Education

Orchard Ridge breaks down barriers with family dinner, resource fair

30+ organizations offer resources for families

MADISON, Wis - Orchard Ridge Elementary School families spent their Friday night back at school enjoying a family meal and learning about different resources offered in the community.

It’s the second year the school hosted its family dinner, but the first time for the resource fair.

“It gives parents a wide variety of different organizations to be able to talk to, be able to make those connections and also let them know what’s going on and what is available in our community to them,” said Ebony McKinley, the school’s family liaison. “A lot of times, parents aren’t aware as to how many resources are available for them.”

Principal Becky Kundert said of the 300 students at Orchard Ridge, about 70 percent need help making ends meet.

“We are unapologetic about making sure that we are actually meeting the needs of all of our students,” Kundert said. 

A recent study found Wisconsin has the largest gap between the well-being of white and African-American children in the nation. The report showed 64 percent of African-American students graduate from high school on time in Wisconsin, compared to 93 percent of white non-Hispanic students. Only 78 percent of Hispanic and American Indian students graduate on time, the study showed.

“Our African-American students in particular are called out for Orchard Ridge to focus on, as well as our English-language learners. So thinking about making sure those resources that are here tonight are serving our population that has been disenfranchised the most is really one of our outcomes from this event,” Kundert said.

There were about 30 community groups represented at the resource fair, ranging from Girl Scouts to Magic Soccer.

“You have to build and support right in the community, right in your own neighborhoods,” said Patti Bishop, a United Way resource specialist.

Parents said the event helps make the school community feel more like family.

“It’s a great way to engage and get to know the other families and meet them,” parent Matt Tucker said. “A much better opportunity for us to intermingle because sometimes there isn’t a great way for us to get to know each other.”

Orchard Ridge has three more family dinners planned this school year. Officials said, depending on the feedback from the resource fair, they’re hoping to host it at least once or twice every year.


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