By Kristin Boza
Kids’ lives revolve around whatever is going on at their school. Knowing that schools bring together communities, Sutherland Elementary School principal Meg Burns sought and earned a grant worth $120,000 annually for five years through the Community Schools Initiative (CSI).
CSI is comprised of corporate and philanthropic leaders who support school-community partnerships via Chicago Public Schools. These partnerships seek to develop relationships between public schools and third-party groups dedicated to youth, art, and social service to strengthen neighborhoods.
At Sutherland, the grant is being used to fund an assortment of after school programming with the goal of serving the children and families within its attendance area.
“The grant gives us a lot of latitude to reestablish relationships with community entities such as the Beverly Arts Center,” Burns said. The BAC is bringing in teaching artists to work with Sutherland students in after school programs. Burns is especially looking forward to bringing back a theater program to Sutherland, culminating in a spring play production.
The grant also supports the resurrection of the Sutherland choir, as well as 40 additional programs including tutoring, chess club, scrapbooking club, dance classes, creative drama classes, art classes and coding classes.
“There’s really something for every child,” Burns said. Of the 600 students currently enrolled at Sutherland, 300 of them are participating in after school programs (excluding sports) that run Monday through Friday.
“The grant also enables us to employ a resource coordinator who is in charge of maintaining our relationships within the community,” Burns said. “The resource coordinator looks at ways our students can tap into local events or service opportunities, as well as working closely with BAPA, business organizations, and local businesses to bring resources into the school.”
Burns firmly believes that the school is not just a building; rather, it is the heart of the community. “When a child is looking forward to dancing with their classmates after school or engaging in a chess tournament or programming a drone, they’re excited to get through the school day and have fun after class,” she said. “The programs also provide opportunities for our teachers to really develop some meaningful bonds with our students. The school is an alive and exciting place that is enriches our students and community.”