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story.lead_photo.caption Volunteer Shonta Dobbins hands out backpacks at the Clinton Foundation's 2017 Head of the Class Bash. This year's bash will have an expanded list of services and a new location: the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Jack Stephens Center. Democrat-Gazette file photo/Thomas Metthe

"Back to school" can be a chaotic mad dash full of supply lists, annual checkups and haircuts.

But for the families that can't afford to fully prepare their children for the return to the classroom, that chaos has an extra layer of difficulty and stress.

Head of the Class Bash

1-5 p.m. Sunday, Jack Stephens Center, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2801 S. University Ave., Little Rock

Free admission

(501) 370-8000

Since 2011, the Clinton Foundation has offered an afternoon full of free, school-related services and fun with its Head of the Class Bash. This year it's from 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Attendees will notice that not only is it in a new location — the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Jack Stephens Center — but it will also have an expanded list of services and activities.

"We started recognizing that a lot of people are doing the same thing," says Clinton Foundation Deputy Executive Director Lena Moore. "One thing we focus on at the Clinton Foundation is working directly with strategic partners to accomplish our mission."

In this case, they reached out to Saint Mark Baptist Church and suggested combining their different events for a bigger blowout with a bigger impact that, in particular, takes advantage of the church's health ministry.

The Head of the Class Bash has never been able to offer routine school and sports physicals to their guests. The Clinton Center, the previous venue, Moore explains, was "choppy" in its layout and there simply wasn't space.

At the Stephens Center, there's plenty of room and, using Saint Mark's connections in the medical community, they'll have a team of doctors and nurses to give thorough wellness checks to children.

There will also be free immunizations from the state Heath Department, oral health screenings and supplies from Delta Dental and basic vision screenings.

Moore says if parents have paperwork or records about their school's health care requirements, they should bring those along. If they don't bring them, the doctors and nurses "will do the best they can without it but it would be best if they have them."

The focus isn't just on health. The Central Arkansas Library System will present story time and will encourage children to read. The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance is providing education about healthy eating and budgeting.

Parents can learn about financial literacy and saving for college.

On the self-esteem side of things, local barbershops will give free haircuts.

One of the bash's biggest draws is the free backpacks stuffed with school supplies — 3,000 of them, on a first-come, first-served basis. Moore says they've ordered the supplies at grade-appropriate levels.

To make sure visitors take advantage of all the bash has to offer, though, people won't be able to just walk in, pick up a backpack, and leave. They'll get cards as they enter and everyone will be required to participate in several activities before they can claim their pack.

It's not all work and no play. The male and female UALR basketball teams will lead on-court skills and drills and there will be food trucks and bounce houses.

The event is targeted to help lower-income families, but Moore says no one will be turned away and there are no requirements to participate: "What we've learned is, nobody's going to stand in line unless they actually have a need."

The key, she says, is providing all these resources under one roof, making things not only less expensive, but easier for parents.

"It makes me proud to be an Arkansan," she adds, "knowing that many organizations want to come together, individuals want to come together to help people in our community."

Weekend on 08/01/2019

Print Headline: Head of the Class Bash moves to UALR venue


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