Beaufort School District officials, volunteers, parents and kids in grades K-12 gathered in the Bluffton High School cafeteria for the annual Back-to-School Expo on Saturday afternoon.
“The goal of the event is to introduce families to the community services agencies that are in the community so they learn about what services are available,” said Lakinsha Swinten, the school district’s director of student services and the coordinator of the event.
The school district partnered with businesses at the second Back-to-School Expo to create seminars, activities and even a raffle for parents and their children to learn with a fun twist. School supplies, dental screenings and information about preparing for school were some of the offerings at the expo this year.
Swinten said that there are families who are new to the community who might not know enough about the schools, programs and administrators.
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“I would probably say about 50 percent of the people that participate in the expo are new to the community,” she said.
Some of them aren’t even familiar with the language. Yanina Sarli, a student services specialist with the school district, was there to assist Spanish-speaking families who still wanted to participate.
Sarli said it was important to have someone who could speak Spanish at the expo to make families comfortable.
“I’m happy that I’m here to help them in whatever way I can,” she said, “just being there for them so that when they call, they know they’re going to have someone that can provide enough information that they can understand.”
For years, businesses have assisted the school district in providing school supplies and materials at the expo, Swinten said.
Leslie Ford and Pat Garvin attended the expo on behalf of Sam’s Club and provided kids with school supplies, vitamins and treats from the store. Both women, who had children of their own, said they were there to give back to the community.
“Community involvement is key to making us successful and the parents and the kids successful at school,” Ford said.
Some visitors of the expo were looking to join the community, like Dewanma Weaver, who moved from Charlotte, N.C., a little more than a year ago.
Weaver brought her family to the expo because she said she wasn’t completely familiar with the area and wanted to know what the schools could offer her children, Daja, Skye, Junior and Xandria.
“(The expo was) just very informative, and I heard it was fun for the kids,” she said. “Just a nice little outing for us.”
After winning a gift basket from Carolina AAA, Weaver said she would look over the materials provided at the expo to make sure her children had the best opportunities at school.
“A lot of parents out here like myself just don’t have that information available where we can just go somewhere and grab, especially when we work and just have things going on in our daily lives,” she said. “But when we have a big event like this, we can stop by and grab all kinds of information from all kinds of different schools and even (about) after-school activities. Just pretty much like a one-stop shop when it comes to the information.”