¡Muchas mochilas!

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While parents and their families are enjoying summer break, the City of Phoenix – Latino Institute is busy planning the Annual Back to School and Health Fair, which, in only 10 years, has grown from 1,000 attendees to 10,000. It started with a small group of community partners and now has close to 200 agencies, organizations and an array of other community groups participating in this worthy event.

The main draw is the pile of backpacks given to the first 1,000 children in kindergarten to 8th grade, but it’s certainly not the only one. Over 50 programs will be represented, offering vital information related to education, lifestyle, finance and the community for students and parents alike.

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And although it is taking place in Phoenix, “This is a fair … for all communities within Phoenix and beyond,” says Carmela Ramirez of the Latino Institute and Phoenix Center for the Arts. “It’s free and produced with the community in mind. Bring the family!”

The event will be held at Desert Sky Mall at 75th Avenue and Thomas Road on Saturday, July 16, 2011 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Health services were added in the last five years, so families can get health screenings including mammograms, prostate exams, optical and dental screenings, HIV testing, pregnancy testing and free immunizations.

And to keep things interesting for parents and children alike, entertainment, a free light lunch and fun activities are planned for all ages. V1 Salon is doing their part to support the community and offering free haircuts at the event.

Panel members from specialty areas such as parks services, law, immigration, voting, health, school issues and other areas of concern will be participating in a plenary session at the end of the fair and will open up discussions important to attendees and their communities.

The mission of the Latino Institute is “to enhance the quality of life for all communities through a collective effort that recognizes the richness of the Latino culture, its contributions to society and its challenges for the future.”

Note all communities and “collective effort.” For more information or to participate in the 10th Annual Back to School and Health Fair, visit or contact Carmela Ramirez at 602-495-3791 or via email at

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