Tuesday, September 2 marks the first day of school for thousands of Syracuse students who are backpack-ready, thanks to Upstate employee Mary Nelson, her Team Upstate colleagues and lots of community volunteers and donors. On August 16, volunteers handed out school supplies, backpacks, clothing and food at the Annual Youth Day Barbecue, held at South Salina St. and Wood Ave. in Syracuse. Nelson, an Upstate Radiology employee, started the barbecue 13 years ago to encourage young people to stay in school.
To add to the day’s festivities, Upstate medical students Nadya Dillion, Michael Enechukwu, Thomas Kartika and Alexander Rodriguez and pharmacology doctoral student Lesley Baker marched in the back-to-school parade and painted children’s faces with super-heros, cartoon characters, flowers and rainbows. They were joined by Upstate employees Aldrine Ashong-Katai (diversity and inclusion), Danielle Fraser (information management and technology), Joyce Freeman (anesthesiology), Alexis Jones, (intensive care unit), Susan Keeter and Kristin Thompson (marketing and university communications), Colleen McManus (patient financial services), John Riggleman (emergency department), Terri Shuler (preadmission testing) and Renae Rockiki (president’s office).
“The Mary Nelson event is the essence of community, unity and empowerment of our youth,” said Ashong-Katai.
In preparation for the annual barbecue, Upstate Medical University held a month-long backpack and school supplies drive that generated hundreds of items which were donated to the event. The day-long event included live music by the Blacklites and lots of activities including free dental check-ups.
The Back To School Barbecue is held in loving memory of Nelson’s nephew, Darryl Patterson (b. 12/30/78-d. 6/4/02).
Click here to see Team Upstate — and lots of Syracuse school children — at the back to school barbecue. Video by Kristin Thompson.