Parents and educators are taking action in the pursuit of transparency and democracy in school politics. Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education (RYH) “engages, informs and empowers parents to protect and strengthen public education for all children in Chicago and Illinois, eliminate inequities in public schools, and work at the grassroots for the public good that is public education,” as stated on RYH’s website.
In the wake of funding issues within Chicago Public Schools [CPS], this group of parents and education professionals collaborated to provide resources for families to better navigate the educational system in Chicago and across Illinois. RYH advocates for the reduction of high-stakes testing, the establishment of an elected school board, the avoidance of school privatization, increased special education services, the protection of student data privacy and the education of families on each student’s rights.
RYH’s website holds a myriad of resources for students and families, including updated educational research, tool kits for understanding school budgets, testing, special education and the contact information of local and state representatives to help make family voices heard. While many of their resources may be found online, one will also see RYH advocating at CPS board meetings and community events, elevating the voices of parents and families.
On the ground, RYH engages the community in workshops such as the “Parents Know Your Rights” workshop where families are educated on their students’ rights in the field of special education. In this workshop, RYH provides families with materials to organize the forms and documents necessary to understand and track their students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEP). In RYH’s Local School Council Empowerment (LSC) workshops in the near south side neighborhoods, RYH educates people on the responsibilities of the Local School Council. By providing families with these resources, RYH has not only empowered families to advocate for their own students, but for policy issues which affect whole school districts. Making resources accessible to all, RYH has established a level of transparency, along with a thirst for and ability to create action!
Call to Action:
- Check out the resources and research available on https://www.ilraiseyourhand.org/
- Attend CPS board meetings and keep up to date on school issues
- Contact your local and state representatives about issues that affect our students
- Volunteer with Raise Your Hand Action (sister organization)
The CPSchools’ Professionals Series is a collection of experiences lived and relayed by teachers and education professionals who work in Chicago public schools. Here, teachers, guidance counselors, specialists, coaches, administration, and other professionals in CPS are given the space to speak to their perspective on schooling in Chicago, and how their experiences have informed their outlook on education.
We are now giving these often-undervalued professionals the necessary platform to share their stories, challenges, and triumphs while supporting students in CPS. This series will serve to inform and encourage everyday Chicagoans and policy makers to take action in representation of the students they aim to support.
Stay tuned for CPSchools’ Professionals Series stories coming soon!
Instead of waiting for people to come to them, The Night Ministry is taking to the streets of Chicago. The Night Ministry is a non-profit which provides housing and support for those confronting homelessness.
Unlike many similar organizations throughout the city, The Night Ministry puts boots on the ground in the streets of Chicago each day in their Health Outreach bus. This bus, which is roughly the size of a CTA bus, transport social workers, nurse practitioners, members of The Night Ministry’s team, as well as volunteers throughout the city to help individuals who aren’t able to reach clinics and other service locations that are open during the day. The team on the Health Outreach Bus provides free services such as confidential testing for HIV, Hepatitis C and STDs. They also provide basic medical care, pregnancy tests and provide referrals for medical and dental care for those in need. For encampments these large buses are unable to reach, The Night Ministry sends out a street medicine team to help those in need. The street team visits individuals living under bridges and other outdoor locations to provide survival supplies and connect them to needed support services.
The Night Ministry also makes an impact through its five housing programs for young people experiencing homelessness. The non-profit’s doors are open to anyone and everyone, with specific support services for LGBT youth and teen mothers. Barbara Bolsen, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement at The Night Ministry, stated “Success is measured in small steps – almost 90% of former residents of our youth housing programs say they feel confident and stable in their current living situations and more than 60% of Health Outreach Bus visitors say that relationships they’ve built at the Bus have led to new opportunities”. At The Night Ministry, they are not simply lending out a helping hand, they are setting individuals up for a successful and independent life.
Call to Action
- Donate! The Night Ministry is always accepting packages of new white or black adult socks, packages of new adult sized underwear, single-ride Ventra passes, and $5-$10 gift cards for McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks and $15-$30 gift cards for stores like Jewel, Mariano’s, Walgreens, CVS or Target. Drop off times are Monday-Friday 9am-5pm at 4711 N. Ravenswood Ave.
- Volunteer! Serve a meal with a group of friends at “The Crib,” a LGBTQ-friendly overnight shelter, or provide street meals alongside the staff of the Health Outreach Bus. Volunteer on a Saturday to create hygiene kits for distribution! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773-784-9000.
Learn! Invite The Night Ministry to your workplace for a “Corporate Lunch and Learn” including a presentation on their efforts, and complete a service project (making sandwiches or creating hygiene kits) with your coworkers!
La Casa Norte is a non-profit that aims is to uplift Chicagoans who find themselves facing a period of homelessness. Serving youth and families, their mission states, “We provide access to stable housing and deliver comprehensive services that act as a catalyst to transform lives and communities.” La Casa Norte [LCN] supports youth and families with emergency, transitional and long-term housing options when they are in need, but they don’t stop there. They also assign a case manager to each individual they serve to ensure that they have all of the support necessary to place everyone on a successful track. Whether it is supportive housing, food, clothing, school supplies, job skills, or health services, the staff at La Casa Norte take the steps to uplift Chicagoans in need.
Part of supporting youth, apart from basic necessities, is supporting their focus on a successful future. La Casa Norte’s Youth in College program allows for college-aged individuals to do just that. Through collaboration with schools, LCN is able to target and support college students in need through tuition assistance, dorm-style housing options, academic services, and career services. In the coming months, LCN is making even more leaps and bounds in supporting youth and families.
In March, they will be hosting their fundraiser “Unveiling Homelessness,” where people will have the opportunity to share the untold stories behind homelessness in Chicago. They will also be launching “Project Period” in March, in which they will be fighting to end the taboo surrounding female menstruation, and raising funds for feminine hygiene products for women in need. In August of 2018, La Casa Norte plans to unveil their Foundation Project: a brand new, state-of-the-art facility including housing units, showers, a food pantry, a nutrition center, an employment training center, and a medical health center.
At La Casa Norte, they work endlessly to support any and all individuals who come knocking on their doors because they truly believe in their mission of transforming lives and communities here in Chicago!
Call to Action: