tacolcy-greenfest_0811_web.jpgFlorida International University

LIBERTY CITY — Excited children lined up by the hundreds at the Belafonte TACOLCY Center ready to get their supplies for the new school year, along with free haircuts, health screenings and just having a plain old good time.

Several hundred children signed up for the organization’s annual “Greenfest: Planting Seeds for Education” end-of-the-summer event, the largest crowd ever.

The back-to-school bash held Saturday at TACOLCY in Miami’s Liberty City community, was designed to be cool for kids and educational for parents.

Besides school supplies and haircuts, the festival featured live music and entertainment, face painting, arts and crafts, reading corners, cooking demonstrations, parenting workshops and dozens of exhibitors.

“Our goal is to orient parents and children in all areas so they’ll be comfortable and confident on their first day of class,” said Denise Rainey, an assistant program coordinator at TACOLCY, which hosted the event in collaboration with Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Urban Greenworks and the National PTA Urban Family Engagement Initiative.  “This school year we want everyone to enjoy a good experience, start to finish,” This is the second year Carolyn Jones and her great granddaughter have attended the event.

“Events like this help us financially. A lot of people can’t really afford haircuts and school supplies; they are very expensive, when you have three or four kids, all boys, and each cut is eight dollars a piece,” Jones said.

Participants registered in advance, each receiving a “passport” in which to place stickers they received from each vendor and after attending three PTA workshops.

The children received their school book bags after filling the passport with stickers.

The navy and royal blue bags were filled with notebooks, glue, folders, books, crayons, paper and pencils.

“It’s tough when you have a big family and have to deal with school expenses and other expenses,” said Marise Fatal, an unemployed mother of three.

“Just last week, my daughter had a seizure. That is an expense we weren’t planning for,” said Fatal. “I have to put my three kids through school and I worry if they won't have supplies to go back to school, or they might have, but maybe not, something new to get them excited.”

Jessica Padilla may be reached at jpadi003@fiu.edu.


Angelica Lucas collected her free school book bags at the Belafonte TACOLCY Center’s annual “Greenfest: Planting Seeds for Education” end-of-the-summer event held on Saturday.