As local students head into their virtual classrooms this semester, back-to-school donation drives are in full swing to make the transition back into the classroom easier for Tucson students, families and teachers.
Arizona Billingual News’ 9th Annual Kidz Expo & Back to School Event on Aug. 15 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. is a free event for students ages 4-14. This year's event will be held “drive-thru style” at the El Pueblo Center, meaning all patrons can stay safe inside their vehicles while wearing masks, according to the Arizona Bilingual News website.
The event provides backpacks, school supplies and other resources to help local students succeed, according to Alma Gallardo, the editor-in-chief of Arizona Bilingual News.
“In the past, we had all of our vendors right there giving away information and backpacks, school supplies and community resources,” Gallardo said. “And this year is going to be really a challenge because it's going to be different and we have to keep people safe and secure and follow all the policies and guidelines from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and Pima County Health Department.”
This year the Kidz Expo will give away up to 3,000 backpacks with the help of over 20 sponsors, including its title sponsor Tucson Electric Power, according to the Arizona Billingual News website.
“Tucson Electric Power will sponsor the event and provide 2,000 backpacks and 4,000 LED bulbs for distribution,” Joseph Barrios, the supervisor of media relations for TEP, said in an email.
The TEP website expressed the sponsorship's mission.
“By investing in education, students and teachers, we’re investing in our community’s future and the next generation of energy leaders,” according to TEP’s website.
Barrios detailed other ways in which TEP goes about accomplishing this mission.
“We're a proud supporter of several educational initiatives and student programs and we often lend our support to annual back-to-school events that provide students with school supplies, clothing and dental and medical checkups that they need to be successful,” Barrios said in an email.
Sponsors play a key role in the success of the Kidz Expo, especially during the unpredictable times of the pandemic, according to Gallardo.
“We really appreciate and we thank the City of Tucson, the Parks and Recreation [department] and other sponsors for everything that they are doing for us to have this event,” Gallardo said. “They wanted to help host this event this year and make it happen for the community, for the kids and families of our community.”
In addition to back-to-school donations helping students and families, the events also help local teachers make sure their students are prepared to learn, according to Gabrielle Halko, an orchestra teacher for the Sunnyside Unified School District and University of Arizona alumna.
“All of our schools want to be able to provide the materials that students need to be successful for their learning. But when we don't see the students on a daily basis in the school setting having community drives like this, where families can come and still access those supplies so that they can do the work, it's basically so they're set up for success,” Halko said.
A lack of necessary school supplies can make families and students feel as if they are at a disadvantage but back-to-school donations help combat that issue, according to Halko.
“I think something like this [Kidz Expo] is awesome, because it seems very accessible, especially if they're doing it as a drive-thru, where families can come and take directly from the event and take it home and put it into use immediately for the next school day. I think that's just a beautiful gift to art, to our families and the Tucson regions,” Halko said.
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The Kidz Expo has always and will always intend to serve the Tucson community, according to Gallardo.
“Doing the event we wanted to show that we're here to support the community during this time and we just wanted to give something to them and show that we really care about our community,” Gallardo said.
The 9th Annual Kidz Expo & Back to School Event is on Aug. 15 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the El Pueblo Neighborhood Center located at 101 W. Irvington Road. For more information call (520) 305-4110 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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