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 30percent 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.
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!
This question has been on my mind for a long time, especially in the past few months: How do we (Chicago Rises) know we are making a difference?
Measuring success and impact is a universal need, from businesses to nonprofits to people in their daily lives. In some cases, we can “feel” the positive impact we are making. But in other cases, it can be difficult to assess how our actions are making a difference.
We at Chicago Rises can regularly check how many followers we have on our social media accounts or use Google Analytics to see how many visitors interact with our website. But does this really measure impact? I would say emphatically no. In many instances since Chicago Rises’ inception, our team members have been approached by people telling us it’s great that we’re highlighting all these positive people and stories in Chicago. Or that we need more positive things like Chicago Rises in our world. Besides making us feel proud of our work, these comments help confirm that we are providing content that is of value to others.
Now we want to dig deeper. How can we know if a story that one of our talented writers or videographers shared made a difference? Did a story inspire someone to make a donation to a cause they care about, or sign up to volunteer for a local nonprofit? Or did a story help someone better understand a group of people or a social issue better and thus increased their compassion toward others? One way I plan to find better ways to measure our impact is to consult with the incredible leaders already doing good in Chicago to learn from them how they measure success. In addition, it would be amazing to hear from you directly on how you took action or were impacted by our stories.
Why do we want to know this information? One, this feedback can help us make Chicago Rises even better to serve its citizens and communities. Secondly, it will help fuel one of our main goals, which is to have each of you inspire others to take initiative. So please take the time and share. Doing so will start a chain reaction. We can’t wait to hear YOUR story.
Since the inception of Chicago Rises, we’ve told the stories of many organizations and people making a difference in the city. A large percentage of those folks naturally are involved in nonprofits. When people think of entities making positive impact in society, nonprofits and social enterprises first come to mind. We at Chicago Rises want to explore all players in Chicago that contribute to a better world. This includes corporations which can possess the resources to make significant and lasting impact on our communities.
Last month, we sat down with Relativity, a leader in the e-discovery sector and a fast growing technology firm in Chicago, to learn how they give back. Story coming soon!
Recently we collaborated with the platform Founder Stories to share what we do here at Chicago Rises. It was the first time I remember doing a video interview, so I admit it was a bit awkward at first talking straight into the camera. But I was able to quickly loosen up and really enjoy the interview. It was a great experience and hopefully I was able to articulate Chicago Rises’ mission to viewers. We’re always looking to collaborate and partner with other organizations to help lift each other up.
The team has been discussing recently how we can better communicate and engage with our fellow Chicagoans. We want to have an open line of communication going both ways. First, how can we let you know what we’re doing to improve Chicago Rises to best serve you and our communities? This is the purpose of this blog, to inform you of what we’re thinking and doing at Chicago Rises. Then secondly and most importantly, how can we get your feedback and engage you better? Our goal is to connect and rise together in a wave of inspiration and collaboration.
Here at Chicago Rises, we embrace the concept of experimenting. This is a great way to learn and create things that we as a team, and hopefully you as a Chicagoan, value. With that, we are introducing a couple of new features to the site:
Riser of the Month: We recently posted about our first Riser of the Month: Justin Cabrera. The idea around this is to put a spotlight on someone in our communities doing amazing work to positively impact others. If you would like to nominate someone, please send them our way!
Events: As we meet and hopefully build relationships with the organizations we highlight on Chicago Rises, we want a forum to share their events to allow others to connect and support them. The Events calendar will help our readers and followers find ways to take initiative and answer that Call to Action.
So please look for future postings here from the Chicago Rises team. As always, we would love to hear from you. Talk soon!