Brenda Marsh Mitchell handing out supplies. Photo by Troy Tieuel
After 14 years, it has become the largest ‘Back-to-School’ festival in the country
School has been open in the Los Angeles Unified School District for three weeks now, but that didn’t keep hundreds of children ages 5 to 15 and their families from showing up at Exposition Park last Saturday, for the 14th Annual Back to School Health & Family Festival. The park, adjacent to the Los Angeles Coliseum, was also alive with the sound of Radio Free, 102.3 FM, KJLH’s music, vendors and sponsors, for the event that has been billed as the “largest ‘back to school’ giveaway in the country.” Mothers In Action and the L.A. Sentinel sponsored the event along with an impressive list of local elected officials and co-sponsors who, serving as co-chairs, helped coordinate, and provide school supplies.
“It gives me great pride to see the hundreds of children and their parents and guardians lined up to get haircuts, school supplies, health screenings and other items that every child needs to begin the school year,” said Mothers In Action co-founder and president, Brenda Marsh-Mitchell.
“The annual Back-to-School Health & Family Festival has grown each year since its inception 14 years ago confirming that there is a real need in our community. Mothers In Action members, as well as our co-chairs, vendors and sponsors, believe that preparing young people for school helps boost their self-esteem and allows them to focus on the learning experience instead of worrying about why they do not have basic items like paper, pencils and backpacks.”
Students who arrived between 10 am and 3 pm will be well prepared. In addition to backpacks, pencils, paper and other essentials, they received the mandatory LAUSD whooping-cough shot, eye and auditory examinations, as well as other immunizations. Everything was free, including the hot lunch, snacks and drinks that were provided for the children and their parents.
Jan Perry, Los Angeles City Council member and one of Los Angeles’ leading mayoral candidates, was present to offer words of encouragement to the aspiring students.
“The turnout for today’s event is an indication that there is a need for parents to give their kids what they need to begin the school year and Mothers In Action again met that need for the hundreds of families that are here today,” she said.
“I think it is a great event,” said mother of three school-age children, Mia Barrera, “many families do not have the time or the resources to get everything that is needed to prepare their kids for school. Today, Mothers In Action has made it possible for us to get backpacks and school supplies, immunizations and other back-to-school necessities.”
A large number of vendors, health care and wellness providers, and others were present to provide a broad range of services and information. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Sciences representative, Dr. Ernie A. Smith, performed hearing tests. Cedars Sinai Medical Center’s, ‘Coach for Kids,’ program, and mobile health care unit was also there, manned by Cedars Sinai staff and volunteers.
Michelle Rigsby-Pauley, RN, MSN, CPNP, program director for the ‘Coach for Kids’ explained that their fully equipped mobile health care vehicle travels throughout the county of Los Angeles providing necessary medical care to individuals in underserved communities. “Cedars Sinai is committed to improving the health of our community and we are delighted to participate in this much needed festival,” she said.
At the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., pavilion, sorority members, led by Oteka Macklin, LMSW, National Programs & Community Services Chair, were demonstrating and promoting the Big Book Backpack program, encouraging young people to go to college; the Buckle-Up-America program, encouraging automobile safety; and the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) program, in partnership with the Girl Scouts of America, encouraging young people to pursue more technically oriented academic courses that lead to better jobs for the future.
“Every event that prepares our young people for school and encourages them to go is a great event,” said festival sponsor, Supervisor Mark Ridley- Thomas.
MOTHERS IN ACTION graciously thanks THE SPONSORS that read like a who’s-who of elected officials and the business community. They include –
. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
. Council President Herb Wesson
· Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas
· Councilmember Bernard Parks
· Councilmember Jan Perry
· State Senator Curren Price
· Assembly-member Isadore Hall
· Fabian Wesson
· Danny J. Bakewell, Sr.
· KJLH Radio Station
· LA Watts Times
· The Bakewell Family Foundation
· Brotherhood Crusade
· One United Bank
· Dr. Pepper
· Printco Graphics
· Southern CA Gas Company- A Sempra Energy Company
· The Cochran Firm
· Clarence Avant-Interior Music Corporation
· Metro PCS
· Los Angeles Professional Managers
· California Voters Outreach
· Turtle Ridge Media
· Los Angeles Sentinel
· One Church In Christ
· IPFS Corporation