Monday, April 30, 2012

Morgan Park Students Take a Stand and March with Undocumented Students at Daley Center

As American citizens the privileges and rights we enjoy are often taken for granted. The real value of rights such as free speech and public education are not fully appreciated until you meet undocumented students who do not have those rights.

On April 10, 2012, approximately 30 Morgan Park students boarded a school bus and embarked on an activity that fostered sensitivity, compassion and a better understanding of the plight of undocumented students in America.  In conjunction with community partner – Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Morgan Park students learned about the situation of undocumented students and participated in an exchange with college students of various cultures who once were illegal immigrants.

The training focused on undocumented students through analyzing the personal stories of how they came to the U.S., the factors motivating their parents to bring their families here, and the constant state of fear each faced as a result of their illegal status. Their stories put a face on the value of the of the DREAM Act of Illinois.

The Dream Act signed by Governor Quinn on August 1, 2011, grants privileges to undocumented children of immigrants and allows them access to financial aid for postsecondary scholarships, college savings and prepaid tuition programs, previously unavailable to them, provided that specific guidelines are met and that said students graduated from Illinois high schools.

Following the training and student to student exchange, Morgan Park students held signs, listened to speeches and marched alongside other students in support of the Dream Act and proper documentation of illegal immigrants at Daley.  On May 8, 2012, Morgan Park students will join other students in Springfield with the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights to address issues with legislators pertaining to the Dream Act.  The Morgan Park group will also address the Leave No Child Inside Movement and Charter School Assessment.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mather Students Partner with NEIU on Empty Bowl Project

Mather students and teachers gathered at the Fine Arts Building at Northeastern Illinois University on Friday evening to participate in the Empty Bowls Project.

According to the Empty Bowls website ( "Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger and was created by The Imagine Render Group. The basic premise is simple: Potters and...craftspeople, educators and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity.

It is the collective genius of all the people involved that has made Empty Bowls what it has become. Events have now taken place across the United States and in at least a dozen other countries. Many millions of dollars have been raised and donated to hunger-fighting organizations....."

Northeastern Illinois University made its pottery room available for Mather students and teachers to create the bowls. Students spent 5-6 hours at the university creating bowls for a community event to take place on May 04, 2012. At the Empty Bowls event, Mather staff, community members, students, and families, will gather to share a simple meal and learn more about food insecurity issues in the Chicago and around the country. All proceeds from the dinner will be donated to the Lakeview Food Pantry, an organization working to provide emergency food aid to individuals and families.

Jennifer Brown, an art teacher at Mather who organized the project, received some start-up funding through Donors Choose, an online opportunity for teachers to raise funds for special projects. Ms. Brown was assisted by other Mather faculty at the event.

We already look forward to the Empty Bowls dinner at Mather on May 04, 2012.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Curie Student Travels to Washington DC

The Chicago Youth for Millennium Development Goals works with schools throughout the District to expose students to international issues and give them a chance to address the millennium development goals. Often students are able to meet with refugees, immigrants and visitors from around the world. Recently, Natalie Leanos, a Curie student won a trip to Washington DC to participate in Save the Children 10th Annual Advocacy Day. Here are her thoughts on the trip.

I had an awesome week! I was one of the two advocates from Chicago that won a scholarship to Washington D.C. to attend the Save the Children 10th Annual Advocacy Day. The point of Advocacy Day is for us, the young children, to go speak to our Congressmen and Senators; and let our voices be heard about what they can do to help the malnourished children around the world, as well as here in the United States. It was a success!! There were many children from around the US participating in the two day event.

The first day were workshops where everyone got to know each other and work together to make posters showing awareness of what is going around the world and what we, the people, can do to help. Unfortunately my flight was canceled on the night before the event started. I was stuck in New York City for the night, and I needed to be in Washington the next day at eight in the morning. So yes, I was stressed at first because I didn’t know anyone who was going to attend the event and I was going to arrive real late to the workshops. Although my flight was canceled, I got to explore New York! Especially Times Square, it was AWESOME! The next day I got on a flight at 10:30 a.m. to Washington. I had butterflies in my stomach on my way to D.C. I was excited yet nervous about meeting new people.

I finally arrived to D.C. at 1:00 p.m I had missed the workshops and all that was left for the day was a luncheon with all the participants for Advocacy Day and the Staff of Save the Children. There were also special guests in the luncheon, such as Jonathan Capehart, who writes about politics for the PostPartisan blog, and Alex Wolff, a musician from Nickelodeon.

In the luncheon Jonathan discussed the upcoming elections and how teenagers and younger children feel like their voices aren’t being heard. Personally, in my high school many seniors are about to be 18 years old, meaning they’re able to vote, they think that the Congressmen and Senators won’t pay attention to what they have to say about ways the Congressmen can do more for their community. But in reality, we the children are the ones that play an important role for change. The Congressmen care more about our opinion, rather than the adults. You see, we’re the future, we are the ones who will create more in life and they know that. That is why the next day the participants were divided into groups depending on where their hometown was. Each of the participants was going to go speak to their Congressmen and Senators from their location back home in the Capitol Building.

