Back-to-school rally on Aug. 9 will focus on preventing violence

In this Aug. 10, 2013 file photo, thousands make their way through the tables during the 14th Annual Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally at the Santa Fe College gym in Gainesville.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, August 1, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 1, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.

Families can get a great start on the school year, receive free backpacks filled with school supplies for their students and learn how to prevent violence at the 2014 Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally.



What: Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally, with free backpacks.
When: 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Aug. 9.
Where: Santa Fe College gym, 3000 NW 83rd St.
Information: Call 955-7545 or 339-3851.

The 15th annual rally will be held from 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 9 in the gym at Santa Fe College at 3000 NW 83rd St.

The first day of school in Alachua County is Aug. 18.

The first 1,500 children at the rally will receive free backpacks filled with school supplies, provided by Meridian Behavioral Healthcare.

The keynote speaker will be Bishop Ron Gibson, a reformed gang member who works with current gang members in Los Angeles and is featured in "Preachers of L.A.," the Oxygen TV reality series.

The rally is being hosted by People Against Violence Enterprises in partnership with Alachua County Public Schools. The Rev. Karl Anderson, founder of PAVE, said that seven 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.

Families will receive back-to-school information from Alachua County Public Schools and have an opportunity to pick up school calendars, school supply lists, information about after-school programs and other school topics.

Families also will learn ways to stop gang violence while mingling and enjoying entertainment provided by local and regional artists.

Jackie Johnson, spokesperson for Alachua County Public Schools, said the goal of the rally is to give parents and students important tips on preventing violence in their neighborhoods, homes and schools, and to help them prepare for the upcoming school year.

This year's theme is "15 years!!! Turn down for what??? Peace!!!"

"What we are saying is that we've been doing this for 15 years and we don't plan to stop fighting for peace," Anderson said. "This is a milestone year for us.

"For the past 15 years, we've been driven by our passion to promote peace and positive change in the lives of our youth. We believe we have helped pave the way for a more peaceful community for our youth, and we are dedicated to continuing this track."

Anderson said the first person to bring to the rally their collection of all 14 previous Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally T-shirts will receive a $500 cash award and this year's T-shirt for free.

Local agencies providing information will include the Alachua County Health Department, which will be offering free school immunizations, and University of Florida Health staff members with information on the upcoming FluMist vaccination program, a community-wide effort to immunize all students against the flu for free.

Anderson said 4,000-5,000 people are expected to attend.

"This is a great opportunity for parents and children to be entertained while getting important school information and anti-violence messages," Johnson said. "Many of the kids will also walk out with free backpacks, which is definitely a bonus."

Anderson reiterated the stop-the-violence theme.

"We want to get the message that it's important not to be affiliated with gangs," Anderson said.

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