North Shore teens take charge, bringing smiles to LEARN Excel’s Field Day
By Corey Schmidt
Jun 09, 2022 at 4:02 pm
This Thursday, laughs and joyful screams flooded Fox Meadow Fields as Chicago’s LEARN Excel Charter School sent roughly 400 students to participate in a field day led by two suburban teenagers, Eleanor Proctor and Charlie Baron.
The tradition continued for the first time since 2019 — the past two years were put on hold due to COVID-19. However, in 2020 Proctor and Baron made an at-home field day for students. Other than those two years, the school’s field day has been a tradition since 2008 when Principal Sekou Robertson came to LEARN Excel.
Historically, a group of families in the Winnetka area have put on and staffed the event. Robertson recalls his first time meeting these families, which ultimately was the beginning of the outdoor event.
“They told me that they’re here to help us whatever we want, whatever we need,” Robertson said. “And I immediately thought, ‘Let’s get my kids outside. Let’s get them to have fun.’ We didn’t have a lot of outdoor space at our location at the time and I said ‘Can we do a field day?’ Ever since then we’ve been doing it every year in June.”
Robertson’s wishes soon became a reality with the help of Proctor and Baron. According to Robertson, the families who helped out the school — as volunteers and, in some cases, donors — eventually passed this field day tradition onto their kids to integrate the older high school volunteers with the younger kindergarten to sixth graders.
“It’s really great that the high school students pretty much run everything,” Robertson said. “So it’s great that we can just show up and the kids … have fun.”
Proctor and Baron quickly took action by raising $9,900. According to Proctor, since the field day has been going on for a few years now, they have compiled a list of people willing to donate.
Due to LEARN Excel being located in the city, they do not have access to large areas of greenery, like Fox Meadow Fields, so Proctor wanted to make the most of the experience.
“We do a lot of fun relay races, we’re doing freeze dance, we’ve got soccer,” Proctor said. “This year the really big, exciting activities that we’ve got [are] inflatable obstacle courses, which is gonna be super fun and that’s a totally new thing [this year].”
However, Proctor said one of the most beloved traditions isn’t the activities themselves, but rather the end-of-the-day popsicle students get. This year, the students were also fed Subway for lunch.
Proctor and Baron could not have planned the event without the help of their roughly 40 other volunteers. These volunteers consist of high school-aged students across the North Shore area, but with this number being lower than the average of 60 volunteers, more parents had to get involved.
Proctor attributes the low volunteer turnout to New Trier Township High School — the closest school to the event — having their finals alongside the two-year hiatus making it difficult to successfully execute their word-of-mouth volunteer recruitment.
However, the logistical joys of organizing the event is not what makes the tradition special for Proctor.
“I got to see how excited the kids got — they’re just so happy to be outside and enjoy the weather,” Proctor said. “It affected me as I [grow] up in the suburbs, I don’t really get a lot of diversity or exposure to different people. I mean, I’m in a very predominantly white area. And so it was really exciting to be able to meet other people and different people from around the North Shore [too].”