LCC Back-to-School Bash

Jan 7, 2022 | C5

There is a very distinct anxiety that bubbles up at the start of every new school year. With the world as we know it shifting to accommodate living during a pandemic, the worry has undoubtedly magnified. From the uncertainty of being in-person, the struggles that come with remote learning, and navigation of safety plans — a lot is going on for school-aged children. Yet even with all of these new and sometimes downright daunting obstacles, there is something that hasn’t changed: the comfort of having a community surrounding you. A community that is cheering you on and supporting you through it all.

When the Latino Community Center put on their first Back to School Bash, they had no idea how big it would grow. How important it would become to the children and families they serve. They had the hopes, the dreams, and the determination to make it happen. This year I had the absolute pleasure to be part of this event. To witness the hard work and vision come to fruition. Hosted at the Pittsburgh Pirates stadium, on a sunny and slightly cloudy Saturday, I got to see kids excited for school. Bouncing on their toes as they pick out a book to bring home. Thinking long and hard as they make the momentous decision of which color and type of backpack they want. Of the affirmation of community partners coming out to hold them up and encourage them. It was heart-warming to see these organizations come together for the kids and their families.

I had the chance to speak with handfuls of families as an interpreter for Community College of Allegheny County and as I walked around. Their emotions were practically tangible. The chatter was deafening at times but never overwhelming. It was the physical manifestation of the wonder, enthusiasm, and joy that participating in the bash brought out of the participants. If I can be honest, it was just what I needed.

The work that I do at LCC supporting families applying for SNAP can be taxing, and it can be hard to stay positive when constantly confronted with how the United States builds its support infrastructure in inaccessible ways. The Back to School Bash was a tender reminder of why I do the work that I do. It also helped soothe some of the aches that come along with the job. There’s nothing quite like seeing the unabashed delight in children. From their bright smiles to the screams and squeals, it’s hard not to believe that the bash is as much for them as it is for my coworkers and me at LCC.

As the event winded down, I found myself standing around in quiet awe. That this organization of fewer than forty people pulled it off — not that I had any doubts. It’s just always electrifying to see real-life examples of what we’re capable of when we come together. That it really only takes a few people willing to pull up their sleeves and do the work to make things happen.


Written by Ehryn Ortega