The goal was to speak to them about why they should not cut the budget on the School Lunch Program here in the United States. Not many children are going to be able to receive free lunch in school with these cuts. Just last year 3.5 million children experienced food insecurity, so now if they cut the budget the number will increase.

Another budget cut the government wanted to do was lower the percentage of how much money would go overseas to help the malnourished children in developing countries. I got to speak to Senator Mark Kirk, Senator Richard Durbin, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, and Jesse White Jr. My partner, Helena, and I succeeded with our speech. All of the Congressmen and Senators agreed with us; they were in favor of not cutting the budgets.

This was truly a mark in my life, a trip I will NEVER forget! Especially because I got to go inside the tunnels under the Capitol building to get to the four different offices of each Senator and Congressmen and I had the chance to speak directly to them. One of the great moments from the trip was also making new friends from different states. I got to meet teens from Philadelphia, Tennessee, Texas, and from many more. Thanks to my avid teacher, Mr. Hardin for getting me, and my classmates, involved in the United Nations Millennium Goals and to Mrs. Walker for introducing me to the Save the Children Scholarship. Both of my teachers have truly blessed me with this wonderful moment! I hope that one day we will all step up and have our voices be heard, together we can all make a change!
Natalie Leanos
Curie Metropolitan High School

Monday, April 16, 2012

CPS Hosts 12th Annual SL Conference

With the theme From Academics to Action guiding the gathering, teachers, SL Coaches, students and community partners gathered at the University Center in downtown Chicago for the 12th Annual Service-Learning Conference.

An opportunity to bring together both veteran service-learning practitioners and new-comers to the field, the conference highlights excellent practice in CPS and this year explored how the service experience can lead to a deeper exploration by students and teachers of social issues facing our communities.

Workshop leaders facilitated sessions enabling participants to think about ways for students to examine immigration, affordable housing, environmental concerns, community violence, and food access issues. Each session challenged participants to align service project experiences to broader social issues and Common Core State Standards. Teachers, for example, looked at how they could engage students in an examination of a 2040 metropolitan planning document and its recommendations for water use and conservation.

Adam Davis of the Center for Civic Reflection closed the conference with a session designed to guide participants in a discussion of where we hope we can take our students through the service-learning process.

It was a rewarding day for conference participants.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Alternative Spring Break Features Visit with Alderman

The first Service-Learning Alternative Spring Break: Uptown Immersion came to a conclusion on Thursday highlighted by a visit with Ward 46 Alderman James Cappelman, who also happened to be celebrating the anniversary of his first day in office since succeeding long-time Alderman Helen Shiller.

In preparation for their meeting with the alderman, students participated in an activity called Speaking Truth to Powerful People. The activity asks students to name a issue that is of concern to them, devise a solution or strategy, then identify the person in power who can help them get what they want to build the common good.

Students identified student leadership programs in every school, and curricular relevance strategies as issues of concern to them. In mock meetings with decision-makers, students were tested (not the standardized variety, but authentically) to see how they presented their ideas to a powerful decision-maker. The students learned quickly from one another and did a great job.

Following the mock meetings, students met with Alderman Cappelman for an hour sharing their experiences with the alderman and insights about the community. In a lively and free-wheeling back and forth discussion with the alderman, our students raised questions of economic development, curricular relevance, youth and arts programming, and adequate support for the disenfranchised, particularly those experiencing homelessness.

During an afternoon reflection experience led by the Center for Civic Reflection, students contemplated the question: Does one need to know anything about the person(s) you are helping/serving? and were asked to complete the statement: A helpful person needs to....The thoughtful and engaged discussion that ensued demonstrated the power of experiential learning. Students were able to dig deep into their experiences to engage in thoughtful conversations with one another.

The Alternative Spring Break culminated with a celebratory barbecue where students share their final presentations, musical talents, and new friendships with each other. The final question on the lips of many students? When will this happen again?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bowen Students Get Active for Chavez Month

For the fifth consecutive year, Bowen students participated in the Cesar Chavez month of Service. I had the pleasure of participating in several activities with my students in both my AP Art Class and Spanish I classes. We started the month off well! We had new teachers get involved and take over our beloved CIMBY program. The workshop we attended on March 2 was GREAT!

On 3/3 a small group of students met me at Juan Diego Community Center (Centro Comunitario Juan Diego) on 88th and Commercial to help pack food for their food pantry. When we arrived we were deeply saddened to see that number of families waiting for food and learn about their near bare cupboards. We were only able to give about 8 cans of food to each person. When our group reconvened for our reflection, we decided we needed to collect food for them and stock their pantry. In four days our little cooperative designed and put up posters around the school, spoke to their Division Teachers and collected HUNDREDS of cans of food, boxes of pasta, rice, and other non-perishables. We followed up by returning the next Saturday, 3/10, to deliver our goodies to them and help sort and hand out bags again! It was great, we were able to help, in just two Saturday mornings, over 100 families.

