Students and their families hustled to School of the Future as early as 7:30 in the morning on Friday, August 18 to attend the Office of Family and Community Engagement’s annual “Back 2 School” event. In its ninth year, the back to school extravaganza drew up to 10,000 people looking for tips, resources, and tools to help them gear up for the first day back in class.
This year, the FACE Office recruited over 100 vendors to provide information and goodies to families and children. Tables spanned High School of the Future’s enormous front lawn, organized into three large pavilions: the Community Pavilion, the Family Engagement Pavilion, and the Kids’ Zone Pavilion.
In addition to having School District of Philadelphia offices on site to provide assistance—such as the Office of Early Childhood, which provided on-site Kindergarten registration, and the Office of Student Placement, which offered enrollment services and consultation for families—the event included community partner organizations such as the Oral Health Impact Project, the Read by 4th campaign, Scholastic, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Neighborhood Bike Works, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Health Promotion Council, and Forman Mills, who gave away free school uniform vouchers.
Beyond preparing District students for the academic component of back to school season, the event aimed to provide students with the wrap-around supports they need to succeed once classes start.
“By partnering with organizations that give opportunity for free on-site dental care and vision screening, it allows our parents to be ready for back-to-school,” said FACE Office Executive Director Jenna Monley.
Event attendees also enjoyed free live entertainment from Radio One, dance performances from Jasmin Yahne School of Dance and an Argentine tango dance duo, music from True Diversity and Eco-Man, and exciting sports routines from Bria Young of the Harlem Globetrotters and Philly Girls Jump.
Children interacted with special exhibits and presenters in the “Kids’ Zone Park,” which featured the Eagles Eye Mobile, the Xfinity Product Demo Van, and the Blink Fitness Interactive Van. The Philadelphia Fire Department took children on tours of their fire truck, and children eagerly lined up to get their faces painted in colorful designs by a professional face painter.
Throughout the event, families and children were able to cool off with free slushies provided by the School District of Philadelphia’s Food Services Office and munch on snacks from Wawa and Herr’s chips. The event was sponsored by Radio One, Forman Mills, Elliott Lewis, Office Depot, the City of Philadelphia, CF Charities, JI Consulting, Lyft, and CityLife Clinics, who donated backpacks and supplies, giveaways, and took time to host tables.
All children who attended the event were given a free backpack with school supplies, and families were able to attend workshops to receive backpack vouchers as well. The FACE Office hosted workshops on getting involved in school and provided workshop sessions specifically for multilingual families. Families also learned about the importance of obtaining physicals during workshops hosted by CityLife Neighborhood Clinics and learned about financial planning during workshops hosted by the Urban League of Philadelphia.
“We wanted this event to be a one-stop-shop for families to get ready for school,” said FACE Office staff member Tempest Burgess, who helped plan the event with Ms. Monley. “Our hope is that this event makes the back-to-school craziness a bit less chaotic. We want families to feel excited and ready for the school year, not stressed.”