Swarms of West Side youths and their parents showed up at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., to be recognized for their academic achievement and to participate in fun activities and a health fair at the Westside Unity Festival on July 14.

The purpose of the festival was to promote health services to the community and to recognize high school and elementary students for their outstanding academics.

Although the festival has been held for several years, this is the first time students have been recognized for their academic achievements. According to Rishona Taylor, the director and head coordinator of the event, “This is the first academic ceremony and Westside Unity Festival that we have had here.” Taylor felt that the festival and the award ceremony were very important to the community.

“The main [issue] that we want to convey is to show students that we do care about their academic progress” said Taylor. “In East Garfield Park there are 14 schools, and six of those schools as of last year were on the probation list for CPS. For us [now] to recognize 250 students being on the honor roll and three schools getting off probation is an honor.”

Activities included a performance by the Jesse White Tumblers, local talent groups, carnival games, and various tables set up by local corporations to support their programs.

Businesses and social service organizations such as the Community Service Center, CAPS, and Bethany Hospital were there to promote their many programs for the youth, families and the elderly.

“Our job here today is to promote health awareness by giving free physicals for children, testing people’s blood pressure, and talking about diseases that affect our community, such as diabetes and AIDS” said Sheryl Abel, LPN, Advocate, Bethany Hospital. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Services) was also at the festival to give people information on how to take care of infants and how to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Financial institutions were available to provide information about the programs and services to help individuals. Several banks had representatives available to help people start new savings and checking accounts as well as counsel people on how to fix their credit reports.

Toward the end of the festival many families migrated from the resource fair area to the Blue Stone Terrace where the academic award ceremony was held for students of East Garfield Park schools. As the speaker read each name, the students walked up to the front, shook the speaker’s hand and took a quick picture.