Hundreds of students and their parents got a head start on the new school year at Saturday's seventh annual Columbia County Back to School Festival at Evans High School.
Rebecca Sylvester, a spokeswoman for University Healthcare System, a sponsor of the event, said that by noon more than 700 students and their families visited the booths of more than 60 vendors to learn about safety, school nutrition, parent and student organizations and before- and after-school activities.
"The school board has told us that so many kids come to school the first day and they were not as prepared as (the board) felt they could be," she said.
This year, the first day of classes for elementary, middle and high school students in Columbia County is Friday.
Physicians from University Hospital checked children's height, weight and blood pressure in search of signs of juvenile diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Sylvester said. Doctors also examined students' immunization records when available to ensure children were up to date on all their shots.
"What we've found with many kids is, if they are not sick they will not go to the doctor," she said.
The event also featured a demonstration by Buster, Columbia County Schools' bus safety robot, martial arts performances and a fashion show.
Deniour Philip, a rising seventh-grader at Greenbrier Middle, said he's ready for the early mornings and excited about playing basketball for the school. The one thing the 11-year-old said he isn't thrilled about? "Learning. It's boring," he said.
However, his mother, Denise Philip, said she's happy Deniour is starting another school year and no longer spending the summer at home.
"Now I know he will be somewhere safe where my mind will be at ease with him in school," she said.
Evans sisters Helen and Selamawit Tesequar say they're excited for the new school year to begin.
Helen, 11, said she is excited and not afraid to move on from elementary school to the new Evans Middle School, where she will be part of the facility's first sixth grade class.
"All I know is that when I saw it (the new school), I just imagined my school year there, all my friends there, teachers, everything," she said, adding she wanted to be part of the student council and other clubs.
Selamawit, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, said she was excited about the new school building, too.
"It's bigger than the last one. I'm excited. It's fresh and it's new," she said.
Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue firefighters were on hand to promote fire safety and Columbia County sheriff's deputies provided free child identification cards and fingerprinting. The festival also was sponsored by The Columbia County News-Times.
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