A new program presented by the South-Western City School District will offer families an opportunity to enjoy food, entertainment and door prizes with a purpose.

But the Family-School-Community Connect event will offer something more important -- forum for district families to learn about resources and information available in both the schools and community.

"It's a program designed to empower the families in our district," said Brad Faust, South-Western's assistant superintendent for curriculum.

"We want them to know where they can go to get the assistance they might need, not just regarding their child's education, but a host of issues that may be affecting their family."

The event will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 20 at the South-Western Career Academy, 4750 Big Run South Road.

Representatives from at least 25 central Ohio agencies and South-Western departments will be available to answer questions and give information about the services they provide, said Sandy Nekoloff, the district's executive director of communications.

"It's similar to the resource fair that was held (last April) at Holt Crossing Intermediate School," she said. "But where that was designed for that specific school building, this event is designed for all families with children at all grade levels throughout our district."

"Family-School-Community Connect is an expansion of that initial effort," Faust said.

Families will be able to find out about resource relating to such topics as health and wellness, education, technology and financial assistance, he said.

It's not uncommon for families to reach out to their local school with questions about the resources available to them, whether the issue is directly school-related or not, Faust said.

"We thought this would be a good way to offer that information to as many parents and families as we can," he said.

The event has been designed to be fun as well as informative, Nekoloff said.

The Central Crossing Marching Band will perform at 5:30 p.m., welcoming families as they arrive, she said.

Following opening remarks by Superintendent Bill Wise at 5:45 p.m., the evening will include performances by A Spark of Class, the Jackson Middle School show choir; The Core, a barbershop quartet; and the Westland High School cheerleaders.

Raffles will be held throughout the evening.

"The way you enter a raffle will be the same as at the Holt Crossing event -- by presenting an entry ticket they'll get each time they visit one of informational tables to talk with a different organization or agency," Nekoloff said.

The evening will also include the soft opening of the Academy Grill, the revamped cafe operated by students enrolled in the career academy's culinary arts program, Faust said.

Guests will receive a food voucher good for a free hot dog, homemade chips and a cookie prepared by the culinary arts students and a bottle of water, he said.

Students from other career academy programs will participate during the evening, with hand massages being provided by cosmetology students, Faust said. Students in the automotive program will offer signups for future automotive work.

"In the library, we'll have athletes from Franklin Heights High School reading to children, plus every child will receive a book," Nekoloff said.

The Family-School-Community Connect event could become an annual event, Faust said.

"From the feedback we've received so far, we're expecting a lot of families will attend," he said.

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