BEXLEY, Ohio (WCMH) – The Bexley Minority Parent Alliance hosted its annual kickoff event Sunday, providing guidance and forming community with minority families in the school district.

The alliance said these events are a good chance to mix and mingle ahead of the new school year.

“We’re here to advocate for them,” Bexley School Board member Jonathan Baker said. “We are here to educate those in the community and outside of it and, of course, empower the parents and teachers as well.”

The event also allowed many in the community to get to know one another.

“The goal is to make sure our Black, brown, and minoritized kids feel welcomed in the district,” Baker said.

In addition to being on the school board, Baker has been a member of the Bexley Minority Parent Alliance since it began in 2015.

“I’ve seen us be more involved at the table, the conversations about hiring and representation,” he said. “We’ve been involved and at the table at the city level.”

In early February, a racial incident put a spotlight on Bexley. During the morning announcements at Bexley Middle School, a picture of a monkey eating a watermelon was shown. Teacher Christopher Melville, who was in charge of supervising the announcements, resigned less than two weeks after the incident.

Bexley parents were surprised the incident happened.

“I mean, I would say it was somewhat of a surprise,” parent Sylvia Jones said.

Others weren’t surprised at all. Maya Letostak is a student at the middle school.

“It was really horrible to know that it happened in my own middle school, to know that people felt that way,” she said.

Many were grateful they didn’t have to go through the situation alone.

“We are really happy to have the support of BMPA,” Maya’s mother Tiasha said.

“I hope we can go forward with a positive mindset after the racist incident, knowing we’re improving after that,” Maya added.

Other families agree there’s been progress.

“I’ve seen people on both sides trying to work together, trying to fix the issues so our children can be in a better place.,” Jones said.

It’s responses like these that let Baker know the work of the alliance is paying off.

“We want to make sure is that this is a place they can go and be themselves authentically, and to kind of learn from the other parents; that you’re not the only one going through some challenge, but then also to increase some Black, brown, and minority students getting through the district and going on to college,” he said.

Sunday’s event was one of a number the agency will hold throughout the school year, which starts Thursday for students.