Senior staff writer
Seventeen years ago, Perry Township educator Sheryl Wise sought to unite the Near Eastside and Perry Township through a back-in-school carnival as a result of the desegregation process.
Some students from the Brightwood, Martindale and Forrest Manor communities would be encompassed by Perry Township Schools to better their education. About the same time the tragic shooting of students took place at Columbine High School in Colorado.
At that time, Wise was at the Perry Alternative Education Center. As an educator and concerned citizen she already had witnessed what happens when school children are forsaken. She sought to pull together many segments of society so families and children would have opportunities to improve their lives.
The carnival was created through the support of Perry Township educators and many community partners, including Indianapolis Public Schools, law enforcement agencies, the Marion County Health Department, Boys and Girls Clubs, Indy Parks and Radio One.
The 17th annual celebration will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. at IPS Julian Coleman School, 1740 E. 30th St. The gala features marching bands, community organizations, demonstrations, booths, special services and exhibitions.
Activities include arts and crafts, haircuts, clothing, shoe and backpack give-aways, free food, interactive games and health screenings. Students must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Wise, who is at Winchester Village Elementary, emphasizes that the festival is based upon “information, education, prevention and intervention.”
“We need to come together as a village to raise the children of today,” she said. “The Back-in-School celebration is a party with a purpose, a partnership with a plan.”
Many special guests and politicians have appeared at the event.
The carnival drew 3,000 people in its inaugural year and has grown to attract 15,000 in a joint effort to encourage parental involvement in their children’s education while emphasizing the importance of remaining in school.