The football field at Elston Middle School in Michigan City was full of people on Friday. No, there weren't any football players or runners, but there were plenty of students. The 5th Annual Citywide Back-to-School Rally was underway as 1,500 students and their parents filed in to visit the widely anticipated event. Children ran around to the various exhibitor booths, collecting signatures needed to win prizes and enter raffles, while gaining opportunities to improve their school year and education. Parents talked to representatives about colleges, back-to-school technologies and even healthcare!
Ms. Faye Moore, a veteran of the program itself, gave me a history lesson on the origin of the rally.
“Eight years ago, the group 'Shaka-Hand, Maka-Friend' would get together with several churches and pass out school supplies on Walker Street,” she explained. “Since then, we get together every year for six months to start planning, seeing what we can improve and what we've done right. It just comes together and gets better every year.”
As I gazed around the field covered with tents, tables and exhibits, I began wondering how much it cost. "Surely it must cost a couple of hundred dollars?" I asked Moore. “Nope, it costs $25 to be an exhibitor,” she corrected me. “They are all people who want to see the community become better and healthier.”
Healthy living has become a pattern at the rally. Among the tables of local hospitals, booths gave out pamphlets with information to help stop smoking and a School Uniform Fashion Show stressed living a drug-free life.
After the many cute outfits were displayed, I stopped to speak to Pastor Roberts, of the Michigan City Deliverance & Victory Church. She explained that this event was part of their outreach program every year.
“Everyone here is here to help the kids,” she explained.
Roberts most certainly did help the kids. She was in charge of all the activities of the day, including running the many competitions, planning the fashion show and giving prizes out to the children.
I continued wandering the many booths, stopping to pet a parrot that the Washington Park Zoo had brought over, watching many police officers from Michigan City fall into the dunk tank and perusing the many face painting options available. This reporter noticed one thing above everything else. Kids were learning about opportunities they had and they were enjoying it! As I stood by the booths for the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America, at least 20 girls and boys expressed interest in joining. Numerous others listened intently as the zookeepers taught them about the hedgehogs and snakes they were holding.
As I said goodbye, Pastor Roberts had one more thing she wanted to let everyone know.
“Knowledge is power,” she said. “Get the knowledge, and you'll gain the power.”
As I walked out of the field while watching students listening to an instructor tell them about robotics, it became obvious that this rally was something special that truly helps the students of Michigan City and will continue to do so for a long time.
(Sponsors for this event include: Boys & Girls Club, City of Michigan City, Covering Kids & Families of La Porte County, Deliverance & Victory Outreach Ministries, HealthLinc, Indiana Black Expo, La Porte County NAACP, MDWise, Michigan City Area Schools, Purdue University North Central, Senator Richard Lugar, Shaka-Hand, Maka-Friend)