Some 40,000 people packed Fair Parkâs two huge halls Thursday for free school supplies, health checks, hair cuts and more. KERAâs Bill Zeeble reports on the Dallas Mayorâs Annual Back to School Fair, and the sometimes hidden benefits of getting essential school necessities.
Â For qualified, low-income families, Fair Parkâs annual six-hour school fair is a big deal. Just ask Margie Martinez or Nicole Hamilton. Both showed up for the first time, each with their three young children.
Margarita Martinez: Especially when you have three kids, where each one is $80-100 for each one. To pay, here, itâs free.
Nicole Hamilton They did the dental exam, they were good. No cavities. Now Iâm off to the school supply building.
Pay-offs from school fairs like this and others scheduled later this month in North Texas donât just come from getting needed items for nothing. Donated school supplies and services like vaccinations or dental checks directly impact learning.
Dr. Dan Jones, Baylor School of Dentistry: One of the leading reasons for school absences is oral problems, toothaches.
Doctor Dan Jones is here with volunteers from Baylorâs College of Dentistry. Students and parents can get free cavity prevention treatments and a basic check up.
Jones: You can imagine, if youâve ever had a toothache or really bad headache and you were having to take an exam or do homework, how difficult that would be.
Jones says Baylor works with the stateâs biggest non-profit dental provider to treat low-income students. Texans already claim the nationâs largest percentage of uninsured residents. In Dallas, Jones says that amounts to at least 100,000 children. And for every one child without health insurance, he says roughly three lack dental insurance.
Basic school supplies are also essential for learning, even though that may seem obvious. Janet Morrison, with Dallasâ non-profit City Square, explains whatâs not so obvious when low-income students arrive at school with their own pencils and notebooks.
Morrison: Of course youâve got kids who donât have the tools they need to learn. Thatâs kind of, for a kid, itâs kind of embarrassing. You get there and the teachers consistently say âHey! You need your school supplies.â So whatâs a kid do? Theyâre kids. They canât go out and work for these school supplies and get what they need.
Morrison, who used to run City Squareâs after school programs, says basic supplies can also spark a childâs natural creativity.
Morrison: Itâs not just in the classroom. I know I took stuff home with me. You know, I may draw at home, or take a ruler and practice geometry and stuff at home. I mean kids are ingenious in some of the stuff that they do.
Teachers say the better prepared students are for the first day of school, the better their odds for success.
Tarrant County's Roundup - http://backtoschoolroundup.org/