Regroup, Relate, Release

SPC grantee’s back-to-school event readies children for the academic year and reinforces deeper ties to the community it serves.

Community members descended upon Oakdale Covenant Church for a day of free food, celebration and connection at Community and Family Partners’ Back-to-School Community Bash.

“The purpose is to feed into the community and let them know we’re here,” says Josandra Polk, president of the organization’s parent-teacher organization. “We’re trying to put food in their stomach, some fun in their day and a smile on their face.”

But the collective was serving up more than just barbecue; they also offered prayers in the form of a balloon “peace release,” a way to address “what’s going on with the violence”, says Jameca Lott, who leads Community and Family Partners fundraising.

While the main focus of the day was getting students focused and ready for school — “We want to start the school year off in a peaceful way, start the year off right,” Lott says — they also had fun activities for the children, such as basketball, hopscotch, sidewalk chalk and two bounce houses.

“[We’re] building a relationship with the community, school and church. It’s an opportunity for the whole community to get out and have some fun,” says Yvonne Burnett; her organization, the Center for Community Academic Success Partnerships, handed out the book bags.

Kiyana Salome, Community and Family Partners manager of programming, sees this event, and others like it, as a link between the daily after school programming the organization provides on the South and West Sides, and a deeper way of connecting with the community.

“When we have the kids after school, they’re escaping the violence, [coming from] where violence can happen to them. So we have to acknowledge the lives lost in the community,” Salome says. “Doing this event is kind of a violence prevention thing…it’s all linked together.”

This is a story about the Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.