Faith Power doesn’t like needles, but on May 18, she mustered the courage to face her fears and joined over 160 students at the Roosevelt Middle School gym to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The 12-year-old Power was the last member of her family to receive the shot.
“I wanted my mom to be proud of me,” said Faith Power, turning to her mother Donna Power, as they sat in a designated observation area inside the brightly lit gym. Moments before a nurse administered the shot, Faith, a Roosevelt sixth grader, placed her soccer ball on the floor and buried her face against her mother’s chest. Donna held onto Faith, wiping away her tears afterward.
When Donna first learned that Roosevelt was hosting a vaccination clinic for children between the ages of 12 and 15, she didn’t think twice about signing Faith up. Like many other parents and caregivers in the River Forest School District 90, Donna received an email with all the information. In just “two clicks,” she registered Faith for the May 18 clinic and filled out the consent forms.
“I’m very excited that the school put this opportunity out here for the kids,” said Donna, of River Forest. “It’s very important. … Having the school do this was really good, because otherwise I wasn’t sure how I was going to get her vaccinated.”
The vaccination clinic held at Roosevelt was part of an ongoing effort by D90 to offer resources to families during the coronavirus pandemic. In the past few months, the district has partnered with Jewel-Osco, 7525 Lake St. in River Forest, and the Village of River Forest to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to its staff and local seniors 65 and older. With the May 18 clinic, D90 also reached out to other schools in the area and invited children who were eligible for the vaccine.
A total of 162 children received the first dose of the two-shot Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the May 18 clinic, said Dawne Simmons, communications and community outreach coordinator. While a majority of the children – approximately 154, according to the district’s final count – registered ahead of the clinic, the district also welcomed eight walk-ins. Children are required to return June 8 to receive the final dose.
“I always believe that the schools are the hub of a community, and if there’s an institution in a community that could bring people together, it’s the school,” Roosevelt Principal Larry Gartski said. “If we’re talking about children being vaccinated, what better place to have it than at the school they go to?”
Superintendent Ed Condon mirrored Gartski’s sentiments and added the district was fortunate to partner with the local Jewel-Osco and the village. Together, they were able to work together and be resourceful, especially during a critical time.
“All of those things are writ large reflections of the way in which the community thinks and acts in accordance with the principles and values they believe in,” Condon said. “That’s an amazing testament to the village of River Forest.”
Like Donna Power, Therese Menezes was among the group of parents who came to the clinic and sought to get her son vaccinated. Like Donna’s daughter, Therese’s son, Luke, was also the last member of the family to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Therese’s husband, who is a physician and considered a frontline worker, was the first in their family, while she and her 16-year-old daughter followed soon after. With Luke, 12, now eligible, Therese said she could not wait to start planning her family’s summer vacation.
“If we don’t do our part, we can’t travel,” Therese said.
As Luke waited in line for his turn, he gave a thumbs-up to indicate he was OK and not nervous. And after the nurse administered the shot, Luke gave the same gesture – another thumbs-up – and headed over to find a seat in the observation area.
Outside the gym, the Powers settled on the school’s soccer field. After sitting in the observation area for 15 minutes, Faith Power and her mother decided to kick the ball around, enjoying the warmth of a late spring day, before going home. The moment Faith feared earlier was now behind her.