When Griffin-Spalding County Schools (GSCS) students return to in-school classes on Monday, they will find a familiar sight — a complete set of free school supplies provided by local manufacturer Norcom Inc. and other sponsors.

This is the 14th year of the Norcom Education Celebration event that kicks off the school year, but with the pandemic, things were different. Some students received some supplies they needed when they picked up their computers from schools; many other supplies will be waiting in the classroom for them when they return.

The Education Celebration event moved from a traditional in-auditorium kickoff to a virtual conference held on Aug. 3, yet still featured awards for school employees and an address by Dr. Valerie Camille Jones, who was recently honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

A Master Educator with the Ron Clark Academy, Jones described her creative approaches in making the most difficult subjects accessible and tangible to her students.

Norcom Inc., along with local and national sponsors, contributed school supplies with a retail value of about $350,000 to GSCS students this year, according to Hal Rahn, Norcom president.

“In a year of such uncertainty and revenue losses, our sponsors stepped up big in 2020,” Rahn said. “In fact, one long-term sponsor encountered such severe financial losses, they could not participate as a company, yet one employee stepped forward and contributed from his own pocket.”

Rahn said that the desire to support local schools and students reflects Norcom’s and sponsors’ dedication to teachers.

“We recognize the dedication and sacrifices our teachers make year in and year out for our students,” he said. “In the past, teachers have spent their own money to provide supplies to needy students. We are grateful and honored to remove that burden from our GSCS teachers so they can focus on what’s most important — educating our students.”

Among the usual products such as paper supplies, earbuds, headphones, pens, pencils, art supplies and more, Norcom’s Education Celebration also provided backpacks, art aprons, primary tablets, footballs, soccer balls, playground balls and a variety of other physical education supplies.

While Norcom contributes paper products it manufactures, sponsors fund the purchase of all the other school supplies students need.

“While this year has been full of challenges for us all, it can be devastating for families and children,” Rahn said. “Our sponsors are giving these children the tools critical to guiding them toward better lives. We believe that education is the best way out of poverty.”