Hello! Now that we have explained the education systems in the southwest region of Chicago, we are going to discuss the tutor/mentor programs that serve the children in those schools. Because the mentoring programs tend to differ from neighborhood to neighborhood, our research will be divided into categories as it was in the last two posts.
Map of Little Italy
Contrary to popular belief, Little Italy’s boundaries does not contain only members of the Italian background. This may have been true of the past, but modern Little Italy has a diverse racial and ethnic mix-up. Little Italy has six tutor mentoring programs that are within a reasonable walking distance; they will be further described below.
Numbered List of Programs in Little Italy (CLICK TO ZOOM)
1. Carole Robertson Center for Learning- School Age Tutoring Program
The Carole Robertson Center for Learning is the most impressive tutor/mentor program in my area’s vicinity. Not only does it offer programs for children from birth to age 18, but it also aims to help adults in the Chicago community. With a focus on family oriented learning, the Carole Robertson Center proves to be a parent/child program from the get-go. The website is colorful yet organized and has a flashing banner with different slogans appearing on each slide, one of which states, “Empowering every parent to be their child’s first teacher.”
I found the way this organization asks for donations to be interesting in that it gives the donor different options. If one chooses to give money donations, he is given the option of deciding what aspect of the program the money will benefit. In addition, the website shows a “Wishlist” on the page, a shopping list of sorts that includes everything from baby wipes to pocket dictionaries to video-cameras. (Families even get a new book or toy to keep each week in the parent/child program!) The unique breakdown of specific areas that need funds sets the Carole Roberston Center apart from other tutor/mentoring programs that only offer a standard “donate here” button.
Because the program was started by a group of parents who were angry the sponsoring agency that was funding their children’s school age programs shut down, this center does all it can to reach out to the entire network of Chicago, not just the rich donors or the companies who can buy their supplies. They make it obvious that creating community leaders requires just that: community. By having a center that is open 15 hours a day and a website that can be read entirely in Spanish, the Carole Robertson Center proves through their actions how important diversity and community is in raising a child.
2. Casa Juan Diego
Contact: 312 421- 7647 ext. 307 (program director Jennifer Oneil)
The first thing I noticed upon arriving on this site was the list of sponsors on the side. Casa Juan Diego does a great job of recognizing where their donations come from, and interestingly enough, DePaul University happens to be one of the sponsors! It turns out that this program is Catholic-based, possibly explaining why our school supports it so much.
Much like the Carole Robertson Center, Casa Juan Diego places a large emphasis on parent involvement in the development of children. It offers at least ten family events per year, and was started by a group of parents wanting to better their living community. The same group of 12 original parents now make up the Parent’s Council, functioning to oversee activities, events, and to plan for the organization.
Casa Juan Diego is individual in that it serves mainly Latino families, has a full-fledged youth ministry, and was founded more recently (1996) than most of the other organizations in the area.
3. Gads Hill Center
Contact: (312) 226-0963 ext.221
Gads Hill Center is the most persuasive program in regard to showing how diverse and culturally open they are in my area. The organization “welcomes all backgrounds, regardless of race or background,” according to their website (multiple places on said website, to be exact.) The page is more centralized in its links, and has a large section dedicated to News and Events, something that is beneficial for all members of the community. Gads Hill Center is focused extremely on education, giving data reflecting poor test scores and high school dropouts in hopes to change those statistics, one child at a time.
4. El Valor School-Age Program
Contact: 312.997.2021 / 312.666.4511
El Valor has a section I have not seen in any tutor/mentoring programs thus far: help for students with disabilities. Other programs may work with disabled students, but the quick web-surfer would never know because none advertise it as El Valor does. That is the biggest highlight of their program, for it individualizes them as serving students regardless of ability.
In addition to the uniqueness of their program audience, El Valor has a quote showing their focus on the growth of its children, not so much the program itself. Dr. Christine Thompson, a credible source, states the following: “I have never worked with children as caring, loving, and critically thinking as the children in El Valor’s Head Start Program.” This combined with the article showing the Mayor’s recognition of El Valor gives the organization tremendous strength as enrichment to children’s lives.
5. Union League Boys and Girls Clubs
The Union League Boys and Girls Club’s strength lies in its community: not only does it have monthly newsletters dedicated to inform the community, but it also has four total locations throughout Chicago. This is beneficial in that these centers can work together to make children all over the city work well together and become leaders, not just help them grow in their respective neighborhoods. As seen in other programs, it shows its gratitude for sponsors, even hosting galas and events for its donors.
6. Casa Aztlan
Contact: (312) 666-5508
Casa Aztlan does not focus only on tutor/mentor programs; in fact, its website shows many areas, such as immigration requirements, a resource page, and information about arts and culture. The website can be read in Spanish, and has a computer lab for use by all anyone as long as they request to use it. Although it may not be focused solely on tutoring and mentoring for children, Casa Aztlan provides community events and happenings that anyone may participate in, including students that want to enrich their lives outside of the classroom.
