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Supporting Latino Families: Backpack Giveback Event

By Vanessa Peña, Education Policy Analyst

The Forum was honored to join with forty-one community organizations to partner with the Regional Office of Education West 40 and Morton College in Cicero for the annual “Backpack Giveback” event that took place on Saturday, August 6, 2022. The Regional Office of West 40 serves 41 school districts and three co-ops in West Cook County. 

Excited families formed a line that wrapped around the Morton College campus in Cicero to pick up free backpacks and school supplies for their kids in elementary school, middle school, and high school.  Each backpack contained basic school supplies such as notebooks, crayons, pencils, and a ruler.

Inside the gymnasium of Morton College, families had the chance to learn about other community services and about the educational opportunities available. Families flocked to tables that corresponded with their children’s ages picking up informational flyers, Covid testing kits, notebooks, and an array of sponsored freebies.

The Forum was excited to showcase new parent videos and a fact sheet on the power of enrolling your child in bilingual education. The resources are based on data from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. The fact sheet highlights factors associated with stronger outcomes for English Learners in pre-k and early grades, and the video offers insight on making choices about a child’s first early learning program options, such as full-day bilingual preschool starting at age 3. These materials are important for these communities as the parent videos and factsheets answer many of the questions families may have about what works for English learners in the early years.

After families connected with community providers, they were welcomed with music, free refreshments, a paleta cart, and snacks in the Morton College courtyard. The event was a great success, with over about 5,000 attendees and 1,700 backpacks distributed.

Community events, such as these in Cicero, offer the Forum an important venue to showcase important research and how it can impact decisions regarding preschool enrollment.