Excellence. Unity. Love. Life. History. These are a few words to describe not only Black History Month, but more specifically, the Family Engagement Night (FEN) hosted at the Dulles School of Excellence on February 23, 2017. This is our third FEN held at Dulles and, to be honest, I think it has been my favorite thus far. Here are a couple reasons why. 

First, this FEN was themed “Black Excellence,” and it definitely met that criteria. 

The halls were decorated with student artwork featuring historical figures such as Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Louis Armstrong.  After walking through the beautiful exhibits of artwork and student-written poetry, the families entered the gym for a resource fair.  Families were able to visit tables and learn about healthy eating on a budget from Healthy Food Hub, first response to asthma attack and gunshot wounds from Umedics, gather information about historically black colleges such as Spelman College, and more. 

Following the resource fair, students had the opportunity to showcase more of their talents.  There was a step routine by the school sorority, The Lady Gems, a video presentation by the second graders to tell the story of Queen Nanny and the Maroons in Jamaica, and one of the poetry contest winners recited her poem entitled, “Black is beautiful because…”. 

The penultimate event of the evening was a quiz bowl featuring questions such as “Who was the woman that made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of beauty and hair products for black women?” (A: Madam C.J. Walker) and “List 3 Historically Black Colleges” (A: Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University, Tougaloo College).  There was so much history, knowledge, and talent shared throughout the night between our students and their families – it was wonderful to be a part of it.

Second reason this FEN was possibly my favorite, the amount of support City Year received for this event was incredible. 

Back in October, our teammate Kavhawn Swopes began to form a beautifully big vision of exactly how he wanted this night to be.  Partnering with 6th and7th grade English Language Arts teacher, Mr. Brandon Byrd, 5th grade teacher, Ms. Tess Razor, and Vice Principal Ms. Longmire, his vision of the night became a reality.  There were staff members that helped collect student artwork for the gallery walk, there were more that assisted with serving dinner to our families, and further still, there were many that prepped their students by teaching them about black history throughout the month.  The City Year team is incredibly grateful for all of the collaboration and support that our Dulles partners provided. 

City Year AmeriCorps member Alice Roberson shows a Dulles student some artifacts. Her father and brother brought many African and American artifacts from their personal collection to Dulles’ Family Engagement night to share with both students and families.

This event was a reminder of the power in teamwork – we strive to work powerfully together in a unified effort to achieve our goals.  Our partnership truly embodies the City Year value “students first, collaboration always.” We want to thank the Dulles faculty and staff, as well as all the organizations that donated to our event, for helping us make this even a very excellent one indeed.  

By Sarah Divney: Sarah Divney is a City Year Chicago AmeriCorps member serving on the Chicago Transit Authority Team at the Dulles School of Excellence. Read more about her service in the coming months as she continues to participate as a Red Jacket Reporter. Read more of Sarah's contributions to City Year Chicago's Blog.

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