Back to School Rally a Success

The promise of something greater in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood was fulfilled in ways big and small Monday at the Friendly Inn Settlement, where about 2,500 people showed up for an annual back-to-school rally that sponsors say gets bigger every year.

“It just keeps growing, and the real heroes here are the parents who are so involved with their children and their schools,” said Sonya Pryor-Jones, the third-year director of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood, an initiative led by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland. “This is an event to send them into the new school year in a big way.”

Families lined up at the event Monday to pick up free uniform clothing distributed by volunteers from City Year Cleveland, bookbags, notebooks, pens and pencils and other classroom necessities. A DJ from WZAK-FM played music from the stage while volunteers gave haircuts and braided hair for students in advance of the first day of school.

The Sisters of Charity Foundation’s Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative is a “transformative program that wraps children in high-quality, coordinated health, social, community and educational support from the cradle to college and career,” according to the foundation’s website.

Pryor-Jones summed up its goal succinctly: “Promise is a neighborhood-based initiative targeted around one vision, a vision that we share with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and 40 other partners. The vision is that every child in the Central footprint has the opportunity to go to college and then on to a great career.”

The Promise Neighborhood is part of Cleveland’s Ward 5, stretching from Euclid Avenue to Woodland Avenue and from East 22nd Street to East 55th Street. It includes more than 10,000 people, including about 2,500 children under the age of 5.

CMSD schools in the area include Alfred A. Benesch, George Washington Carver and Marion-Sterling elementary schools and East Tech High School. The District has designated all as Investment Schools, which receive customized intervention and support to improve the climate, increase community engagement and raise achievement.
Shawndra Folmar and her husband have three children, one of them in that under-5 group and the other two enrolled in a CMSD school. The family left the rally with bookbags, new haircuts and a “boost” toward the new school year, she said.

“This is necessary for many people who want to give their children a good start,” she said, adding that she’s just starting a new job but needed a few things for school that she couldn’t afford.

The back-to-school rally at Friendly Inn was one among at least four in the District on Monday. Ice cream socials or school fairs were also held at Douglas MacArthur Girls’ Leadership Academy, Miles Park School and Harvey Rice School.

Most CMSD students return to school Wednesday, an earlier date than in the past. Central Neighborhood schools’ first day was Monday, Aug. 18.

Two high schools at the John Hay Campus resumed classes on Monday, while 14 other District schools will wait until Aug. 18. Four year-round high schools started their calendars July 28.

Families who still need to register students can do so at any CMSD school. That means they can sign up at the closest school even if their children will attend a school in another part of the District.