TSU helps to give youngsters, parents a “healthy start” back to school

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Kamaya Simpson will be prepared when she returns to school, thanks to Tennessee State University and Love’s Healthy Start Festival.

High school student Joel Snatcher with Dr. Latif Lighari from TSU’s College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Public Relations)

The university partnered with several organizations on Saturday to sponsor the 5th annual festival at Hadley Park.

Simpson, 9, was among about 300 people who turned out on a sunny, not-too-hot day to attend the event started by State Rep. Harold Love, Jr.

Hundreds of free backpacks and school supplies were given away at the festival. Simpson said she enjoyed being able to pick out her own backpack, because usually her mom does.

“My backpack was heavy with supplies for school,” Simpson said. “I like to go to school.”

Colette Mike attended the festival with her preschooler. She said the festival “is a good thing for the community.”

“It creates excitement for the kids about school, makes it fun,” she said. “And seeing everyone out here for them, adds encouragement.”

Rodney Pope, a grandfather of three, agreed.

“It’s very positive for the community,” Pope said. “It provides items that the kids need for school, which helps the parents.”

The festival, which had free food and live entertainment, also provided good health tips, as well as educational information.

For instance, parents were able to find out about initiatives like Tennessee Promise, which provides eligible graduating high school seniors two years of free tuition at a community or technical college in Tennessee.

“We want parents to know about the opportunity their children have to get a free education,” said Love, whose district includes TSU. “Love’s Healthy Start Festival is more than a back to school event. It is designed to give the entire family an opportunity to start the school year off right.”

Health screenings and dental exams were also available for youth and adults.

Leon Roberts is coordinator of clinics for TSU’s Department of Dental Hygiene. He said representatives from the department were on hand to discuss the benefits of good hygiene, as well as talk about the university’s Dental Hygiene Clinic.

The clinic provides service to nearly 600 patients a year, including students as well as the Nashville community.

“A lot of dental diseases can be easily prevented by brushing and flossing properly, and visiting the dentist at least twice a year,” Roberts said.

Other TSU participation included the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, and the Ralph H. Boston Wellness Center, which offers a range of sports, recreation and fitness activities for students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“We want the community to know the importance of health and wellness; taking care of yourself,” said Jerry Davis, Wellness Center director. “We also want to let people know what we do, as well as look to partner with outside agencies.”

The festival also featured literacy and financial education programs. For instance, the festival partnered with Book’em, a nonprofit organization, to provide 1,000 free books to youngsters in grades K-12.

For Simpson, getting the books was among the festival’s highlights.

“I like my books,” said the youngster. “I like books with adventure.”


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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 25 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.