In the meantime my Spanish I classes were learning about the work of Cesar Chavez and what he meant to the Hispanic community. On March 8, we went to El Instituto del Progreso Latino, and our students paired up with an adult student going through the Citizenship process. We interviewed them, quizzed them, worked with them and we learned A LOT. When we reflected on this the students went wild; they loved it and they wanted to stay longer. They have been asking to return ever since. We wrote stories about the adults and on March 21 and took a follow up trip to Radio Arte 90.5 in Pilsen. We recorded our stories and 6 students read their stories in English and Spanish LIVE on air. We even had several that our adults that we interviewed listen to the program as we recorded.

On March 14, a group of seniors interested in going into teaching once the get into (and out of) college, went to a Kimochis training. Kimochis teaches high school students how to teach appropriate social-emotional skills to little kids. They went to training at 320 N. Elizabeth. New Service-Learning Coach Lucia Estrada and I took 4 girls to receive the training and Ms.Estrada is now leading these girls, recruiting more students to participate and we are still scheduling with our local elementary to implement the amazing opportunity! Keep on the lookout for more about Bowen and this project.

On March 20 a group of dedicated seniors led and sponsored a blood drive at the school. Not only did they students coordinate the event, work and recruit, they also registered students and helped them after blood was drawn, distributing snacks, water, and ice packs! It was a great job, and we helped save over 109 lives.

On March 26, we had a wonderful math teacher, Mr.Shawn Espinosa, take a group of students to the Marilynn Rabb Foundation where they worked with hunger issues and sorted and packed food and handed them out to needy families at the Laribee Police Station.

Lastly, and the most exciting part of this month, was the Celebration of Cesar Chavez at the Reflection Day at Benito Juarez High School. Ms. Estrada and I took students who participated in at least one of the above listed events. We watched an amazing cultural show then split up and participated in workshops with other schools. We were even fortunate enough to be asked to lead a workshop which other students attended that talked about Propaganda and Protest art and how Cesar Chaves influenced that movement through his peaceful protests! We culminated the great day with a march through Pilsen, carrying signs and yelling chants to commemorate the 350 mile march that Chavez did in his protests.

Alternative Spring Break Features Uptown Service Projects

Six community organizations based in Chicago's diverse Uptown community benefited from the talents and energy of CPS students participating in the first annual Alternative Spring Break program of Chicago Public Schools.

CPS students served at Chinese Mutual Aid Assocation, Sunlight African Youth Center, Grassroots Curriculum Network, Kuumba Lynx, Christopher House, and Cornerstone Community Outreach.

Students planned and implemented activities for children participating in spring break programs at Christopher House, Sulight African Youth Center, and Chinese Mutual Aid Association. The students were in awe of the high spirited energy of the children and left the day having learned much about what it takes to organize a high quality youth program. Students also helped the Kuumba Lynx program build a studio for community use, supported the food distribution programs at Cornerstone Community Outreach, and organized historical materials to create a new Uptown study curriculum that is student-friendly and speaks the truth.

During their final day of the alternative spring break, students will meet with 46th ward Alderman James Cappelman and share their insights with him. To cap off their experience, students will gather for a barbecue and share their thoughts about how the week has impacted them. We're looking forward to an exciting culmination.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

CPS Teens Serve Uptown During Spring Break

30 CPS high school students from eight high schools are spending their spring break learning about the Uptown community and lending their considerable talents and energy to community organizations in the neighborhood.

These amazing teen agers are choosing to spend their week off getting to know other student leaders, immersing themselves in one of Chicago's most dynamic and historic communities, and working with community organizations in a variety of capacities.

Following an initial day of team building, students heard from neighborhood leaders about the history of Uptown and the issues currently facing residents and then participated actively in a community orienteering activity. In groups of five, students were tasked with harvesting information about the community by talking with bankers, restaurant managers, non-profit leaders, senior and public housing building managers, and religious leaders. Students learnd about the history of public housing, the availability of credit to low-income residents, the process of gentrification, and the remarkable entertainment history of Uptown. They learned, for example, that through the 1940's, African-Americans were only allowed to live on one block in the Uptown community - the 4600 block of North Winthrop. They also learned that low-income residents can access small loans at affordable rates from the Northside Federal Credit Union. They also learned that silent film star Charlie Chaplain used to produce movies from a studio in Uptown during the 1920's.

Following their immersion experiences, students will serve for a full day in several communtiy organizations including Christopher House, Chinese Mutual Aid Association, Cornerstone Community Center, and Sunlight African Youth Center. Students will conclude their week with a meeting with Alderman James Cappelman of the 46th Ward. Students will share their insights into the community and hear about Mr. Cappelman's priorities for the community.

The spirit and openness and deep interest in learning the students bring to the experience is remarkable.