They were all there – all the major players – Evanston Township High School, District 65, city officials and community organizations, for the ‘Kits, Cats & Kids Block Party Thursday, Sept. 15, at ETHS’ Lazier Field.
There were food trucks dishing out arepas, hot dogs and cookies. There were bouncy castles, community groups and student clubs trying to interest students and music from the ETHS marching band and the NUMBs – Northwestern University’s Marching Band.
There were speeches, too, from two superintendents – ETHS’ Marcus Campbell and District 65’s Devon Horton – as well as one from Mayor Daniel Biss, who all spoke at the pep rally in anticipation of the 8 p.m. ETHS football game to be played under the lights against Barrington High School.
All afternoon, parents, teachers, students and other community members danced, ate, played lawn games and made arts and crafts.
“We are a community built on education. We are a community that values education. We are a community that identifies itself because of our love of learning and our love of education,” Biss said. “We accomplish what we accomplish because all of these institutions work together hand in hand, day in, month in and year in.”
Leaders from community organizations and nonprofits told the RoundTable these events that bring out the whole community, regardless of anyone’s affiliation to a particular school or group, help establish a positive and collaborative culture in Evanston.
Laini Watts, a program coordinator with Youth & Opportunity United, who does youth outreach specifically at Nichols Middle School, said catering events toward young people who have experienced trauma from gun violence, for example, will help the community heal from tragic events and build a stronger connection among residents and Evanston’s youth.
“I just feel like a lot of people really need a place to be themselves in a safe space,” Watts said.
There were also volunteers who came to encourage civic engagement. Northwestern Professor Matt Easterday and graduate student Gus Umbelino hosted a table to tell people about the city’s new participatory budgeting initiative, allowing residents to help choose how $3 million of the federal COVID-19 recovery funds are spent.
Plus, members of the Evanston alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a historically Black sorority, were there with the ETHS community service club to get students and any other residents, registered to vote. Eva Coley, one of those sorority members and volunteers, you’ll find her from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, at the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, 1823 Church St., registering more young people because she believes in their power.
“I think it’s going to take young people to bring us back to reality, because I think we’re living in a crazy world right now,” Coley said. “Young people are a lot more active, and they’re just not going to stand for some of the stuff that’s going on. That’s my prayer.”