Festivals help students get ready for school

To help them get ready, free supplies and haircuts were available at a number of community festivals Saturday. It was one stop shopping at Humboldt Park's Hopefest. The annual back-to-school outreach event packed in over 15,000 people, including parents with their children hoping to get some help with groceries, school supplies, missing immunizations and haircuts. It was all free help to those who needed it most to get ready for the first day of school.

" My husband, unfortunately, just lost his job. So, this is perfect timing for us," said Jeannie Roman, a mother of four.

"It's saving me time. This year, my doctor said he couldn't see us for two weeks. So, I came for the shots, and it's free. It's great for me," said parent Celeste Wilson.

Despite the long lines, it was apparent most kids were having fun, even those nervously waiting to see how their new haircuts looked.

"My hair is already messed up, and I need it for homecoming!," CPS student Stephanie Oquendo said.

While the Hopefest was the largest, similar events took place all over the city. In Union Park, approximately 2,000 bags of school supplies were given out. In Pilsen's Harrison Park, similar handouts took place.

At all of the events, the organizers' messages were the same: students need to be back in school on the very first day.

Attendance on the first day of school has increased during the last several years in Chicago and so have test scores. Saturday, CPS CEO Arne Duncan said that was not a coincidence.

"That first day is a critical day. It is the day you meet your teachers and your friends and get on track for the rest of the year. So, that's not a day you want to be some place else," Duncan said, referring to the first day of school.

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