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Heading back to school with a bash

Lots of schools hold back-to-school nights, but not many feature a trip to a local shopping mall.

Thanks to Patricia Bruzzese, a child services specialist in the Hermitage School District, Mercer County, that is the experience for students at the district’s Artman Elementary School.

Two years ago, Bruzzese partnered with Primary Health Network to start the “Back-to-School Bash’’ for students and their families at the Shenango Valley Mall.

“We all know how important education is, and we want our children to be excited about starting school,’’ Bruzzese said. “Families need help in providing some of the basic necessities in going back to school, and we’re able to provide that.’’

Students get to pick out a new backpack and then fill it with school supplies. They also get a free haircut, and dental and vision screening.

Some 50 vendors donate the items and services.

For her work in organizing the “Back-to-School Bash,’’ Bruzzese received the PSEA Celebrating Excellence Award for “Community Leader – Individual’’ at the May House of Delegates.

“Patricia not only came up with a unique way to help children and their families prepare for a new school year, she involved the community at the same time,’’ said PSEA Vice President Aaron Chapin.