The second annual District 161 Back to School Meet and Greet on Friday evening marked the end of summer vacation with a family event and outdoor movie.
When Max Cichon, 15, was handed a bundle of chalk by 4-year-old Zachary Humm at the second annual Back to School Meet and Greet, he used the opportunity to pitch the perks of Boy Scouts.
“I was telling him how you pretty much get to play a bunch of games with your friends and actually get to do fun stuff,” Cichon said.
The Meet and Greet was followed by a Movies In Our Parks screening of “A Wrinkle In Time” and marked the last Friday of summer vacation for Flossmoor School District 161 students. Classes are set to resume Thursday, Aug. 23.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 342 were in attendance selling concessions for the movie, but they also took the time to socialize and talk with younger boys about joining their organization, said Cichon, a sophomore at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
He also had a bit of advice for older students.
“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” he said. “One of the most important things is to balance things so you can do well and have fun, so that way it’ll be a good school year.”
Zachary, who attends the Living Springs Community Church preschool, was all smiles as he went around offering chalk to parents and students for the upcoming “Chalk the Walk.”
The chalk, donated by Meijer, will be used to write encouraging messages around the community for students to see before their first day of school.
Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun also handed out chalk during the Meet and Greet. He said combining the Meet and Greet with Movies in Our Parks gets more families to come out and start the school year on a positive note.
“We’re all rooting for our students to have an excellent school year, and we look forward to the school events that will be coming up for our students and parents,” Braun said.
District 161 Superintendent Dana Smith, who handed out Italian ice pops, said he hopes the event will continue to expand. Organizers brought 700 ice pops this year after giving out 500 last year, he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to connect with the community and just have a little bit of fun before school starts,” he said.
Smith said last year’s Meet and Greet was a “very warm welcome” to his first year as superintendent.
“Now I can see those same parents and build a relationship,” he said. “We can talk. If they have a concern, they can call me because we have a connection.”
David Thielen, a third-grade teacher at Western Avenue School, said the Meet and Greet was a good chance to say hello to his students and get them “pumped up” for the school year.
“It’s fun seeing students I’ve had in previous years and also getting to meet the upcoming students in my classroom,” Thielen said. “I think I’m most excited just to really jump in and get to know my students on a more personal level.”
Vivian Dixon, 10, a fifth grader at Western Avenue, said her family is preparing to move across the country, so she came to the Meet and Greet to spend time with friends.
“My friends are practically family to me, and I just enjoy being around them,” she said.
While talking excitedly about how much she loves to see her friends, Vivian was approached and hugged by one of them who asked her to come over later that evening.
Christina Vlietstra, senior chairwoman for the Serena Hills PTO, helped to raffle off gift baskets to raise money for student activities. Five PTOs from around the district were represented at the Meet and Greet, she said.
“Despite the weather we had a good turnout,” Vliestra said, referring to the light showers that eventually died down. “I think it shows the community support for all the schools in the district, and I think (the event) will get bigger and bigger and grow from here on out.”