The campus of PSJA Memorial is abuzz! Parents and students dart from cafeteria to gymnasium, registering for classes, purchasing uniforms and signing up for clubs. It’s PSJA’s fourth annual Back to School Expo, and it’s in full swing.
PSJA’s Director of Communications and Public Information, Arianna Vazquez-Hernandez, is all-hands-on-deck for the Back to School Expo. She aids parents and teachers with questions, ensuring everything runs smoothly. She does this at four different campuses as all four PSJA high schools now hold an Expo. Vasquez-Hernandez doesn’t mind the travel.
“We’d like to think of this as a one-stop shop for parents,” said Vazquez-Hernandez. “We’re reaching out to the community, reaching out to new parents, preparing the little ones and showing students and parents the possibilities and programs they can get involved in.”
The Expo is not just for high school students and families. Each PSJA high school dedicates space for their feeder elementary and middle schools, allowing those parents to register their kids, buy uniforms and chat with principals and teachers. At the Expo, parents with children of varying ages can get everything done in one place – a literal one-stop-shop. To top it off, many schools offer raffles for their students with prizes such as backpacks full of brand new school supplies.
In addition to registration and prize booths, PSJA offers parents and students amenities like free haircuts and a Health Fair where nurses provide discounted or even free immunizations. One nurse, Sulema Flores, was adamant that all parents participate in the Expo for this reason.
“We have a clinic here as well as at the three other high schools. State-mandated immunizations are so important. If students don’t have them, they can’t start school,” said Flores. “We also want to make sure all of our kids are insured. We have a quite a few resources to help parents sign up for CHIP, Medicaid and the Healthcare Marketplace. That’s a priority for us because we know healthy children learn better.”
Flores went on to name the other resources available for students, which included eyesight and hearing tests along with diabetes and scoliosis screenings. Nearly all of these services are free. Immunizations are the only thing that costs ($5/shot) unless the student is insured with CHIP or Medicaid or the parent can’t afford the payment. The immunizations are free with insurance, and the county will cover the cost for any parent who doesn’t have the money.
One parent at the Expo was surprised at how quickly things were getting done. Denise Garcia, parent to an incoming 6th grade girl and a little boy entering pre-kindergarten, explained how the Expo made things easier for her and her children:
“My girl was already registered online in April. It was just easier and I skipped the lines for the registration process and buying uniforms,” said Garcia. “The fact that they have everything handy here makes it so easy. I love how they can make copies and fax everything if they need to – it helps me because my little boy wasn’t registered yet. I’ve been here maybe 20 minutes and I’m already almost done! More people from the community should come to the Expo!”
The Back to School Expo at PSJA is held every year in early August. It’s an all-day event, lasting from 10am to 4pm. The Expo provides an opportunity for parents or older students to become more involved in their schools. While registration is available online, free immunizations aren’t. Club booths and performances aren’t. Interacting with your fellow classmates and having your questions answers by present educators isn’t. So when the new school year rolls around next August, don’t just stick to your computer, come out and meet your school! You may be surprised what it has to offer.