday in the area around the school. The Hawkins staff weaved a convoy of vehicles bearing signs with sayings such as "We miss our students" and "Remember - never give up" through the Briarfield and other nearby neighborhoods to honk, wave and shout encouragement to students and their parents.
"We wanted to show our students that we love them, we miss them and we're thinking of them," Hawkins principal Hope Mikell said. "So (one of our committees) organized that event, to go into the community with the teachers being in cars with signs.
"We want to let them know that we are keeping them in mind, we're thinking about them, we're missing them. They are loved during this time."
Mikell said she was overjoyed with the amount of participation from her staff.
"I think everybody in the building was there, represented with the students," she said. "We got the word out through social media, and our parents were out and our kids were out, and people were out waving.
"So it was a great feeling to see the love and support that was given on both ends, from the parents and students and from the faculty and staff at Hawkins Elementary School."
Mikell was particularly pleased with the turnout from community members, many of whom had signs, balloons or other tokens of appreciation of their own.
"That warmed my heart to know that they care enough about us to even respond, because there were signs out there that said 'we love you' and 'we miss you,'" she said. "We were not expecting that.
"Although we were trying to do something nice for the students, that in return was something that was nice. We really appreciate that coming from our parents and our students."
Officials from the Hattiesburg Public School District also are encouraging parents and students to follow the district's social media pages.
"We're doing a lot of virtual activities, so we are updating stuff on our website," Mikell said. "So if they can just come and follow Hawkins Elementary School, they'll be able to keep up with all the great things that we have going on during this time."