Kawann Short, a defensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers who grew up in East Chicago and attended Central High School and later Purdue University, has a goal to land a quality book in the hands of every public elementary, middle and high school student in East Chicago.
The Sacks for Books campaign has already netted more than $5,000 in donations from Short's friends, family and fans on Twitter. Short matches every donation for a total of up to $10,000 in 2014, with plans to do the same next year.
“I have a lot of things in mind that I want to do to help East Chicago, but obviously I’m here, so that’s limiting the things. Just trying to get the book drive together and show these guys I care about my city and really trying to give back,” Short told the Charlotte Observer. Read more here.
East Chicago Chief of Police Mark Becker said last week about 2,000 books arrived at the department already, with the plan being the police delivering each on to the area's schools.
The local police were contacted by Athletes for Charity, a New York-based organization who connected them with Short, informing them the NFL player wanted to get involved with helping his hometown.
"It is an exciting time in East Chicago in dealing with our youth," Becker said. "We are happy Kawann decided to help with this and the other organizations that have been a part of getting the system in place."
The chief added that the book drive is a part of "Operation Stay Smart," which was created by the department to ensure youth remain in school and realize their dreams.
A press release issued by the East Chicago Police Department noted that effective immediately, after a fourth non-excused absence, the school will contact the parent/guardian and direct that person meet with school officials to discuss the absences. If a parent does not present themselves at the discussion, a visit by police officers will follow.
"Those visits will continue with every consecutive unexcused absence and, if necessary, ensuing in fines and criminal action will be pursued by our investigators," the release read.
Becker said the state of Indiana strives for a 95 percent attendance rate at schools, but East Chicago is currently at around 92 percent.
"Over 200 kids a day blow off class," Becker said, noting that the problem also exists at East Chicago middle and elementary schools as well.
"We are going to hit the elementary group hard," he said. "We want to stop the kids from developing into gang members and drug users. We want to ensure they stay in school because if they miss class here and there, they are likely to miss a test and that could balloon into them not wanting to come back at all."