Wentworth staff, community come together for neighborhood march - FOX 35 News Orlando

Wentworth staff, community come together for neighborhood march

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

For the third year in a row, CPS Principal Dina Everage led her staff, volunteers, parents, elected officials and "special guests" on a spirited march through her school community Friday morning with one goal: get excited and united for a great school year beginning on Monday!

Everage's team and her students from Daniel S. Wentworth Elementary School have moved into the former home of John P. Altgeld school a few blocks away in the West Englewood neighborhood. A few blocks can make a world of difference in the daily trek to and from school in an area where gangs and garbage are commonplace. The people who live on the streets along the way can help clear the way for a more pleasant commute, allowing children to, as the mayor put it this week, "focus on their studies, not their safety".

Trying to put the turmoil of the school actions process behind them, Principal Everage has been hosting events for students and parents from the merged schools all summer long. They ran into a few people who were still upset over losing the Altgeld name - they fondly recalled their own experiences at the neighborhood school. But all seemed genuinely impressed with the outreach effort.

Having aldermen from both wards on the march proved a stroke of genius - as Roderick Sawyer and LaTasha Thomas each reached for their cell phones several times to call on city services to clean up a vacant lot, hurry up some on-going street repairs, check the status of tear-down orders for a pair of unsecured abandoned buildings - it was the city that works while walking!

A corner store owner was asked if he might consider not selling junk food to the youngsters hoping to snag a bag of empty calories before class. Ahmed was at first overwhelmed by the crowd (and cameras) in front of his bullet-proof counter, but he recovered and promised to report any negative loitering on his corner.

The focus was on making connections with the people Everage hopes will be her partners in a mission to provide an excellent learning environment for the nearly 800 students that arrive Monday.

"I need you to be my eyes and ears, you sitting on your porch when my babies pass by is what will keep them safe ... You are here when I'm not, when the school is closed you can call police if people are hanging out and leaving bottles on the ground, or spray painting our walls," Everage told residents.

Most seemed surprised by the visit - 40 people in front of your home at 11 in the morning is a bit startling! There were a few cases where people seemed to be home, but not answering the door, and a few youngsters who told us they couldn't open up for strangers. The hope is that they won't be strangers for long, as the Wentworth staff chanted in pep rally style at the end of the walk: "one team, one goal, no limits!"

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