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Showing posts from 2016

Home of the Brave

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by Brad Lash, Web Content StrategistLand of the Free. Home of the Brave. Melting Pot. Land of Opportunity. With slogans like these, it comes as no surprise that people across the world are attracted to move to the United States. Our national rhetoric promises inclusion and equitable access to “The American Dream”, however the hardship and prejudice that today’s immigrants face when they arrive tell a different story. I recently had the opportunity to visit Pui Tak, a grantee of the McCormick Foundation’s Communities Program. Pui Tak hosts English classes for adult students from East and Southeast Asia. I listened as immigrants from countries such as China, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia shared their stories. A strong common theme was their desire to create a better life for themselves and their families, whether they were in their twenties or seventies. Many of them work hard in low-paying laborious jobs. People make fun of their accents or tell them to go back where they came from, yet…

Electing President Lincoln

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by Jeff Anderson, McCormick Museum Tour CoordinatorThis summer, the Robert R. McCormick Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois, obtained a painting by Chicago Tribune artist James Sessions. The painting depicts a meeting between Abraham Lincoln and Chicago Tribune editors, Joseph Medill and Dr. Charles Ray. Lincoln was seeking advice regarding a speech that he would be giving in New York the following year. This speech was famously known as the Cooper Union speech, which was considered to be one of his most important speeches of his career. Some historians argued that it was this speech that was responsible for his victory in the presidential election later that year.Joseph Medill and Charles Ray were fierce advocates of Lincoln. Their allegiance was formed during the senate race against Senator Stephen Douglas. During that election the Chicago Tribune published several articles and editorials praising Lincoln. On February 28, 1860, Lincoln delivered the Cooper Union speech in …

Veteran Faces

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by Megan Everett, Veterans Program DirectorThe Robert R. McCormick Foundation recently granted nearly $1.2 million to eight nonprofits supporting veteran services, reintegration and public health initiatives in Illinois. To help promote the important work of these organizations, we are sharing short vignettes that capture how these organizations are impacting local veterans. Since September, we have had the privilege to speak with four incredible individuals on how our partner organizations such as, National Able Network, Bunker Labs, Chicago Lighthouse, and Thresholds have helped them transition back into civilian life. The stories below reveal hardships, successes, and self-reflections faced by these veterans upon leaving the military.To view the full interviews follow @McCormick_Fdn on Twitter and Like the McCormick Foundation on Facebook. Deneen Gayles, National Able NetworkI am a National Guard veteran. I retired in 2014 after serving in the military for nearly 30 years. I enlist…

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar Election Day is here, and like me, many of you will have already cast your vote by the time you read this post, happy to check off this cycle’s thankless chore, having chosen the lesser of two evils. For even the most ardent of political junkies among us, instead of reveling in this great exercise of democratic governance, we’ll close our eyes after hours of election results and collectively exalt, “Good riddance.” I’ve lamented before about the special challenges of teaching this election, so will pivot instead to the important work that lies ahead in our classrooms beginning tomorrow. Tonight’s presidential outcome and control of the U.S. Senate promise to be closer than we anticipated even ten days ago. Many of our students and their parents will have supported or even voted for losing candidates. They may very well feel like doomsday has arrived. And many of their concerns and grievances are real. But we cannot allow them to forget th…

Free Speech No Longer Ends at the Schoolhouse Gates

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by Frank LoMonte, Executive Director, Student Press Law CenterThe McCormick Foundation talked with Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), on a bill recently signed by the Illinois Governor that protects First Amendment rights for high school journalists in the state. The bill would reverse the effects of the 1988 Supreme Court case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, a decision that gave high school administrators the power to censor school-sponsored content if they had a “reasonable educational justification.”McCormick: Tell us about the new law that was passed in July 2016 to protect high school journalists from censors.LoMonte: In July, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a law (HB 5902) that protects high school journalists against censorship. The new mandate, introduced by Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39), a former journalist, also prevents school administrators from retaliating against school employees for protecting a student journalist’s rig…

Program Helps Close Summer Learning Gap

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by Liz McChesney, Director of Children and Family Services, Chicago Public LibraryAccording to the National Summer Learning Association, every summer, low-income youth lose two to three months in reading while their higher-income peers make slight gains. Most youth lose about two months of math skills in the summer. This phenomenon contributes to gaps in achievement throughout the child’s life effecting future employment, and college and career success. To help reverse this discouraging trend in Chicago, Chicago Public Library (CPL), launched a 10-week summer learning program, Rahm’s Readers Summer Learning Challenge. This initiative provides opportunities for youth throughout Chicago to grow and learn while out of schools, including STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programs developed in partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry.Youth who enrolled in the Summer Learning Challenge–particularly the youngest and most engaged—showed 15 percent greater readi…

