#1StudentNWI: Portage community events highlight summer fun around town

#1StudentNWI: Portage community events highlight summer fun around town

What’s recently happened?

There’s nothing better than a fun Friday in Portage. From now until the end of the summer, Founders Square will host “The Market on the Square” which will be held every Friday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. This event features fresh produce and flowers as well as craft opportunities, food trucks, and many other vendors. This event is sponsored by a variety of Portage businesses including Kona Ice, Cappo’s, BNutty Peanut Butter, Samuelson Insurance Agency, and Porter County Public Library System (PCPLS).

Vendors of Market on the Square prepare for a busy Friday afternoon.

Tents lining the pathways of the Square are full of vendors selling jewelry, dream catchers, soap, and other handmade items. These one of a kind items are all unique and reasonably priced. A Friday evening spent shopping in Portage with family is a perfect way to create a memory at Founders Square while also buying some incredible merchandise supporting local businesses and vendors.

Alongside the lineup of the daytime activities is the live music at Founders Square Amphitheater and the free family movies all beginning at dusk. Families are welcome to bring snacks, drinks, blankets, and lawn chairs for the movie.

 Here are the performances from now until the end of the festival in August:

July 14: Dan Moser

July 21: Logan Dyer

July 28: Roy Bodiak

August 4: Summer Camp Theater Showcase

August 11: Amy McCormick

August 18: Eman

August 25: Keegan Darr

Here are the featured movies playing after dusk at Founders Square now through the end of July:

July 14: “Minions: The Rise of Gru”

July 21: “SpongeBob: Sponge on a Run”

July 28: “Top Gun: Maverick”

What’s coming up?

In case Portage students missed out on reading a book during the month of June, the Book Bus will be back in action during the month July for all Portage Township Schools (PTS) kids. The Book Bus is a traveling library that will arrive at different locations around Portage for PTS kids to check out a book. The Book Bus will travel Monday through Thursday at various times depending on the day. Kids can also enjoy a free snack brought to them by the PTS Summer Meal Program. 

During the summer, schools are closed and PTS kids could not check out books unless they traveled to the local public library. This issue was noticed by many including David Lesich, principal at South Haven Elementary School and Book Bus organizer, and after brainstorming ideas, the traveling library known as the Book Bus was created. 

“We wanted to have the Book Bus go into the community to help our students get books to keep reading throughout the summer,” Lesich said. “We started this process with having our school libraries open during the summer, but our librarians did not see the flow of students that they would like, so we had a chance to add the Book Bus to our program. We go to the neighborhood schools so our students can go to their school and get a book. We now go to different areas in the city where it is a farther distance for our students that cannot walk to the school.”

Book Bus welcomes students to encourage summer reading.

Although the Book Bus is geared towards elementary school kids, the Bus has a myriad of book options for all ages, reading levels, and genres. This allows for all kids to pick out a book that suits their interest so they can continue to expand their reading levels. The most popular books have been from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Splat the Cat.” 

As a special surprise, Tilly, the Portage Police Department’s therapy dog, will arrive with the Book Bus at Myers, Swanson Apartments, Camelot Estates, and Countryside Park on July 12. Visits and readings with Tilly are encouraged and Tilly will even let students read “Pete the Cat.”

“Our goal is to make this a permanent fixture in Portage,” said Lesich. “We want our students to get excited for the Book Bus like they do for the ice cream truck coming down the street. We want our students to look forward to seeing the Book Bus. Each year, it is getting better!”

Community member spotlight:

As parents of Portage Township Schools’ (PTS) students, frequent phone calls relaying pertinent information are sent out from the district call center. The calming yet perky voice on those calls is one that everyone in the community recognizes: Melissa Deavers-Lowie. 

Current director of communications & community engagement, Deavers-Lowie is no stranger to the Portage community, growing up and attending school at Portage until graduation in 2002. She then went on to Ball State University, where she majored in journalism and education. Deavers-Lowie also has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Purdue University Northwest. 

Melissa Deavers-Lowie and her daughter enjoying their day at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.

“My grandfather really inspired me to go into journalism and communications,” said Deavers-Lowie. “He used to be a writer for a Croatian/English newspaper in Gary where he covered different events and people in the Croatian American community. He was such an excellent storyteller, and I wanted to have a job where I could tell people’s stories, too.”

In the summer, Deavers-Lowie sends families information about the school calendar, summer meal programs, bus routes, and back to school plans. During the school year her focus is still on those things, but she can share the stories and accomplishments of people involved in the schools. Deavers-Lowie believes that sharing great stories about members within PTS can bring the community together as one.

“The schools are truly the cornerstone of our community, and everyone, including staff, students, families, and residents, want to see the great things that are happening here,” Deavers-Lowie said. “I think that celebrating people and the great things they do is important. It allows others to see the good that is happening around them and inspires them to do the same. Storytelling is a form of celebration, and I love being able to celebrate our students and staff by sharing their stories with our community.”

There are some occasions where delivering news can be challenging. The news can be frightening to some, or it could be difficult to hear. Though this can be the case, Deavers-Lowie always has a game plan for how she will deliver the news to Portage. For Deavers-Lowie though, the first step in the plan is to always gather the correct information before any other action is made. 

“I think about who my audience is and how they prefer to receive information,” said Deavers-Lowie. “I think about the different communication channels, like social media, email, or texting for example, and how I can best communicate the information to my intended audience.  I think about how my information should look; should I write a letter, create a bulleted list, design a graphic, take a photo, or some combination of these? Sometimes, I’m presented with a more immediate situation. In situations like those, I have to focus on sending out accurate and concise information as quickly as possible. Whatever the case, I think the most important thing is being responsive and listening to the needs of our school community.”

When she’s not delivering PTS news to Portage, Deavers-Lowie enjoys spending time with her 5 year old daughter. Deavers-Lowie and her family love vacationing to Disney World any chance they can to soak up some sun and relax by the pool. In the future, she hopes to cross whale watching and scuba diving off her bucket list. In the meantime though, she has gained the trust and love from all members of PTS and continues to strive for excellence in her role as director of communications & community engagement.