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'Education Weekend' will aim to inform and inspire

Alan Petersime

A coalition of Indianapolis community groups next month will host the city’s first Education Weekend, an event focused on inspiring students to attend college or explore careers and enliven support for public education.

Organizers, led by the Central Indiana Education Alliance, hope it will become an annual event. The wide-ranging activities planned for May 16 to 18 will involved churches, retail businesses, universities, libraries and others in an effort to spark conversations about education, introduce learning opportunities to the community and encourage students to dream big.

Part of the purpose of the event is public relations: spreading some good news about public education in the city. New Superintendent Lewis Ferebee, who did not attend the press conference, has said several times since coming on board last fall that the district needs to do a better job of telling its success stories to try to counteract stories about the districts academic struggles and other troubles.

The Central Indiana Education Alliance, formerly known as the Talent Alliance, is a coalition of Indianapolis-area leaders in business, government, education and non-profits aimed at producing a more educated workforce.

“We have to constantly raise awareness of educational opportunity,” said IUPUI Chancellor Charles Bantz, speaking for a group of community leaders who held a press conference today.

Bantz and other organizers said many in Indianapolis are unaware that a significant number of college freshman are first in their families to go beyond high school. Indianapolis children need to know that they have the opportunity to go to college or enter careers they might not even know exist, they said, and some need a road map for how to make it there.

“Those who have educated parents and grandparents, without a thought, attend college,” said Jamal Smith, executive director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission and an event co-chair. “The reverse tends to be true, too.”

Education Weekend has four major components:

  • A panel discussion on equity, quality and success in education. Pegged to the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision integrating schools, panelists will include Rabbi Brett Krichiver and Karega Rausch of The Equity Project at Indiana University. It will be held May 16 at 10 a.m. at Marian University. Organizers also are aiming for 150 “touch points,” such as sermons, conversations or other education-related activities, at churches, mosques and synagogues across the city during the weekend.
  • The Education Weekend Equity Awards for community leaders who have impacted education. The new awards are sponsored by the Indianapolis Rotary Club and will be presented by the Central Indiana Education Alliance to winners who are “unsung heroes” in education, outstanding school administrators, top teachers or standout students. The awards will be held on May 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Children’s Museum.
  • An exhibition of science, technology, engineering, art and math activities for children and adults at the Fashion Mall at Keystone. On May 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. presentations and activities in robotics, chemistry, crafts, computer touch screen painting, music, art and dance will be on display. In addition, information will be offered on credit recovery programs, college scholarships and career exploration.
  • A special presentation of the film “Remember the Titans.” To be held May 18 at 2 p.m. at the central branch of the Indianapolis Public Library, the movie showing will be accompanied by a chance to meet the players from Arsenal Tech High School’s state champion basketball team and learn about book recommendations for kids.

Smith, himself an Arsenal Tech coach, said the team’s experience is a good example for the community of a success story that could inspire children across the city.

While turning around its basketball performance from a losing record and small crowds to a state title before a packed house last month at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Smith said Arsenal’s players underwent personal transformations that were an even better story.

The team has a combined grade point average of about 3.0, Smith said. Beyond basketball and schoolwork, the players also got active in community service. They chose a cause each year. This year it was fighting cancer, so they visited hospitals to try to lift the spirits of cancer patients. In addition, he said, the team read to children, cleaned up the neighborhood and generated a new community spirit with their outstanding play.

It’s the sort of story Smith said he hoped the Education Weekend would spread because people in the city, and other young students pondering their futures, should hear them.

“There was an underlying story in all the positive things those young men do off the court,” he said. “Find me a college team that does that much off the court. Not very many people know about these stories.”

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