Chicago back-to-school events celebrate education

August 27, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The 51st annual Englewood Back to School Parade touted a theme of education as a key to the future.

"I had a really fun time this summer, so I'm kind of disappointed that it's going to be over, but I'm ready for 7th grade," said parade-goer Mariah Jones.

Its where Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard emphasized the importance of first day attendance, especially in light of the district's multimillion dollar deficit.

"That drives about $600 million into the district. This is important in terms of budget, but for us even more importantly, it's about academic achievement," Brizard said in Englewood earlier this summer.

Meanwhile, for the 17th year, the city's 27th Ward hosted its Stay in School Picnic. People there enjoyed food, games and entertainment like the Jesse White Tumblers.

"It motivates me to go to school and get an education," said picnic goer Leo Harvey.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined other elected officials and area residents at another school year kickoff event at Garfield Park.

And it wasn't so much the music, but the backpack giveaway that highlighted Gospel Fest 2011.

"I have a pencil sharpener. I have erasers," said fifth-grader Darrion Hurse, who received a backpack Saturday.

While organizers say the 300 donated bags that were given away were a big help to a kit of parents, some neighborhood residents say the positive images of the day meant much more.

"I think it's good because no one has to get shot or nothing and they're already set for school and they have activities," said Englewood resident Feltisha Kolhim.

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