Asking most people about their favorite back-to-school memories draws fond memories of back to school shopping and school supplies. During a recent community giving day at a local corporation, I asked one employee about his favorite back-to-school memory. He laughed, and shared that he enjoyed getting new school supplies. Filling a pencil box with colorful crayons, markers, and pens was a source of childhood pride. Sadly, many students in Chicago’s public schools may not have those fond memories.

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In Chicago, 86 percent of public school students live in low-income households. Nearly a quarter of our students live in temporary living situations or are homeless. Meanwhile, nationwide, the cost of school supplies is rising: The latest “backpack index” reports that families with more than one child in elementary or high school could spend as much as $3,000 on school supplies and activity fees. Since Huntington Bank began the backpack index in 2007, the cost of supplies and extracurricular activities has increased 85 percent for elementary school students, 78 percent for middle school students and 57 percent for high school students.

It’s likely, as schools open across our metro area, you’ll be asked to donate to a school supply drive at your job, place of worship or even your local retailer. I want to encourage you to give. My organization has benefited from, and held, a few supply drives over the years, and we know the self-esteem boost kids get when they start the school year with a well-stocked backpack. Once you’ve donated supplies, think about donating an experience to students, too. Connect with a school to share your talent for music, art, sports or gardening. Fond memories start with school supply drives, but there is room to support students year around.

Taymah Jones,
Senior Schools Partnership

Lower the tolls

Rates were raised on the toll road, and because the rates are so high, the truckers are finding other routes to bypass the toll road. That means very much less revenue, and our streets are now congested.

Lower the rates, and get the trucks off our streets.

Daniel Serritella, Palos Park

True Justice

As executive director of Aid for Women, a network of pregnancy help centers founded on the faith and teachings of the Catholic Church, I was shocked and saddened when I saw the full-page ad in today’s paper, “Abortion in Good Faith,” from a group claiming that public funding of abortions is a social justice obligation.

Aid for Women does not accept public money, yet we offer a full range of assistance to pregnant women including compassionate counseling, pregnancy tests and ultrasound exams, medical and community referrals, education and support groups, and residential programs, all provided free of charge. With our help, women can continue their pregnancies and create a better future for themselves and their babies rather than turning to abortion.

The recently canonized Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what they want. She firmly proclaimed that the greatest destroyer of world peace is abortion. Abortion is not social justice but violence toward the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society, and Catholics for Choice wants to use our tax dollars to pay for it.

Aid for Women works with thousands of pregnant women each year, and we see firsthand that women are feeling alone and are victims of their circumstances – that is the real injustice. True justice is giving women the emotional and material resources they need to carry a child to term, and either parent or make an adoption plan. It is neither Catholic nor moral to advocate abortion.

Susan Barrett, executive director,
Aid for Women

Make the city safe

Why should the CHA now be responsible for not just making sure the people with vouchers live in homes that are structurally safe but also in safe neighborhoods? Are any neighborhoods in Chicago safe? I know just from reading the newspaper and watching newscasts where crime is committed in Chicago, so why should the CHA have to take on that responsibility? Here is another case of “dumbing down” the public by not making them responsible for checking out a neighborhood before moving into it.

Anyone buying or renting a home should make that their responsibility and not expect others to do it for them. Instead of constantly spending millions of dollars on new construction of tourist attractions, perhaps it’s time for the City of Chicago to make it safe first. No matter how great the city looks, it will mean nothing to tourism if people are not safe there. You can build the most beautiful city in the world but people will stop coming if it’s not safe.

And why shouldn’t the citizens who live there be able to enjoy their neighborhoods without worrying about being shot? What is happening in Chicago is shameful and the mayor needs to make the city safe before he builds any more attractions.

Janet Lumm, Schaumburg