Metro-East Living

Racial Harmony calls for community wellness through cooperative action and conversation

All 36 students will be recognized at Racial Harmony's annual gathering, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, at the First United Presbyterian Church, located at 1303 Royal Heights Road in Belleville.
All 36 students will be recognized at Racial Harmony's annual gathering, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, at the First United Presbyterian Church, located at 1303 Royal Heights Road in Belleville. Provided

Gratitude, a Goal and a Mission

On August 8th, the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce sponsored a “Back to School Fun Fair,” sometimes called “Book Bag Day.” Parents of participating schools had the opportunity to learn of products and services available in the community while receiving back to school supplies and a book bag.

Participating schools were: BASSC Elementary, Belleville School District 118, Belle Valley School District 119, Governor French Academy, Harmony-Emge School District 175, High Mount Elementary School District 116, Illinois Center for Autism, Menta Academy, Signal Hill School District 181, Whiteside School District 115, Zion Lutheran Grade School and all Catholic Grade Schools — Blessed Sacrament, Notre Dame Academy, Sister Thea Bowman, St. Teresa and Queen of Peace.

The event was hosted at Belleville West High School. The Belleville Fire Department, and the Belleville Police Department participated. Each of the participating schools had representatives present to welcome the students back to a new school year and answer questions from both parents and students. As an added bonus Dental Safari provided assistance with the dental health of those children attending. What a wonderful way for the community to show its support for education.

Gratitude

To all those individuals, businesses, organizations, teachers, administrators, dentists, hygienists, school employees and public officials who helped make this event a success let me extend the deep and sincere gratitude and a thank you on behalf of the entire community. We all benefit when we work together to improve the educational wellness of our community.

A goal

Education can lead to a new life; education provides a pathway to success; it provides hope and the tools to overcome disparate economic circumstances. Sometimes we forget all the extended benefits a community gains from quality education. The cooperation and collaboration of the community is vital. There are a number of needs in our community, in our homes and in our schools where the community has the opportunity to contribute and enhance the prospects for the success of our schools. There are many religious, charitable and community service organizations who provide services and assistance to those in need. However, there are differing opinions as to which of these needs are the greatest.

The Belleville Community Development Network Inclusion Committee, School District 118 and The Center for Racial Harmony, in furtherance of the initiative on community wellness, used the Back to School Fun Fair to solicit from the parents of students which needs were most important to them. A survey was offered to parents. It was not intended to meet the rigorous requirements of a truly scientific study. The goal was to allow those who experience first-hand their family’s needs to provide some anecdotal responses to help to develop or enhance the programs most needed and to better allocate the community’s volunteer resources.

According to the responses, the greatest request for assistance involved having summer camps and summer tutoring available to students. The other most frequent requests involved: a mentor for their child, after-school tutoring and assistance on how to help children with homework. Parents also expressed a desire for suggestions, advice and assistance in academically motivating their child.

The solution is not solely dependent upon the administrative response and its internal capacity of schools to meet the needs expressed. Instead it depends, in large part, on the emotional response and commitment of the families involved and the community at large. The overarching impact of education on the wellness of the community is critical and makes it the collaborative responsibility of the business community, the religious community, the health service community, community service organizations and the agencies of federal, state and local authorities. The inclusion, improved coordination and collaboration of these entities greatly expands the volunteer pool, the resources available and the prospects for an efficient and effective response.

A mission

Just imagine a community: Where the most prevalent publicly-used pronoun is “we” or its objective case, “us.”

Where the question is not, “What can I get?” bur rather, “What can I do?” or, “We can do that?”

Where public dialogue and debate is conducted with respect and with a goal of reaching the best solution and plan.

With a future plan that incorporates the following: comprehensive, engaging, inclusive, complementary, cooperative, cohesive, compassionate, innovative, inter-generational, efficient, and inter-disciplinary, sustainable.

When these are present it becomes easier to envision a community of active, trained volunteers whose talents have been identified, inventoried, delegated, and used with efficiency by coordinating the outreach programs of our churches, service organizations, civic organizations, schools, and hospitals in a truly collaborative effort — service which would supplement and complement those provided by our schools in a coordinated and cohesive manner — the ripple effect of citizens who care unconditionally for one another.

Is it not time to make community wellness the responsibility of all of us?

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