July 26, 2022

What’s New with the 2022 Beyond the Backpack Event?

As Kalamazoo students prepare to start the 2022/2023 school year, they once again have a community of support ready to launch them into a successful year of learning.

On Saturday, August 13th, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Beyond the Backpack School Readiness Fair will take place at Bronson Park. The fair, now in its fourth year, is hosted by Collaboration Kalamazoo and is designed to increase school readiness for students. Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids sat down with one of the organizers, CIS Senior Director of Community Engagement & Student Investment Artrella Cohn, to learn more about this year’s event.

What organizations make up Collaboration Kalamazoo?

Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E., Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Read and Write Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, YMCA, and The Kalamazoo Promise.

The Collaboration Kalamazoo team members (left to right) Jennifer Shea of The YMCA, TaKarra Dunning of Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E., Kandace Lavender of Read and Write Kalamazoo, Alexia Jones of The Kalamazoo Promise, Artrella Cohn of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, and Nkenge Bergan of Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

To help us pull off this event, we have many volunteers coming out who are affiliated with a number of different places, like the Kalamazoo Defender’s office, Chase Bank, the KVCC baseball team, among others.

Who is this event aimed at? Who is welcome?

It’s open to any Kalamazoo students in grades K-12, recent college graduates, and their families.

What elements of this event have you retained from year’s prior?

We want to continue to provide access to some key, in-person services and service organizations that support students in a variety of ways. So a therapist will be on hand and available to do pre-screening and help set up for counseling in the fall. Smile Savers will be offering dental hygiene service. America’s Best is doing vision screening and Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes will be providing food packs. In addition, we will have 40 other providers on hand ranging from literacy support to health services and promote a college going culture.

Also, Kalamazoo youth, DJ Boogie, will be back by popular demand.

Can those attending expect anything new or different?

Several things! With KVCC coming on board as a new collaborator, we’re able to put even greater emphasis on promoting a college-going culture. While that’s always been important to us, this year we have an even greater focus on it.

We’ll also have a 360 Photo Booth this year. That’s a lot of fun!

We’ve also expanded our sponsorships this year. Our goal was to raise $8,000 and we’ve raised over $10,000 already. Our sponsors this year are Bible Baptist Church Kalamazoo, Bronson Healthcare, DeNooyer Chevrolet and West Michigan Chevy Dealers, Gryphon Place, Honor Credit Union, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Leadership Kalamazoo, Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT), and the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo.

Will there be any refreshments at this year’s event?

Yes! The KVCC Food Innovation Center will be preparing boxed lunches for the 1,500 guests that are anticipated to attend.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,