By Francis Page, Jr.
August 10, 2023 (Houston Style Magazine) — The George R. Brown Convention Center came alive with excitement and anticipation this past Saturday, August 5th, for the 13th Annual Mayor’s Back 2 School Fest. This much-awaited event, sponsored by the renowned Shell and masterfully orchestrated by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, was not just another edition – it was, by many measures, the most successful yet. A staggering 18,000 students, accompanied by their families, flocked to the Convention Center, marking the second year of in-person festivities post the challenging COVID-19 times. The gathering was more than a mere event – it was a testament to the city’s indomitable spirit.
Mayor Turner articulated the sentiment perfectly, “Amid the shadows of the pandemic’s aftermath, it’s paramount for us to champion equity, particularly for our young gems. We’re well aware that several Houston households are grappling with financial constraints, which sometimes means foregoing essential school utilities. Our Back to School Fest is more than just about providing tools – it’s a promise, ensuring every child walks into school with confidence.” A significant highlight was the health prioritization, which included dental and vision screenings, immunizations, COVID-19 vaccines, and even hair cut vouchers.
In a magnificent display of unity, over 5,100 backpacks were handed out at the event, with the rest of the whopping 25,000 backpacks reaching the community via local non-profits, City Council chambers, and the harmonious interfaith community. The range of services and informational exhibits only served to emphasize Houston’s unwavering commitment to holistically address the needs of economically challenged elementary students and their guardians.
Such a massive event owes its success to the unparalleled backing from corporate sponsors and community believers. It’s impossible to not mention the indispensable Shell USA, Inc., the stellar Houston First, and the ever-supportive Houston Food Bank. Their faith and generosity have lit up thousands of young futures, bringing to life Mayor Turner’s sentiment: “We’re shifting destinies, one young scholar at a time.”
Christina Jones, the dynamic Vice President of HR, D&I and Employee Relations at Shell, emphasized the longstanding alliance with the city. “For over a decade, we’ve had the privilege of aligning with Houston, fostering programs that lay the foundations for student triumphs. Our eyes are on the future, ensuring growth for the community we cherish.”
A fitting epithet for Mayor Sylvester Turner, as coined by Olivera Jankovska, the Director of Mayor’s Office of Education and Youth Engagement, is the “Education Mayor”. She explained, “His dedication to crafting a radiant future for Houston’s students and families, through initiatives like this Fest, shines a beacon of hope and commitment.”
Indeed, Houston’s 13th Back 2 School Fest was not just an event but a symphony of community, commitment, and hope.
Event Sponsors & Supporters
Presenting Sponsor: Shell USA, Inc.; Host & Sponsor: Houston First; Community Partner: Houston Food Bank; Sponsors: Texas Health and Human Services; University of Houston; Checkers; Comcast; Kelsey-Seybold Clinic; Legacy Community Health; My Connect; Texas Children’s Health Plan; Verizon; YES Prep; DentaQuest; Justice for Children; Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages; Houston Community College; Prairie View A&M University; Metropia; 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship Host Committee; First Service Credit Union; INB Sina Foundation; Enterprise; Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers; Texas Barber College; Jetco Delivery; Staples; Southwest Airlines; Crimes- toppers of Houston; National Kidney Foundation; Houston Astros; METRO; STS Brand; McDonald’s Houston; Media Partners: CW39 Houston; Telemundo; KSBJ; Vida Unida
Mayor’s Back 2 School Fest Community Impact
11,683 Students Registered
5,153 Backpacks Distributed
614 Height/Weight Checks
216 Routine Immunizations by Houston Health Dept.
159 Dental Screenings by Houston Health Dept.
111 Screenings by Kidney Foundation
19 Covid-19 shots by Houston Health Dept.
The Mayor’s Back 2 School Fest Presented by Shell is produced by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. For more information, visit the website at: HoustonTX.gov/btsf.
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