Back to school season is upon us, friends! (Did anyone else’s parents love that Staples commercial from 1996? That’s right. 1996.)
As a youngin, I adored back to school season. New outfits, new school supplies, new opportunities to be a brand new, better, smarter, more popular version of the tomboyish nerd that left campus last June! “This year, I’m definitely going to look great every day and start all my projects early and get invited to all the birthday parties.” – You, early September of every year, before returning to your uniform of skate shoes and pony tails and choosing books over the mall by October 1.
I, like any kid or teenager in any era of the modern America project, did not think much about where the money funding my ill-conceived and always short-lived transformation plans came from, or the taxes that built the sidewalks and paid the crossing guards who ensured students’ safe passage to and from school for that matter, or how all the neighborhood moms coordinated so effortlessly to make sure someone was watching us after school. Very nearly a grown up, it occurs to me that I, like many kids and teenagers in any era of the modern American project, was kind of a jerk. Not a jerk, perhaps, but I certainly took plenty for granted. Back to school season is a tremendous responsibility for not only our parents, but our neighborhoods as well! Barkeep, a round of high fives for all of our parents and communities!
Between school supplies, uniforms and new clothes, books, field trips, parents must also ensure their childrens’ transportation to and from school and after school safety, all while overseeing their work and progress. With unemployment soaring and a new University of Chicago study revealing that parental unemployment could negatively affect school achievement, this back to school season is going to be particularly tough for many Chicago families.
CPS drop-out rates are decreasing and freshmen are increasingly entering high school on track, and certainly these numbers are a comfort. But the fact is for every positive statistic there are cold, hard facts about budget cuts that are hitting districts and schools, and eventually classrooms and individual students, hard. Teachers are throwing in the towel left and right, and the fight is coming to City Hall’s doorstep. No matter where you fall on the ideological side of the current public education debate or how you feel about unemployment, chances are you recognize that children should not be casualties.
This back to school season, consider volunteering your time or your resources. 85% of CPS students come from low-income families; 15,000 of them are homeless, and 22,000 take the bus – your help can certainly do some good. There are countless organizations in Chicago whose primary aim is to provide a stable environment and access to educational resources for students; find your local community center or nonprofit! If you don’t know where to begin, look no further than Zealous Good.
Marillac Social Center and St. Vincent de Paul Center are currently seeking in-kind donations of back to school supplies, CTA bus cards, and bicycles for youth. Knock the dust off that bike you didn’t ride all summer, pick up an extra 7-day pass, or get your hands on a few of the extremely handy CPS-coordinated Kitz for Kidz, and make someone’s back to school season a little more festive.
With that, onwards! To September!