-- G. K. Chesterton
Backpacks. . . . pencils. . . . spiral notebooks. . . . rulers. . . . . highlighters :
Did you see them piling up at the back of the cathedral the last few weekends?
But there is more!
In the cathedral neighborhood, Heartside Health Center, a community benefit of Mercy Health (http://www.mercyhealthsaintmarys.com/heartside) offered a Back-to-School Bash this past Saturday, August 22. People parked in the Diocese parking ramp, then walked across the street to tour the Heartside clinic facilities and learn about their services. They picked up a backpack full of back to school necessities and were also able to learn about Network 180, the Grand Rapids Library, the Rapid bus services, free legal services offered by Cooley Law School, and the services of about 20 other agencies. Some lucky kids won bicycles in the raffle, and everyone could have free hot dogs! Hundreds of people came out for the event. Our parish, our diocese, our Catholic Charities, and our Catholic Mercy Health ministry have all got the back to school bug going.
But there is more!
If you would like to get involved in faith-based advocacy to make our schools better places, and to put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School-to-prison_pipeline) you can investigate the Micah Center’s (http://www.themicahcenter.org/) education advocacy group. “The Micah Center exists to educate people about the biblical call to do justice and how they can respond to that call in their local community.” Their education advocacy group works to “build state-wide support for redirecting funds currently being spent on incarcerating people to equip public schools to fully address the needs of students with learning disabilities” (Quotes are taken from the Micah Center website.). They hold their first meeting of the season on September 1, 7pm, at Hope Church on the corner of Burton and Kalamazoo.
But there is more!
You can learn about the Catholic Schools in our diocese at CatholicSchools4U.org. Learn about the increased scholarships our diocese is offering or how you might volunteer.
You can learn about the Schools of Hope Reading Program and how you can volunteer in our local public schools at http://www.hwmuw.org/soh , or just Google “volunteer tutoring programs in West Michigan” and see what you discover.
One more note of hope: I do not know that I agree with presidential candidate Ben Carson’s political stances. To be honest, I have not really looked into them at all. What I do know is that Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who was first to separate Siamese twins joined at the brain, would have been a prime candidate for the School-to-Prison pipeline if he were in school today. Born in Detroit, raised from age 8 by a single mom, and prone to anger outbursts (including attacking a friend with a knife one time), he could easily have fallen into that “pipeline”. His mother insisted on extra book reports from he and his brother, though she did not know how to read, and she made every effort to make sure they stayed in school. Somehow, Ben Carson beat the odds and did stay in school, to become a neurosurgeon and now a presidential candidate. Again, this is not about his politics; this is about the kids out there with the same kind of potential that an angry, city kid named Ben Carson had.
Providing backpacks or tutoring, providing for scholarships to Catholic schools or working to advocate for changes to the educational system, working with the kids you know to encourage learning or to just finish their homework, praying for educators and students: Is God calling you to give that kind of hope?
Closing Prayer from the Catholic Relief Services website:
Loving God, we thank you for the gift of an education. We ask you to bless children around the world you want to go to school. Help them and their communities find opportunities to receive an education so that they have a better future. And help us be part of their journey out of poverty as members of the global community. (education.crs.org/prayers/)