There are a few places that can be found in the Little Village area to go for academic aid. It might be harder to find, but these facilities can be very helpful to students and adults. There is the Carole Robertson Center for Learning that is also in other locations within the Chicago land area. It has the largest facility in the Little Village area. It includes social services, school age and adult education aid, and helps family development. This might be because families within this area need the most help because they are not from the United States. You can also find more information about this center on http://crcl.net and it can also be translated into Spanish, since the Majority of participants are Mexican-American. There is also The Learning Centers/House of Connections near Little Village that provides literacy volunteers for families, adults and teens to enhance their literacy skills. This is for immigrants in this area, so the focus is specifically towards helping them. Further information on these locations can be found on http://tlcchicago.org/index.html. Another place that can help the youth of this area is Turtoria Chicago located on 3617 W. 27th Street. This facility is for k-high school students and concentrates on academic improvement. Schools can also be a helpful resource for students since they already know their needs. The reason for these specific centers in this area is to assist these kids who do not have parents who can help them with their schoolwork because of the language barrier or they do not have other resources near them.
The Gage Park neighborhood is relatively small and does not have many tutor/mentor programs offered to its students.
One program that does serve students and families in the Gage Park area is the Midway Head Start Center located at 6422 S. Kidzie. It offers morning sessions from 8:00am-11:30am, and afternoon sessions from 12:30pm-4:00pm Monday-Friday. Counseling programs are the main focus of this center. They offer sessions in areas such as: Fostering mental health and well being, promoting safety for individuals and family, enhancing quality of life for older adults and their families, and providing legal assistance. These counseling sessions are offered to individuals and families of all ages. A link is provided below for those wishing to learn more about the program and its mission.
Although Gage Park lacks community centers for students to attend, each school offers a vast variety of extracurricular activities to keep students engaged in school and out of trouble. Sports of various varieties are offered at each school along with dance, theatre, music, and academic clubs. At the high school level students are encouraged to join AVID which is a program designed to help students plan for the future and prepare them for college, and beyond.
Another resource for students provided on the Chicago Public Library website is the NBC Homework Helpline which students of all ages can call for help with schoolwork. This is especially resourceful for students in areas like Gage Park who are limited in the amount of tutor/mentor programs in which they can participate. A link to this site for telephone and availability information is provided below.
Exhausting, time-consuming, and tedious are just some of the words that can describe the search for mentoring programs in Pilsen. Not to say that there aren’t any but considering the population of Pilsen, too few. Many mentoring programs found in Pilsen also assist people from Little Village. Gads Hills Center, Centro Sin Fronteras and Cristo Rey all have mentor/tutor programs in the community of Pilsen. They offer great programs and are also bilingual, eliminating any language barrier.
As the community-based coalition Healthy Chicago Lawn states, “The Chicago Lawn community has a large number of youth, but few youth programs.” The group goes on to talk about what it is doing to help—it has started a magazine for and by Southwest side youth entitled “The Voice.” While this is certainly commendable, there are numerous other programs that offer more comprehensive involvement in the lives of Marquette Park residents:
3) Elev8: this is a program at Marquette Middle school that aims to “establish networks of relationships among school and community partners to:
i. extend the school day with afternoon, weekend and summer programs
ii. create an on-site, adolescent-focused health clinic in each school
iii. provide social supports, including public benefits screening for families, mentoring and help with high school placement
iv. mobilize parent and community leaders to accelerate change and promote advocacy
v. advocate for policies that support similar comprehensive programs in other schools, locally and nationally”
Additionally, the Elev8 project has created a health resource center at Marquette Elementary School, funded through grants from Atlantic philanthropies and various other sources: http://www.lisc-chicago.org/display.aspx?pointer=9231
For more about the Elev8 program at Marquette Middle school, click here: http://www.lisc-chicago.org/display.aspx?pointer=5318
2) SWOP: this program is one of two organizations that are now a part of the Healthy Chicago Lawn program. Again, this is not a traditional child-and-authority-figure mentoring program; however, the project offers citizenship classes to the many immigrant families in the neighborhood. thus, the organization is mentoring people in how to be good American citizens. The SWOP has organized the “We Want to Learn English” campaign through a partnership with Chicago’s own Malcolm X College, offering adult education morning and night classes. Like more conventional tutor-mentor programs, the SWOP is helping those who, academically, would not be able to succeed without these programs that address these individuals’ specific needs.
- One specific example of a program that the SWOP provides youths with is Marquette Park’s Game Day-Girls’ Health Fest. Click here for more details:
- What struck me about this particular program was this aspect: “To wrap up the day, half a dozen young women from the Arab American Action Network read original poetry based on their heritage and life experiences. To an appreciative audience, they spoke their minds on drugs, violence, the media and the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.” Arguably, it is important that—despite their own less-than-ideal circumstances—inner-city youths are exposed to issues affecting others across the globe. The kind of global awareness that is being fostered through programs such as this help the youth to grow into more tolerant citizens of the world.
3) Hand In Hand intergenerational project: This program connects seniors with youths at a child care center. While this is not a traditional mentoring program that offers children help with homework, it is still helpful for these children to have adult figures in their potentially tumultuous lives.