Throngs of people with children in tow crammed Harvey Convention Center for Tyler’s first #SchoolisCool event at Harvey Convention Center on Thursday.
A long line three deep waited to get in and then crowds packed the hallways and rooms of the convention center, making their way among about 120 booths offering many tips on getting ready for school.
“I think we’ve had an outstanding turnout for our first annual event in partnership with the city and the chamber. We are really excited to see the numbers of children and families that are coming out for this information and to find out about starting school,” Tyler ISD Interim Superintendent Kim Tunnell said. “This is a really good crowd.”
The event for prekindergarten through 12th-grade students and their parents or guardians was staged by Brookshire’s, Tyler ISD, Council PTA, NET Health, Tyler Area Business Education Council and the city of Tyler.
Precious Mack-Davis, who brought her two grandsons, said the event was “spectacular. It’s wonderful. All the booths are very informative, (giving) a lot of information that the children need for life and careers. I like it.”
Calling the event awesome, Vanessa Henderson, accompanied by her daughter who will be a seventh-grader, said, “All of the students and parents here are excited about coming to school, and getting information is a great thing.”
For Daisy Hanson, with her daughter, the event was “really neat. It’s kind of like a fair. It’s interesting and she has seen four or five of her friends. Everybody is talking and having a good time,” Ms. Hanson said.
Sherria Gee, with her 8- and 11-year-old children, came because she felt she needed to know more about Tyler ISD schools because she is new to the district. She also wanted to know about getting her children updated on their shots.
Also new to Tyler ISD, Jessica Meeker observed there were a lot of people in attendance and said she was holding hands with her child to keep from losing him in the crowd.
“It’s very educational. There’s a lot of things to learn about Tyler,” Ms. Meeker said.
Accompanying four children, Jessica Pineta said, “It’s wonderful that all the organizations get together for the kids. I like the school supply table. It’s cheaper than what you can get at the store.”
With a laugh, Sandra Crider said she brought her daughter and granddaughter so they could get materials for school and just to get out of the house.
“I like all the free things because I’m a single mom, and I can’t really afford a lot of things, especially school supplies,” she said.
Leann Sewell has six children.
“We came for the services. I think it’s a great event. It’s a good idea,” she said. “It’s a good way to start the new school year with encouragement and what’s offered and what’s out there.”
Leslie Cain brought her son and daughter to see what was available for school.
“It’s amazing and there are a lot of people here,” she said, adding that she liked that a lot of free things were given to kids.
Accompanied by two children, Christie Williams said she had never been to this type of event.
“It’s been really good. I like the different information that you can find out about after-school programs and things like that,” she said. “It’s been interesting.”
Kathy Davidson came to see what sort of event it was and her daughter wanted to see the fashion show of school uniforms.
“There’s a lot more people here than I thought, but it’s a great event. I love the things you can sign up for and the services in the community,” Ms. Davidson said.
Angela Bermudez said, “It’s wonderful. When I came here today I was like, ‘Wow, this is really, really amazing,’ because everybody is here … all the town concentrated here. I waited probably 30 minutes (to get in).”
With two children, ages 9 and 3, Megan Barnett said she came for the school supplies. The event, she added, provided “incredible information … a lot of good information.”
Elizabeth Pierce, a senior at Robert E. Lee High School, called the event “really well organized. I like all the booths and how everyone is helping each other out getting ready for back to school.”
Charlotte Rosser, with 10-year-old and 7-year-old grandchildren, said she came “for school supplies and a little help.” She added, “I love it ... all of it. I think it’s great that the city gives citizens a great opportunity to come up here for help.”
Undrea Pimmons, accompanied by her children, said she heard about the event and thought coming to it would be a good experience for them.
“It’s a lot of fun. I learned about school readiness, about activities available to the children. I learned about identity theft and a lot of things,” she said.
Glenda McCloud brought her 11-year-old granddaughter to find out about different opportunities available for her during the upcoming school year.
“There is a lot of valuable information and it’s a worthwhile event,” she said, “but I didn’t realize there was going to be so many people out here.”
Delilah Mims brought six children ranging in age from 17 to 6 months.
“We wanted to see everything that was going on and find out some of the things about the high school and the after-school program. The information they are giving out is real helpful,” she said, “things we didn’t know about Tyler. It’s wonderful that we get to come out here and see all the stuff that’s available.”
Karen Wilson said she came to get information on literacy and to see what school supplies were available.
“It’s crowded but I think it’s real good,” she said.
Various services such as immunizations and information were provided about nutrition, school fashions, transportation and more.
The first 350 children received free backpacks stuffed with school supplies and attendees could enter a drawing for a bicycle.
The backpacks and supplies were donated by city employees, Summit Industrial Products, Tyler Pipe, Suddenlink, Eastman Chemical in Longview, Texas College and Kimberly Ashley of UT Health Northeast
Besides immunizations, the booths offered free dental screenings and haircuts, plus information on health and wellness, afterschool activities, fingerprinting and safety and school lunch registration.
There also was a college and careers booth, providing information about post-secondary education, financial aid, scholarships and job opportunities.
Planning for the three-hour event had been underway since spring by a 30-member committee after the idea was spawned by the new education chapter in the city’s Tyler 1st plan, said Christi Khalaf, executive director of the Tyler Area Business Education Council.
The city established an education building block as part of its Industry Growth Initiative, and then added the education chapter to its Tyler 1st plan, Interim City Manager Susan Guthrie said.
“We just wanted to have as much information available for students and for parents at one place so they can get all they need to start off the school year successfully,” Tyler ISD spokeswoman Dawn Parnell said.
Staff Writer Emily Guevara contributed to this report.