Children’s Day: Summer of Safety encourages STEM participation

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

There was plenty of multi-flavored lemonade pouring. Second Harvest handed out packages of food, while a DJ blared music in the background.

That was part of the scene during a Children’s Day: Summer of Safety celebration that was a little different in a parking lot on the southwest side of TCC campus. For most of the two-hour event families participated in a drive-through styled event in an effort to follow social distance requirement in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Saturday morning event was part of a nationwide celebration, said organizer Alex Jordan.

Although the children were encouraged to remain in the cars, Jordan hoped that they got the underlying message about pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math classes.

Organizer Alex Jordan gives some instructions to the Urban Air mascot just before the start of Children’s Day: Summer of Safety event in a parking lot at TCC on Saturday.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

“We don’t want to wait until they are in high school and then start learning more about STEM-based initiative,” Jordan said, pointing to some of the vendors to make his case for STEM careers.

Vendors included law enforcement, the Tallahassee Fire Department and a few non-profit organizations.

Jordan took the idea to the City Commission two years ago for funding. Supporting it was a no-brainer, said Commissioner Curtis Richardson.

“The city certainly wanted to be a part of this to show our support, especially for our young people to get them in STEM education and STEM careers,” said Richardson, who not too long ago was STEM coordinator for the Gadsden County School district. 

“We’ve found that few African Americans are entering the STEM field so we wanted to peak their interest as early as kindergarten and show them what these STEM fields are all about; how they can get involved and eventually turn that into a career,” Richardson said. “There are lots of jobs in those areas if that’s what they want to pursue.”

While cars drove by the vendors throughout the morning, two mascots from TCC and Urban Air provided some amusement. Tallahassee Bicycle House was there to promote its free bicycles program.

Cassie McGlynn, one of the owners of the non-profit, said they were using the occasion to promote bike safety. 

Not far from McGlynn, a crew from Second Harvest handed out packages of food to every car that came through the line. They had 116 boxes of food on hand, said Shannon Piotrowski, director of programs for Second Harvest.

They gave as many as three packages to some families in an effort to feed children who otherwise might not have food for the summer.

“It’s so hard for kids to get food during the summer, but especially hard during the pandemic,” said Piotrowski. “They’ve been stuck at home so it’s nice to have this drive-through event so they don’t have to get out of their cars.”

Near the end of the line, the Omega Lamplighters were set up among the lemonade vendors. Some gave away their drinks while others like the Lamplighters used the event as a fund-raiser.

The money they raised will help to run the organization’s annual summer camp, said assistant director Antareo Johnson. He added that the group considered foregoing its summer program but decided it was too important to skip even in the time of a pandemic.

 CDC guidelines will be enforced during the summer program, he said.

 Johnson said Saturday’s event was an ideal prelude to the summer program, especially because safety was part of the theme.

“This event is very significant and I thank God that they continue to do it because at this point everybody is in the house quarantining,” he said. “I’m thankful they decided to do it this year. We need it right now, especially with everything that’s going on.”