Back to school events planned for Aug. 10


Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 8:41 p.m.

Community events providing free backpacks filled with school supplies and activities for the entire family will help to get families and their sudents off to a great school year.

Facts

VIOLENCE/SCHOOL RALLY

What: The 14th annual Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally, with free backpacks, immunizations, school information and more.

When: 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 10.

Where: Santa Fe College gym, 3000 NW 83rd St.

Information: Call 352-505-6839.

BACK TO SCHOOL BASH

What: Back to School Bash, with free backpacks, entertainment and games.

When: 1-3 p.m. Aug. 10.

Where: Duval Heights basketball court, NE 25th Street north of 8th Avenue.

Information: Call 352-219-4907.

The first day of school in Alachua County is Aug. 19.

The 14th annual Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally will be held from 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 10 in the gym at Santa Fe College at 3000 NW 83rd St. Also on Aug. 10, the Back to School Bash will be held from 1-3 p.m. in the Duval Heights neighborhood.

Those attending the Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally also will receive back-to-school information from Alachua County Public Schools and learn ways to keep their schools safe while mingling and enjoying entertainment provided by local and regional artists.

The rally is being hosted by People Against Violence Enterprises in partnership with Alachua County Public Schools. The Rev. Karl "The Rev" Anderson, founder of People Against Violence Enterprises, or PAVE, said six years ago, PAVE partnered with the Alachua County school district to combine PAVE's Stop the Violence Rally and the school district's Back to School Rally into one event.

"It's a perfect fit and it makes sense," said Anderson, senior co-pastor at Upper Room Ministries of Greater Gainesville. "Our target audience is parents and children, and what better way to do this than through the educational system."

This year's theme will be "Step Up 4 Safe Schools."

Anderson said the goal of event is to give parents and students important tips to prevent violence in their neighborhoods, homes and schools and to help them prepare for the upcoming school year.

This year, Anderson said the rally is particularly relevant as the country is still dealing with the after-effects of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"I want to encourage everyone to think of the 26 innocent victims of that shooting, which included 20 kindergarten and first-grade babies, and get involved in some way to safeguard the futures of our innocent children and our heroic school staff," Anderson said.

The keynote speaker will be Dave Gamache of Rachel's Challenge, a non-profit organization established by the father of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

"The organization's goal is to combat bullying and promote kindness and compassion," Anderson said.

Rachel's Challenge, which is a series of student empowering programs and strategies to combat bullying and feelings of isolation and despair, is based on the writings and life of 17-year-old Rachel Scott.

Gamache said small acts of kindness make a difference."

"The antidote to bullying and violence is massive compassion and kindness," said Gamache in a telephone interview last Saturday. "We have the power to make a difference in someone's life. It's the little things that mean a lot and it can be as simple as a smile to a stranger.

This year, the first 1,500 children attending the rally will receive free backpacks filled with school supplies provided by Meridian Behavioral Healthcare Inc., a primary sponsor of the annual rally.

Anderson said one lucky student attending the rally also will have a chance to win a $500 cash award provided by the Gainesville Police Department.

Alachua County Public Schools will again provide back-to-school information, including school calendars, school supply lists and information on after-school programs, school bus routes, the free and reduced lunch program and other information.

The Alachua County Health Department will be offering free school immunizations and information about Florida KidCare, a low-cost statewide health insurance program. University of Florida staff members will share information about the upcoming FluMist vaccination program, a free community-wide effort to immunize all students against the flu while they're at school.

For the 18th year, the Leadership Gainesville Alumni Association, or LGAA, will again provide backpacks, supplies and clothing to eligible students who have graduated from the Alachua County Head Start program.

Anderson said nearly 8,000 children, teens and adults attended last year's rally.

"The more information we can provide parents and students before school actually starts, the better," said Jackie Johnson, spokesperson for the school district in a press release. "It means a much smoother start to the academic year for students, their families and the schools."

Back to School Bash

Sponsored by Monica Small and co-sponsored by Norman's Family Daycare Home, which is co-owned by Small and her mother Ethel Norman, the event will be held at the Duval Heights basketball court on NE 25th Street north of NE 8th Avenue.

There will be music, face painting, a cake walk, a basketball tournament, a bounce house, Dr. B-Magic performing fun tricks, food, drinks, door prizes and other activities.

Small said Rebecca "Becky" Williams, head coach of the Buchholz High School girls basketball team, will discuss the importance of staying in school and getting a good education and some of the girls on the basketball team will offer encouraging remarks.

There will be speakers who will discuss bullying and offer tips and other information for a successful school year. A local pastor will offer a prayer for the school year.

Small said the back-to-school bash is her way of celebrating her birthday.

"I was going to give myself a birthday party and then I decided my birthday party is going to be a back-to-school bash for the children," Small said.

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