Staff Photo: John Bohn Nayeli Romero, 5, and her brother Jonathan Romero, 3, take in the scene while their mother Dora Basquez registers Nayeli for kindergarten at Benefield Elementary School in Lawrenceville Thursday.
Students and parents register for kindergarten on May 3, 2012 at Benefield Elementary School.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Mary Crowder said it about broke her heart the first time she dropped her daughter, Adriana, off for kindergarten.
"It was sad to leave her at school," said Crowder, a mother of three. "She was crying, and I had to hold back the tears."
But she's a pro at it now. Crowder brought her middle child, Aubryella, 5, to sign her up for kindergarten at Benefield Elementary.
Like thousands of others on Thursday, she visited her child's future school to sign her up for classes. Gwinnett County Public Schools invited residents to bring their children out for registration in schools all over the county.
Crowder offered the following advice to parents doing the same: "Be prepared. Have everything in order as far as paperwork."
Parents registering their young ones for classes Thursday were required to bring in birth certificates, proof of residency in the specific attendance zone, an immunization certificate, photo ID, evidence of vision, hearing and dental exams and so on.
It was a daunting amount of paperwork for some.
Auvette Clarke said she "was glad to be through with the process...I feel excited now." She and daughter Rihanna Bell, 5, completed all the necessary forms and provided answers to questions from teachers and staff running the registration event.
Principal Melissa Walker said it's the school staff's job to "make parents feel comfortable. We want them to know even before their child is here attending classes that they will be well taken care of."
Walker said school staff and teachers begin preparing for kindergarten registration in September.
She said that most parents are curious about transportation. "They want to know if their child will arrive safely to and from school," Walker said. "They also will usually want to meet their teacher face to face."
Walker said the school offers a "kindercamp" program before classes start Aug. 6, designed to introduce parents and children to their teachers and classroom environment over a four-day period.
"It's one of the ways parents and children can more easily transition into the process," she said.
For Rachel McKenzie and son, Khalil, 5, it was a "smooth transition."
"He's excited, and we're ready to get him in school," said McKenzie as she finished registering the boy on Thursday.
Dora Vasquez and daughter, Nayeli Romero, 5, were also thrilled at the prospect of kindergarten.
The young girl said she looked forward to coloring as well as games, two things she enjoys.
While exciting, it remains an emotional and often bittersweet time for parents.
Hina Memon, who volunteered to help with the registration process on Thursday, said the event is indeed "a happy and sad moment at the same time."
Crowder would agree.
"It's tough, but you've got to learn to be brave," Crowder said.
She offered the following advice for the first day of kindergarten classes: "You can't let your kid see you in tears on their first day of school. It makes it worse. It scares them. They're looking to you to be strong, so you've got to be strong for them."