ST. LOUIS – On Saturday, the Dome at America’s Center was packed with nearly 20,000 people. Around 200 local and corporate partners gathered to ensure students had all the necessities before heading back to the classrooms.

It’s all part of the Urban League’s annual weekend-long back-to-school expo. The event gives students in the St. Louis Public Schools District the resources to find support and inspiration as they prepare to return to classes in two weeks

“It’s just a big blessing for them to be giving out something for the kids.” Said Jessica Jones, who came out to Saturday’s Back to School Expo, with her daughter. It was the fresh produce and free haircuts, that had her calling out  some blessings.

“Its important that the Urban League is that safety net to provide food, school supplies, and also access to other services in this community,” said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, further explaining, it’s resources like these that are a necessity to many within the public school system.

There was an abundance of resources for students inside the Dome at America’s Center on Saturday. Everything from free healthcare and immunizations, to backpacks and classroom essentials, and even clothes. The turnout, pointing to the necessity among many.

“You know one of the biggest challenges that our families face is just being able to have the type of access to the type of resources they need in order to take care of their children.” said new St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Keisha Scarlett.

“It’s very hard sometimes,” said parent Jessica Jones. “Being a single mother, with one or more or two kids, things are so high.”

High prices, weighing heavy on pockets, is why Urban League, along with the city and St Louis Public Schools System, brought in over 200 corporate and local vendors.

“We know that 88 percent of our students in SLPS qualify for a free and reduced lunch,” said Jones. With a turnout expected around 20,000, it was clear to see the anticipation and need among young, aspiring students.

“I wanna be a firefighter,” voiced one of the youngsters.

Superintendent Scarlett says, some schools will see major tech improvements this year, including things like virtual reality learning, and 3D lab studies.

“How do we educate our students for a world that doesn’t even exist yet,” said Scarlett as one of her goals to address as superintendent.

It’s not the only change in the district. The city of St. Louis has expanded its rec center hours on the north side and south side, which is now open until 1 a.m. on weekends.

From a packed dome filled with school support, to upcoming advancements in education, Scarlett says, they’re poised to break barriers, “One of the biggest challenges, I think is the narrative around our school system … Everyone cares … I want students, parents, families that they’re safe, they’re welcome, they’re connected.”

Scarlett says, this is only the beginning of what’s to come within the school system.