Ald. Michael Scott, Jr., (24th) held his annual back-to-school picnic and festival at the Douglas Park fieldhouse on Aug. 20 The alderman gave away dozens of school supply packages away to families in need and provided fun activities for seniors and youth.
Scott estimated 1,000 individuals visited the picnic and received hot meals, activities and a vendor corridor with services readily available to attendees. The festival was originally slated to take place at the site of the Chicago West Side Music Festival last weekend; however, due to scattered rain showers, the picnic was moved indoors.
“The turnout was pretty great considering the weather in the morning,” said Scott. “We coined the phrase, ‘One North Lawndale,’ because we are working together to better this community, because we all live and work within it. (It’s been a) great turnout, great day.”
Scott credited his late father, Michael Scott, Sr., who served as president of the Chicago Board of Education, for instilling in him the philosophy that “education is the road to a better life.” The alderman said that philosophy has guided him through his attempt to create more educational pathways for West Side youth.
“(My father) made sure I matriculated all the way through school and I would like to give that opportunity to as many young people as I can,” said Scott. “I may not be able to correct everything within the schools but what I can showcase is my story and how it helped me get to where I’m at. If you get a good education you’re much more likely to be successful in this world.”
Scott worked in partnership with West Side elected officials like state Rep. Arthur Tuner (9th) and Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele (2nd) to put on the day’s festivities.
Turner said the 29th Ward is the largest ward within his district and that he worked with Scott over the past few weeks to make the picnic a success.
“I think school supplies are important, because a student needs to go back to school feeling prepared to work,” said Turner. “Oftentimes, parents struggle coming up with those supplies so that students have the adequate amount of things they need to perform well in school. We just try to help out anyway that we can.”
The North Lawndale native called opportunities to serve his community “extra special,” because of the smiles he helps put on young people’s faces.
“I love when this time of year comes around,” said Turner. “Students start getting excited about going back to school, the community celebrates together and it’s usually a wonderful day.”
Dennis Deer and members of the Rho Mu Mu chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. helped pass out school supplies at the event. Deer said the chapter was “very supportive of One North Lawndale”.
North Lawndale resident Latonya Byrd said she comes to the event every year and appreciates the effort by local officials to support the community.
“They make it happen every year for the kids and it keeps them out of trouble, gives them something to do,” said Byrd. “Some people can’t get school supplies so this helps. Most people can’t afford to take their kids anywhere so this is great.”