Students come from numerous social backgrounds, each with their different world views, circumstances and needs. Therefore, teachers need to be prepared to handle that variety of world views. Grow Your Own Illinois, or GYO, understands the necessity for teachers to not only understand the needs of students, but empathize with them as well. Thus, for the past 11 years GYO has dedicated itself to mobilizing and aiding prospective teachers of diverse backgrounds to teach in minority communities.

GYO’s mission has hit some rough times in recent years. I spoke with Kate Van Winkle, the director of GYO, to try and understand some of the trouble the organization has been facing. As of 2015, the organization no longer receives state funding, which led to the closing of all the other offices save for the Chicago office. However, this is not the only problem that the organization has faced. Among those, students have trouble passing the Test of Academic Proficiency, which is needed to be approved to teach. Only 30 percent of students pass the test, of which Van Winkle told me that the students reported either the content of the test was highly irrelevant to their studies or that they had general troubles with their test taking skills and strategies. Other problems include the kind of student GYO needs to empower. Previously, GYO focused on training adults that have already been in the workforce and had interest in becoming teachers. There is a bias to recruit younger students out of high school and in college rather than adults that have already begun their education or have been out of college for years. As such, GYO has needed to restructure and re-prioritize the kinds of students they empower.

The organization has taken steps to start reorganizing. Currently, it is experimenting with a program with Waukegan High School to offer credits for high school students that are interested in a career in education. GYO is also continuing to search for new ways to secure funding for its graduates.

 

CALL TO ACTION

 

Given the scope of the project and the need to revitalize the effort to bring empathetic education to students, Chicago Rises invites readers who are passionate about education to help out GYO. First off, any donations made are welcome. Second, any individuals passionate about educating and want to apply to GYO’s program, there is still time to apply; the deadline is in September. It is important to keep these programs alive for the sake of empowering not just the youth, but our workforce.


GYO’s site: http://www.growyourownteachers.org

For Donations: http://www.growyourownteachers.org/donate

For Applications: http://www.growyourownteachers.org/apply