Local nonprofits, community organizations, Evanston Township High School, the City of Evanston and the Evanston/Skokie 65 School District all came together Saturday afternoon to host the third annual festival end of summer at James Park.
Even with cloudy skies and a few drops of rain, the mood around the park was cheerful and festive. Kids and parents alike enjoyed free hot dogs and burgers served by Curt’s Cafe, dance tunes courtesy of DJ Corey Bless, and even a bouncy castle.
After living through more than two years of a pandemic, the opportunities to meet new people and reunite with the Evanston community are more exciting than ever, said Demisha Lee, program manager for Evanston Scholars.
“Due to the pandemic, events like this are now even more important, so we can see each other and build community, and share knowledge and resources across Evanston,” Lee said. “So to be here today is actually wonderful for me, to be able to see families together, to connect with a lot of different organizations that we didn’t know about. It’s a great opportunity.
Evanston Scholars is a local nonprofit that partners with ETHS to provide counseling and mentorship to first-generation, low-income, and high school students of color. The main focus of the organization is to guide sophomores through the college admissions process, standardized testing, and other academic experiences through college graduation.
Dozens of other community groups with significant resources were also present at Saturday’s festival, including Youth & Opportunity United, the McGaw YMCA, YWCA, Foundation 65, District 65 Family Center and many more. This fall, the McGaw YMCA is offering a number of beginner sports programs available for children ages 3 through eighth grade, according to George Washington, McGaw’s sports and course manager.
“It’s really great to be here, interacting with families and coming back to this space where we engage with families,” Washington said. “Myself, personally, I have been working with young people for more than 15 years. Just bringing families back, engaging with young people, and giving young people the opportunity to get involved in something is very important.
New ETHS Superintendent Marcus Campbell was also on hand at the party to chat with parents and colleagues, including Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Pete Bavis. The new academic year for ETHS officially begins on Monday. Despite being the face of the school, welcoming students into the building will be a new experience for him, Campbell said he couldn’t be more excited to lead a school like ETHS with a national reputation for excellence.
Additionally, during ETHS staff days on Thursday and Friday, Campbell said he has established solidarity with the experiences of students, teachers and families as one of his top priorities for culture. and school climate. He and the rest of his administrative team also set out four strategic goals for the future, including literacy, racial equity, social-emotional learning and post-secondary planning.
“I love the community, I love the people, the kids, the parents, the alumni and their younger siblings and their children,” Campbell said. “That’s the best part, just being with people, saying hello. I’m just happy to be here, happy to be a part of it. It’s exciting. That’s the good thing.
Elizabeth Macias and Xiomara Alfaro, two family support advocates at the District 65 Family Center, also said they wanted people to know that the center provides free child care and home visits to eligible families in Evanston from birth to age 3. In addition, the center provides parenting support, education and case management services. Applications are available throughout the year, and families can find out more by visiting the center’s webpage.
“We go to people’s homes and talk to them and talk about child development, help them with ideas of activities they can do to support their child’s healthy development so they can be successful in school” , Alfaro said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”