|Peter Yarrow greets Diane. (photo courtesy HEAR US Inc.)|
Diane Nilan, president of HEAR US Inc., the national nonprofit sponsoring the May 8 event, describes the importance of that law, “The one sentiment emphatically echoed over the past twenty years: ‘I am so glad I (my children) can go to school.’ For homeless students, that universal experience is not to be taken for granted.” Passage of the law was the result of a courageous mother from Aurora who fought when her three children were denied school because of homelessness. A small group of activists 20 years ago successfully led Illinois to be first state to guarantee educational rights to homeless students. The law has been expanded on a federal level, applying to all public schools.
“How did you get Peter Yarrow to agree to come?” is a question Nilan hears often. This lifetime Peter, Paul and Mary devotee, has met Yarrow on a number of occasions. “I suspected that few beyond our circle would grasp the importance of the milestone of millions of homeless kids being able to attend school,” she observed. “So I asked and he agreed.” His presence is the spark needed to highlight the issue of soaring poverty and homelessness among families and youth.
Using the image of Charlie, a small homeless boy whose iconic image was captured by photojournalist Pat Van Doren, the group lobbied to remove common barriers experienced by homeless students. The bill passed in May 1994 and became the model for national legislation.
The latest U.S. Department of Education data illustrates the drastic increase in homelessness identified in public schools. A record 1.2 million students were identified as homeless, a 72% increase since 2007. That doesn’t include babies, toddlers, teens not attending school, or parents.
The May 8 event will be a combination songfest and inspiration for attendees. Organizers will pay tribute to those who have steadfastly upheld rights for homeless students to attend school. And they will issue the challenge to increase advocacy efforts on behalf of homeless families and youth, many of whom are not considered “homeless enough” to merit assistance, Nilan said.
The public is invited to attend the gathering which begins at 6:30 with substantial hors d’ oeuvres by noted area chefs Francois and Betsy Sanchez. Suggested donation is $10, proceeds will benefit HEAR US Inc. More information, http://hearus.us.
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