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Back-To-School Shopping Spree Gives Students Fresh Start

Phil Mickelson and friends. Going back to school never felt so good for 1,500 deserving, underprivileged San Diego County students thanks to the eighth annual START SMART event, underwritten by professional golfer Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy. The START SMART initiative, coordinated through the Mickelson Foundation and the San Diego County Office of Education, provided students from eight local school districts,  including San Diego Unified, with a once in a lifetime shopping experience for school clothes and school supplies.

“Our number one goal is to provide a fun and safe morning for children to get them excited about going back to school,” said Mickelson.

The Start Smart event was held Aug. 18 at the Mission Valley Target Store where each first-through-fourth grade student left with a wardrobe of new clothes and shoes, along with a bag full of school supplies and new backpack. Angier, Carson, Emerson/Bandini, Fulton, Oak Park, Rosa Parks and Sherman elementary schools were the San Diego Unified Schools selected to participate this year. Each school chose their “most deserving” children to participate in the back to school event along with one parent or guardian to accompany them.

In the case of several of the students, this was their first time shopping in a large department store and for others it was their first time ever to pick out new clothes.

Throughout the morning, parents and teachers were overjoyed as they helped children select brand new tops, shirts, pants, skirts, jackets, backpacks and socks. KPMG, one of Mickelson’s PGA tour sponsors, also took part in the event, giving each student a new Dr. Seuss book: Green Eggs and Ham for first and second graders, and Fox and Socks for third and fourth graders. The front page of each book included a congratulatory note from the Mickelsons.

The Mickelsons also paid for the bus transportation of students, parents and dozens of teachers and administrators. San Diego Unified schools were the first to shop, arriving at Target at 6 a.m. The early morning wake-up call did not deter the excitement of the children once they arrived at the store. Several principals did remark, however that the bus ride from school to Target was one of the quietest they had ever experienced. 

Other districts participating this year included La Mesa-Spring Valley, South Bay Union, Cardiff, Vista, Santee and Borrego Springs along with County's Monarch School.