Summer will be an exciting time for Calvin King, creative director of Free Lunch Academy, the Chicago-based arts outreach program. Free Lunch Academy produces stage plays and other programs that are designed to both entertain and educate students and is dedicated to deterring violence, diminishing bullying and mentoring students through the use of performing arts.
Free Lunch Academy will be awarding some of Chicago’s greatest unsung heroes at their upcoming event “A Celebration of the Greatest Teacher,” coming up Thursday, May 21. The event will also serve as the kick off for the nonprofit’s Indiegogo fundraiser for the 2015-2016 school year.
Read what King had to say:
Tell us a little about your background
I founded Free Lunch Academy in October of 2012. I was seeking to provide students in Chicago with the necessary tools to safely mediate the occurrence of violence and bullying that is too often experienced in classrooms. I have over a decade of playwriting and educational entertainment experience and I’m passionate about promoting inclusive learning environments for all children through the use of artistic expression. I am also a husband and father of two.
What made you start Free Lunch Academy?
Growing up, my life was drastically changed for the better when my teachers challenged me to overcome bullying by accepting myself for who I was and celebrating others for doing the same. I started Free Lunch Academy in order to continue that message to Chicago students.
Where did the name come from?
Free Lunch Academy’s name resides in the fact that we aim to provide invaluable food for thought for students and schools. Couple that notion with the fact that the world is our classroom and you get; Free Lunch Academy. Besides, everyone loves a Free Lunch (Academy).
Why do you think the topic of bullying is important?
Bullying is a serious societal issue that is no respecter of age, race, gender, ethnicity nor social-economic status. In other words, bullying is a universal topic and affects us all. This negative epidemic, which is all too often written off as simply being a part of growing up has the potential to bring us all together to create an effective and lasting solution. Thus, bullying MUST be addressed in a proactive, preventative and collaborative manner and that’s exactly what Free Lunch Academy is doing.
What are some of the successes you’ve had in FLA?
To date, FLA has successfully partnered with over 30 Chicago Public and Charter Schools and has positively impacted the lives of over 12,000 students. Additionally, Free Lunch Academy was recently selected by CPS’s Community Schools Initiative to have their office sponsor twenty-five (25) anti-bullying stage performances at local elementary school communities to close out the current school year. This great news comes just months after CPS’s Family and Community Engagement Department sponsored a similar high school tour throughout the month of December 2014. All in all, Free Lunch Academy has been extremely successful levering their own relationships and resources to help creative inclusive learning environments for Chicago students. Now it would seem however, as if the city and more specifically CPS has taken notice of their effectiveness and are beginning to get behind Free Lunch Academy’s efforts. As this trend continues we can only image just how far reaching Free Lunch Academy’s performances, programs and services for students can and will undoubtedly go with the right strategic partnerships, sponsorships and outreach.
What is next for FLA?
Free Lunch Academy is currently embarking on a full fledged community based fundraising campaign via Indiegogo in which the goal is to raise a minimum of $15,000 to enable community schools in some of Chicago’s most high risk and low resourced neighborhoods to be able to experience the various programs and services Free Lunch Academy has to offer at the beginning on the 2015-16 school year at absolutely NO COST to the students or school communities. This efforts aims to prove that when it comes to eliminating threats of violence and bullying related behavior among our students and young people the citizens of Chicago (and beyond) have your back and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. This Indiegogo fundraising campaign begins Thursday, May 21, 2015 at “A Celebration of the Greatest Teacher” and runs until July 4 weekend. Please consider contributing to the cause to show your support for eliminating bullying among our children. Together, we can take back our classrooms.
A Celebration of the Greatest Teacher will take place Thursday, May 21:
75 East 16th St.
Chicago, Ill. 60616
Doors open at 5 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m.