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story.lead_photo.caption Glenn Hersey, outreach pastor at Saint Mark Baptist Church, is expecting 3,000 children plus their families at the Aug. 4 Head of the Class Bash at the Jack Stephens Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The free event includes backpacks filled with school supplies, immunizations, health screenings and a lot more.

Saint Mark Baptist Church and the Clinton Presidential Center believe all children should be at the head of the class.

That's why the two organizations -- along with partnerships with many others including Arkansas Gift 529, Delta Dental, Saint Mark's Episcopal Church and the Derek Lewis Foundation -- are teaming up for the Aug. 4 Head of the Class Bash at the Jack Stephens Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The half-day event, which starts at 1 p.m., is open to everyone with school-age children. About 3,000 backpacks filled with school supplies will be handed out to the kids. Services offered include immunizations, health physicals, and dental and vision screenings.

For almost two decades, Saint Mark has offered a school health fair in its family life center. The church, on a huge campus on West 12th Street in Little Rock, is a predominately black church that is home to almost 9,000 members.

Glenn Hersey, outreach pastor at Saint Mark, says the church has hosted a back-to-school health fair since 1999. The annual event draws as many as 700 students who need school supplies or physicals required to play sports.

This year's event is expected to draw 3,000 or more students -- plus their parents.

"For our medical professionals, this is the Super Bowl," Hersey says. "It's all hands on deck for those in the medical field and we need them in big numbers because we are going to see a lot more kids."

Lena Moore, deputy executive director of the Clinton Foundation, says an annual back-to-school bash has been held at the Clinton center since 2011. Those events attracted thousands of students and their parents. She contacted Saint Mark earlier this year to discuss a joint event.

"We wanted to collaborate with other organizations to try and make our event more [effective] and make a bigger difference for the kids," she says.

Saint Mark has always provided health screens during its annual fair. The Clinton center did dental screenings.

"It's available to anyone who's in need of a physical and backpacks with school supplies," Hersey says of the event. "If you need it, we are there to provide it and the key thing is it is at no cost.

"The need is great. We have parents out there who are struggling to meet the needs of their kids. Anything we can do to offset that need -- we are just grateful that we can do that."

The Clinton center bought the 3,000 backpacks in a bulk order -- cheaper than what parents would pay for one in a store. The backpacks are filled with supplies that are appropriate for different grades -- from pre-kindergarten to high school.

"Can you imagine the time savings for parents and the benefit for not having to pay for certain things," Moore says. "Time is money."

The bash will serve as a one-stop shop for parents who are preparing for the start of the school year.

Barbers from GoodFellas and barber Jacob Profit will have scissors in hand for back-to-school hair cuts. The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and the Arkansas Department of Health will have information available. The Central Arkansas Library System will have a story-time area to promote literacy.

UALR Trojans basketball teams -- both men and women -- will interact with the kids. Those with lots of energy can take it out in a bouncy house. A blood drive will be set up for adults.

Saint Mark Baptist is still recruiting medical professionals to help out at the event.

"The Bible talks about that it is more blessed to give than to receive. They [medical professionals] are availing themselves that day to meet a specific need for the kids and their parents in the community," Hersey says.

Parents who have attended past Saint Mark Baptist health fairs have shown their appreciation to the medical professionals who volunteer.

"That's a pretty good feeling," Hersey says. "We tell our medical professionals that we need you here for that particular day because we can't do it without you."

Parents do not have to sign up in advance of the fair. Volunteers will navigate parents and children throughout the fair. Twenty rooms are set aside for physicals.

With 3,000 or more children expected to show up, Hersey says he is a little overwhelmed. But he is grateful for the army of volunteers who have agreed to help.

"At the end of the day, we hope you are tired and exhausted," he says of the volunteers. "But it's a good feeling at the end of the day when you know you have made an impact."

The Head of the Class Bash is 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Jack Stephens Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Admission is free. More information is available by emailing or calling 501-748-0434. To volunteer, go to

Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/CARY JENKINS
Glenn Hersey, outreach pastor at Saint Mark Baptist Church, is part of the team leading the Head of the Class Bash, a free back- to-school festival that is a collaboration between the church, the Clinton Presidential Center and other groups. The event starts at 1 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Jack Stephens Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

High Profile on 07/28/2019

Print Headline: Saint Mark, Clinton center join for Head of the Class


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