(Media release from Rome City Schools):

While Georgia was celebrating Pre-K students all over the state during the week of Oct. 3-7, 2022, native Roman and Georgia State Representative Katie Dempsey was making her rounds to local schools to share her love of reading with some of Rome’s youngest learners.

“Pre-K Week in Georgia is a big deal,” said Dempsey. “I love to read, and I have a degree in early childhood education; this week matters very much to me.”

By the end of the week, Dempsey had visited 10 schools across Rome including Anna K. Davie and West End Elementary. Her first stop on Wednesday, Oct. 5 was Elm Street Elementary, and as Principal Laura Walley told the school’s Pre-K students, “We are celebrating you and all that you are learning with your amazing teachers this year.”

Pre-K Specialist with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Jae Boyd accompanied Dempsey to schools throughout the week and explained that Georgia Pre-K Week was first implemented in 2012 as a time to celebrate the state’s youngest students. In partnership with Voices for Georgia’s Children, her department invites legislators around the state to read to children in Pre-K programs in their districts to highlight the importance of reading and celebrate with this population of learners. This year all Pre-K students and classrooms received a copy of Malcolm Mitchell’s book, “Hey, Georgia,” which was also read aloud by participating legislators including Dempsey.

In preparation for their special guest, Elm Street’s littlest Wolves who make up Breanna Castleman’s Pre-K class created a welcome banner for Dempsey and were more than ready for story-time. Dempsey perched on a stool at the front of a colorful rug surrounded by the school’s youngest learners with the book, “Hey, Georgia,” in hand. She gave the children some background about the author and explained that the book is a celebration of the state just as the week was a celebration of them.

The children were transfixed on Dempsey and the rhythm and rhyme of the words as she read. The book ended with a cheer made sweeter with little voices in unison echoing Dempsey’s call: “G-E-O-R-G-I-A….Hey, Georgia!”

Before her final thank you and goodbye, the children gifted her a swag bag filled with Rome City Schools goodies, but the real gift of the week was not a tangible one, rather the feeling of a week well-celebrated with special experiences.

Dempsey recalled a personal experience from the week in which a young boy who had been in a Pre-K class she’d visited earlier saw her in line at a local eatery. She described how he began dancing around the line whilst exclaiming, “Hey, Georgia! Hey, Georgia!”

“It was great,” Dempsey quipped with a chuckle. “It energized me. This matters,” she said.

To these eager, developing young minds and the ones who love and support them, it sure does.