Local nonprofits, community organizations, Evanston Township High School, the City of Evanston and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 all came together Saturday afternoon to host the third annual End of Summer Fest at James Park.
Even with cloudy skies and a few drops of rain, the mood around the park was joyful and celebratory. Kids and parents alike enjoyed free hot dogs and burgers catered 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, opportunities to meet new people and gather with the Evanston community are as exciting as they have ever been, said Demisha Lee, chief program officer for Evanston Scholars.
“Because of the pandemic, events like this now are even more important so we get to see each other and build community, as well as share knowledge and resources across Evanston,” Lee said. “So being out here today is actually wonderful for me, to be able to see families together, to connect with lots of different organizations that we didn’t know. It’s a great opportunity.”
Evanston Scholars is a local nonprofit that partners with ETHS to provide guidance and mentorship for first-generation college students, low-income students and students of color at the high school. The organization’s primary purpose involves leading sophomores through the college admissions process, standardized testing and other academic experiences all the way through college graduation.
Dozens of other community groups offering important resources were also present at Saturday’s fest, including Youth & Opportunity United, the McGaw YMCA, YWCA Evanston/North Shore, Foundation 65 and the District 65 Family Center. This fall, the McGaw YMCA has a number of beginner sports programs available for kids from age 3 through eighth grade, according to George Washington, the Sports and Course Manager at the McGaw Y.
“It’s definitely great to be out here, interact with families and just get back in that space where we’re engaging with families,” Washington said. “Myself, personally, I’ve been working with youth for over 15 years. Just getting families back, engaging with the youth and giving youth opportunities to get involved in something is very important.”
New ETHS Superintendent Marcus Campbell was also at the fest chatting with parents and colleagues, including Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pete Bavis. The new school year for ETHS officially starts Monday. Although welcoming students into the building as the face of the school will be a new experience for him, Campbell said he could not be more excited to lead a school like ETHS with a national reputation for excellence.
Campbell said that at the ETHS staff work days on Thursday and Friday, he established solidarity with the experiences of students, teachers and families as one of his main priorities for the culture and climate at the high school. He and the rest of his administrative team have also outlined four strategic goals for the future, including literacy, racial equity, social-emotional learning and post-high school planning.
“I love the community, love the people, the kids, the parents, former students and their younger brothers and sisters and kids,” Campbell said. “This is the best part, just being with people, saying hello. I’m just happy to be out here, happy to be a part of it. It’s exciting. This is the good stuff.”
Elizabeth Macias and Xiomara Alfaro, two family support advocates with the District 65 Family Center, also said they want people to know that the center provides free child care services and home visits to eligible families in Evanston from birth through age 3. Additionally, the center provides parental support, education services and case management. Applications are available throughout the year, and families can learn more by going to the center’s web page.
“We go out 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 is our ultimate goal.”