A local chapter of a historic Black sorority has teamed up with the city’s public school district to make sure kids who come to class on Saturdays don’t go home hungry.
That’s thanks to the Theta Epsilon Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.‘s (AKA) new partnership with the New Haven Public Schools (NHPS).
The initiative, known as the Childhood Hunger Initiative Power Pack (CHIPP), is set to officially start distributing breakfast meals to Wexler Grant School’s Saturday Academy students every weekend to support families in providing youth with nutritious meals over weekends and holidays.
The AKA initiative is international and is one of many key areas of focus for the sorority over the next four years.
“We know that a child that is hungry cannot learn at their optimum level,” said chapter president Adrienne Parkmond, who stepped into the new role this January.
Parkmond added that the initiative aims to get the youth in the habit of eating nutritious foods.
In collaboration with NHPS, the AKAs will curate meals each week using the district’s food vendors. Planning for the initiative began in September.
The sorority fundraised an opening $5,000 for the initiative though a “sip and shop” event where community and sorority members were able to buy shoes and gather for drinks together. Parkmond said the sorority will continue to fundraise in the community to support the initiative.
“We know how important it is for the oldest Black Greek letter that was founded on community to do our part,” Parkmond said. “Our life is not for us but to ensure the next generation is set up for success.”
A team of 25 Theta Epsilon members, including support from Xi Omicron Chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, joined for a CHIPP kick off celebration with Wexler’s Saturday Academy students this past Saturday.
Theta Epsilon has partnered closely with Wexler Grant for decades for a large part of its community service projects and supports.
Saturday’s celebration began with students filing into the school’s auditorium an hour before dismissal from the district’s weekend academic support program.
Elementary students sat at the front of the auditorium while the middle school students sat towards the back corner of the room.
Wexler school speech pathologist teacher Sondi Jackson, who is also an AKA member, was Satuday’s emcee.
Jackson began the celebration asking the students what they learned during their recent Saturday instruction. Elementary students shared responses ranging from being grateful and loving everyone even the people that treat you bad to always being yourself.
Jackson told to students that the sorority has a lifelong goal of helping to strengthen and support New Haven families.
Following Jackson’s introduction, two Yale University first-year students sang “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. Students cheered and clapped along during the performance.
Next, Jackson explained that starting Saturday, May 6, the sorority would distribute take-home meals to each of the Saturday Academy’s estimated 70 youth. The initiative will run until the end of the school year.
Students are being asked to bring in their assigned green tote bag each week to bring home their meals.
Before concluding the celebration, Jackson hosted a raffle with the students. More than a dozen gifts, including coloring books and new book-bags, were given to the youth.
Students held tightly onto pink and green cards with numbers as Jackson called out the raffle winners.
During dismissal, sorority members gave the students one final gift, an AKA pink tote filled with sorority swag including a pencil and bracelet and a bag of chips and frisbee.
This past Saturday the Theta Epsilon Omega and Xi Omicron Chapters also volunteered at Wexler for Earth Day by cleaning up the school’s outdoor garden space, which recently dedicated to the late New Haven educators Wanda Gibbs and Jeffie Frazier.
The sorority members planted trees and flowers in honor of chapter members who recently passed, planted pink and green garden beds, planted vegetables and herbs, and pulled weeds from the space.
Jackson plans to lead another partnership between her school and sorority by tasking the school’s students with being the garden ambassadors who will monitor the space and lead in teaching other students about home gardens.