Monday, August 9, 2010

Back to School Make It Cool

A high school might not be the first place you'd expect to find an animated crowd on a summer weekend morning. This past Saturday, however, a lively group of students, parents, performers, organizations, and business sponsors gathered outside of Clemente High School in Chicago’s West Side for "Back to School Make It Cool."

This event, presented by Youth Ready Chicago was intended to get kids revved up for the school year with school supply and backpack giveaways, carnival games, entertainment, food, and a resource fair for parents about programs to help their kids thrive in the upcoming school year.

When the day started, families were already eagerly lined up to receive school supplies and raffle tickets for hot items like a laptop and a bike. Students enjoyed a day filled with face-painting, giveaways, marching bands, hip-hop artists, food, and games.

Although there was plenty to keep the kids entertained (what seven-year-old doesn't love a jumpy castle?), I was excited to see the parents' enthusiasm at the resource fair. Representatives from various programs that had helped organize the event like Cabrini Connections set up information tables. Many parents took information about our program and signed up to enroll their students. Others who live in different neighborhoods or have younger students were interested in finding programs in their own communities using Program Locator, the T/MC database of tutor/mentor programs throughout Chicago. It was encouraging that we really didn’t have to “sell” parents on the value of such programs. Parents' eyes lit up when they heard about opportunities for free one-on-one tutoring/mentoring for their kids.

Obviously, these moms and dads are deeply invested in the education of their kids and realize what their students can gain from individual tutoring, homework help, mentoring, and enrichment programs.

While students walked away from "Back to School Make It Cool" fashioning new
backpacks and school supplies, the intangible impact of the day's events--getting the word out about programs that help kids form meaningful relationships with adults--has the potential to last far longer than the lifespan of crayons and book-bags. I hope to see some now-familiar faces in our program this coming year!

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