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District’s Back to School Expo draws thousands

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

by Avi Wolfman-Arent

Parents and students gathered outside South Philadelphia High School today for the School District of Philadelphia’s annual Back to School Education Extravaganza.

The event, held in past years at District headquarters on North Broad Street, attracted about 30,000 people throughout the day, according to District estimates. The expo included face-painting for the kids, informational workshops for parents, and a main stage showcasing local artists and musicians.

Co-sponsored by Radio One and Forman Mills, the event once again this year had booths stocked with free backpacks and school supplies, a favorite among attendees. But this year, event organizers required that parents attended at least one workshop in order to receive the giveaways. Workshops covered a variety of topics ranging from student placement to healthy lifestyle choices.

Judy Walston, a parent, noted that the event was smaller than last year, speculating that budget cuts may have been the reason. But she said the expo still served its purpose.

“Parents get a lot of information and the kids get school supplies. It’s a great event,” Walston said.

Among the marquee activities was a clinic held by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Summer Hoops Tour Team, a traveling camp that stops at over 40 spots in the Delaware Valley each summer. Team mascot Hip Hop and NBA legend World B. Free both attended and demonstrated their skills to the hundreds of students in attendance.

For Officer Jackie Little of the Police Athletic League, the entertainment was ancillary, merely a backdrop for the open house she planned to attend profiling changes at Audenried High School.

Audenried, located in Little’s district, will become a charter school in the 2011-12 school year under the management of Universal Companies, a change that Little said she is excited about.

“Audenried didn’t used to be a place you wanted to go,” Little said.

“I’m excited about attending this open house and seeing what the changes at Audenried are going to look like. We’re going to be a part of the change.”

Leah Key, an incoming 9th grader in Little’s care, was less outspoken, but equally enthused about the changes. When asked if she felt ready for high school, Key responded with a reserved but confident nod of the head.

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