WWII Veterans Receives Legion of Honor Medal

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In July, John Chrenka (age 94), WWII veteran from Berwyn, Illinois, received the Legion of Honor medal—the highest distinction awarded by France. This honor was given to him for his service in Omaha Beach and across northern France.John Chrenka enlisted in the army in 1942 and served until the war ended in 1945. He accepted his medal from French Consul General, Vincent Floreani at the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. During the ceremony First Division Museum’s Andrew Woods performed a song that Chrenka wrote as a young soldier in England. As Andrew sang, Chrenka remembered every single word of his song and, in a soft voice, began to sing along.This is the latest honor for the already decorated Sergeant Chrenka who also has a Bronze Star and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Educate, Don't Incarcerate

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Schools should inspire learning, and offer a supportive and positive environment in which to learn. When students are punished for minor offenses by suspensions and expulsions, that out-of-school time creates more problems than it solves. Often, there are more effective interventions that address the root causes of behavioral issues. Students also have a greater chance of educational success the more time they are in school. Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) is a youth-led, citywide collaborative dedicated to education justice and equity. VOYCE, a program of Communities United and a grantee of the Democracy Program, convened The Campaign for Common Sense Discipline that led the effort to pass SB 100 in 2015. SB 100 limits the use of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions at public schools (K – 12) in response to minor incidents. It ensures the most severe disciplinary consequences are used not as punishment, but only in order to preserve a safe and productive learning e…

The First Amendment and a Tale of Two Protests

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by Cassandra Solis, Digital Communications InternThis past May, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) took to the streets to protest Governor Rauner’s delay in passing a budget for the 2016-2017 school year affecting the financial resources needed for Chicago Public schools (CPS) to start on time. Public officials may not be too happy about the demonstrations, but they have preserved the CTU’s right to protest; allowing them to assemble and organize a peaceful agenda. Similarly, across the U.S./Mexico border — in the southernmost state of Oaxaca, Mexico — teachers took to the streets to protest the government’s education reforms. Sadly, the Oaxaca teachers experienced a very different outcome. Here’s the breakdown…In 2013, Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, proposed an education reform plan that included a provision that would have teacher evaluations dictate compensation and subsequently, terminate teachers who would not meet federal standards. In May of 2013, the CTNE issued a state…

Race and Healing in Chicago

by David Hiller, President and CEOAfter the terrible events last week in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, our country is shocked, saddened and deeply worried about where we are and where we are going as a nation. As a foundation in Chicagoland committed to strengthening our communities, we are reflecting on what we can do to help our community heal, build trust, and move forward.The center of our problem is the failure of community itself, with the perception and fact that we are divided along racial lines, and that police and other institutions do not treat communities of color equitably, sometimes with violent and lethal consequences. This problem is as old as our nation, and is rooted in our long history of slavery, racism, and segregation, a legacy we have not fully confronted and certainly not solved.At the McCormick Foundation we have over the past year begun exploring more intentionally how race and racial equity impact our communities, and our own mission to help make our co…

Mikva Proved that Nobodies Are Somebodies

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar The civic learning community in Illinois mourns the passing of Abner Mikva (1926-2016), a devoted public servant who co-founded the Mikva Challenge with his wife Zoe. The organization capped a half century career that touched state and national government, and all three branches of the latter. It’s work engaging young people in the political processes, both elections and public policy, allowed Ab to pass the baton to the next generation, and what a legacy he leaves.The McCormick Foundation has proudly supported the work of the Mikva Challenge for the past 13 years. The organization played a key role in the expansion of civic learning both in Chicago and throughout Illinois, including the current #CivicsIsBack Campaign. Whether it’s engaging students in campaigns on both sides of the aisle, training them to serve as election judges, or elevating youth voice through citywide and school based youth councils and committees, Mikva Challenge p…

