Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sharing the Spirit of Communities This Holiday Season

by David Hiller, President & CEO

Chicago is well known as a city of neighborhoods – diverse, energetic and always changing. I had the opportunity recently to spend time in one of Chicago’s most unique neighborhoods, Chinatown, and to visit two of the agencies we fund in our Communities Program: the Chinese American Service League (CASL) and the Pui Tak Center Chinatown is the destination for large numbers of immigrants as well as home to many generations of Chinese Americans. Education, English language training, and job training are high on the agenda of community needs. The CASL offers early childhood education, family and community support programs, and specialized elderly services to over 17,000 clients annually. As you can see from the video I shot, our welcome was warm. Pui Tak serves over 3,000 individuals annually through a variety of education, social service, and cultural programs. Through our partnership with Chicago Tribune Charities, we currently support their Adult Literacy Program. No video for that one, but once again it was an amazing experience to see what’s accomplished by a group of deeply committed people.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am grateful to all of our partners and their amazing people who work so hard to improve the lives of people in our communities every day. They are an inspiration. During the holidays, please consider supporting the work of agencies in your community. To find out more about how you can help, please visit our donations page. And have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day: Making a Smooth Transition for Veterans

by Don Cooke, Senior VP of Philanthropy

“A man who is good enough to shed blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterward.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

As we commemorate Veterans Day, it’s important that we not forget our nation's younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are experiencing new and complex challenges as they transition to civilian life. While advanced technology on the battlefield has saved many lives, it also has created a depth and breadth of physical and mental injuries never before experienced by our armed services or our nation.
These issues are of national proportion, but we’re learning through our work that the solutions must be local. The Foundation believes local, public-private partnerships focused on a coordinated system of care are essential in making a smooth transition for veterans. In order to reach the large number of returning veterans, we need a collaborative and coherent network of nonprofits providing services from health to education, to jobs, to family counseling and legal issues. This network must function in concert with the public sector services.

Here in Illinois, there is strong support for this kind of collaboration. From the Governor’s office on down and throughout the business and philanthropic communities, there is an understanding that we can only solve problems by working together.

One local, coordinated effort that we were particularly honored to take part in was Governor Pat Quinn’s announcement of the newest Veterans Cash scratch-off lottery ticket. This program is one of the innovative ways the state is addressing the challenge.

Clearly, it is in our shared and best interest that we invest in the veterans’ transition from military to civilian life.

Happy Veterans Day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

World Class Education, Birth to 20: What Will it Take in Chicago and Illinois?

by Sara Slaughter, Education Program Director

The evidence is stark– U.S. students fall well behind their peers in industrialized nations. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report in 2009 ranking the U.S. 21st among 30 other industrialized countries in science achievement and 25th in math. This fall, the McCormick Foundation has partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois State Board of Education, Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Community Trust to launch the World Class Education Colloquium Series to examine effective strategies that can build a birth to 20 system of excellence for children of Illinois and Chicago. This three part series engages education leaders and stakeholders in dialogue with experts from nations and states that have successful systems and asks how we can adapt those policies and practices in Chicago and Illinois. The ultimate goal – based on shared learning and inquiry – is to explore priorities for the Illinois birth to 20 education system and begin to develop plans to help our children become productive, contributing citizens.
Seven Strategies for Success
We invite you to watch the video of Session 1, but in case you’re short on time, take a look at these great presentations:
  • Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, spoke about redesigning state education systems based on strategies of top-performing nations, and presented seven strategies for success;
  • Charles Pascal, professor at the University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, shared lessons from Ontario's quest for excellence.
Please join us for the next session set for Dec. 5. Pasi Sahlberg, a representative from Finland's education ministry, will be one of two keynote speakers. We look forward to this valuable presentation and have much to learn as Finland is ranked number one globally in math and literacy education achievement exams.