By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)November 1, 2018
Sirens, horns and flashing lights blazed through the housing areas Oct. 30, but not for a catastrophe. The biannual prize patrol was en route.
Every October and March, Fort Jackson schools hand out awards to a few lucky winners.
A line of cars -- from military police to teachers -- parades through the streets in the housing area, handing out educationally-themed gift baskets.
The autumn theme is math. The spring focus is on reading.
Students and their Families eagerly awaited to see which houses they would stop at Tuesday.
Many waved and ran or biked alongside the line of cars, hoping they would be the next winners.
"It's kind of like Publisher's Clearing House," said Kerrie Ammons, C.C. Pinckney Elementary School's speech and language pathologist, the founder of the event. "The kids don't know they've won until we show up at their door."
Parents fill out an entry form that pledges their Families will "problem solve together." That enters their kids for a random drawing.
The prize patrol stops at the houses of the select few chosen.
"Everyone has a chance to win," Ammons said.
This year's goodie baskets were filled with math-related games specific to each grade level.
A Rubix Cube and a pumpkin with a tape measure -- to equate its size --- were included in the C.C. Pinckney bags.
The gifts are great for learning and Family bonding, Ammons said.
It's beneficial to school staff, too, she said. "It's a community building activity."
It gives students a chance to see their teachers outside of their natural habitat -- the school.
The best part of all is "seeing the kids' faces," Ammons said. The parents are "just touched," she added.
School Resource Officer Lionel Brown agreed that the recipients' excitement is the best part.
Brown has an important role in the patrol. He leads the line of cars and maps out the route.
"(The winners) are so surprised," Brown said, and their joy makes it all worthwhile.
Some other installations across the country have picked up the idea.
Fort Jackson was the leader.
C.C. Pinckney has done Prize Patrol for years, and this is the second time Pierce Terrace Elementary School has joined in.
Ammons started the tradition, inspired by a practice at her former school; each year, one winning student would receive a bag of school supplies.
"I revamped it," she said.
One important lesson from Fall 2018 was that you not only have to play to win, you also have to be home.
One Family wasn't.
They didn't answer the door when the prize patrol stopped by.
As teachers rang the doorbell, the running joke was that the student may be in the shower.