SIERRA VISTA — Six-year-old Lavyn Gladysh, a Benson Primary School first-grader, will start school on July 21 with just about everything she needs for a successful year.
Lavyn, along with her parents, Thomas Gladysh and Jammie Jones, was among the children and parents who packed The Mall at Sierra Vista on Saturday for the 24th annual Back to School Fair.
Designed as an informational resource where families can learn about educational programs and other opportunities for children of all ages, the event was sponsored by the city of Sierra Vista Leisure and Library Services, The Mall at Sierra Vista, University of Arizona College of Applied Science & Technology and the Arizona Army National Guard.
About 40 vendors participated in the event, representing a wide range of family services and local schools.
“I’m here to get a backpack, folders, pencils and crayons, and I want to shop for clothes,” said Lavyn Gladysh. “I’m excited about starting school.”
Dena Rincon was at the event with her two daughters, Anna, a third-grader, and Clarissa, a first-grader. The girls plan to attend First Baptist Christian Academy.
“We attended this last year when it was a drive-thru event because of COVID,” Dena Rincon said. “Today’s event is our first back to school fair in the mall. We’re getting a lot of great information and lots of school supplies, which is nice.”
Otto Stromberg, 7, his sister Teagan, 6, and their mother, April Stromberg, were waiting in line for supplies.
“We’re a military family and have lived in a lot of places,” April said. “But we’ve never lived in a community that does this. I think it’s great to learn about the resources that are available for children and to get a start on school supplies.”
Valerie Weller, Sierra Vista Unified School District public information and marketing officer, was answering questions about the school district and handing out supply lists.
“We’re providing general information about registration, class schedules and are providing supply lists for all school levels,” she said. “Sierra Vista School District’s first day of school is Aug. 4.”
Caring Connections, a program that offers support to kids with behavioral difficulties, also was on hand to talk to people about its services. Miranda Brown, site supervisor for the Sierra Vista location, said that in addition to Sierra Vista, Caring Connections has locations in Tucson, Benson, Safford, Payson and Douglas.
“We provide a wide range of family support services, including respite and parenting classes,” Brown said.
Mary Hayden, director of the Miss Sierra Vista Pageant, said that after COVID’s cancellations, it’s great to be back out in the community again talking to people about services.
Like other booths, Tombstone Unified School District handed out school supplies and talked about the district’s three school sites.
“We’re having a lot of fun here, showcasing our schools and the district,” said Deborah Paul, a Huachuca City School third-grade teacher. “We have seven teachers and three parents at our booth with us, and have had a lot of traffic through here.”
Sierra Vista Leisure and Library Services promoted its Kid’s WORLD (Wonderful Opportunities in Recreation and Leisure Development) program.
“Kids WORLD is for elementary students from kindergarten through sixth grade,” said Isabelle Smalley, the site leader at Huachuca Mountain School. “Our program focuses on fun, educational activities that give kids a place to go and while schools are on break.”
Saturday’s event ran from 10 a.m. until noon and filled the mall with hundreds of parents and kids. Families learned about local schools, after-school programs, health and nutrition services and children’s activities. The crowd was treated to free hot dogs by Guild Mortgage.
“This is a wonderful family event,” said Martha Schmidt, a Whetstone resident. “The younger children are having fun playing games at different booths, they’re getting school supplies and parents are learning all about services that are available. It’s a great way to start a fresh, new school year without worrying about COVID.”