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 5th Annual Start Smart Gets Kids Fired-Up for School

​Nearly 1,500 first-through-fourth graders got the shopping experience of their lives recently, courtesy of local pro golf star Phil Mickelson.

The fifth annual Start Smart back-to-school shopping spree at the Murphy Canyon Wal-Mart store started before the sun was up, and by the time it was over, 3,000 pairs of shoes, 9,000 shirts, blouses and, sweaters, and 1,500 backpacks had left with the first-through-fourth grade student participants.

“My wife Amy and I are real big on education and hope these kids, once they have new outfits and school supplies, are excited about the new school season,” Mickelson told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “The thank-yous and appreciation after they pick out some cool new clothes have been the most rewarding.”

The purpose of providing the new clothes and school supplies, Mickelson said, is to help children get excited about going to school. And as countless parents and school staff members told him at Wal-Mart, it works. Children are anxious to go to school because of their new clothes, parents report. And when students are happy to be at school, they’re achievement climbs, according to teachers.

As he has for each of the five years of the program, Mickelson was at the store well before the first school bus arrived at 5:30 a.m. After a pep-talk/thank you to the Wal-Mart crew, Mickelson took a spot at the front door to greet students.

The first 200 children to arrive were from San Diego Unified School District, followed by 300 students from Poway Unified at 6:00, 350 students from Cardiff, Encinitas, San Pasqual and Vallecitos at 6:45, 300 from Alpine and Ramona at 7:45, and finally, 350 from Mountain Empire, Valley Center, Spencer Valley, and Warner Springs at 8:30.

Students were selected by their school on the basis of need and their outstanding behavior and/or achievement. This year’s participants brought the five-year total to 6,700 students from 32 school districts and 135 schools. Mickelson’s total contribution now exceeds $1.3 million, not including the cost of busing every participant, with at least one parent, to the event each year.

For more information on Start Smart, contact the Communications office at the County Office of Education, (858) 292-3719.