Supporting Veterans through Chicago's Faith Community

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by Megan Everett, Veterans Program DirectorWhere does one go in times of struggle? Every person’s response is different based on their current and past experiences. This holds especially true for veterans returning home from service. The success of a veteran’s transition from military to civilian life is dependent upon a number of factors including length of service, and experiences during one’s service, family structure, resources available in the communities’ veterans are returning to, and much more. The question remains – with a varied veteran population, how can we best support successful transitions? Last January, I wrote about the Foundation’s partnership with the Steans Center's Egan Office for Urban Education and Community Partnerships (UECP) at DePaul University to launch the Multi-Faith Veterans Support Project (MVP). For over a year, this initiative has been working to strengthen relationships between the Chicago faith-based communities and local social service organiz…

Downstate News Collaborative

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In an effort to ensure news stories throughout the state are being shared regionally and nationally, seven public media stations across the state joined forces to start a journalism collaboration Under the working title, Illinois Newsroom. Led by Illinois Public Media, the Illinois Newsroom will focus on covering education, public policy, and health and the environment. It will produce content for partner stations, in addition to, working with national syndicates, including PBS NewsHour and NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The McCormick Foundation is funding the audience engagement and partnership strategy for this initiative. The strategy includes developing digital tools that connect users with content and one another. Additionally, hosting events, discussions and workshops for community members, civic leaders, students and journalists to establish meaningful relationship with downstate audiences. “The face of journalism is changing but its critical role in democracy…

Developing Strong Education Leaders in Illinois

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In 2010, Illinois became the first state to create a PreK-12 principal endorsement requiring preparation programs in early education, special education, and English Language Learning coursework and field experiences for aspiring school leaders. Those policy changes became law in 2010 and went into effect in 2014. With more than 860 school districts and 400 principal vacancies each year, these new requirements provide an opportunity to transform the principal pipeline in the state to ensure that school leaders demonstrate both managerial and instructional leadership skills. Research commissioned by the McCormick Foundation on the implementation of the new requirements has identified some early concerns from principal preparation programs. One concern is that the more rigorous program requirements will lead to a decrease in the supply of principals in the state thereby negatively affecting districts and schools. While there is no data confirming this, it's a potential issue that may…

Reducing Violence and Creating Opportunities through Employment

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by Carrie Thomas, Executive Director, Chicago Jobs CouncilUnemployment for young black Chicagoans is staggering, damaging, and has solutions. Young adults 20-24 year olds in Chicago are more likely to be out of work and school than their peers in other large US cities, or the nation as a whole. (Graphic: Chicago Tribune)
The data comes from a report recently released by the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Great Cities Institute that found low-income black teens in the city are employed at an abysmal rate of 9 percent. It also revealed that the highest concentration of youth unemployment were in low-income and minority neighborhoods on the south and west sides of Chicago. Communities where resources are scarce.These statistics are bleak but there are solutions.One being to increase employment opportunities and resources in low-income communities. Research from the University of Chicago found that an 8-week, minimum wage, part-time job reduced violence by 43 percent for 16 months afte…

A Student Reflection on the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition Convening

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by Christopher Kim, ISBE Student Advisory Council Member, Northside College Prep HS, Chicago, Illinois foreword by Sonia Mathew, Civic Learning Manager, Democracy Program

In planning for the 6th annual Illinois Civic Mission Coalition annual convening, I wanted to be intentional with including experiences that would interest a variety of stakeholders that would be in attendance, including teachers and administrators in the Democracy School Network, civic education partners, and students. I especially wanted to engage students with additional leadership roles in the event and to give them a platform to share their perspective on their learning from the event. As we work with schools across the state to strengthen student voice, the convening was a perfect opportunity to also have student voices heard. One of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Student Advisory Council Members, Chris Kim, accepted my invitation to share his reflection of the event with us. It is a powerful…

The Tale of Two Convenings

by Shawn Healy, Civic Learning Scholar, McCormick FoundationFree speech and the right to peaceful protest are foundational to democratic governance. They were both celebrated and challenged last Friday at venues blocks away from one another on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).At the UIC Forum, members of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition (ICMC) gathered to celebrate the #CivicsIsBack campaign. This included recognizing ten new Illinois Democracy Schools, passage of a new high school civics course requirement, and approval of civics-friendly state social studies standards. The event was punctuated by a bi-partisan ceremony where students, civic learning advocates, bill sponsor Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner shared the stage, the latter two offering congratulatory remarks for the ICMC’s recent achievements.The new civics course requires class discussions of current and controversial issues, among the most promising …

Preserving Black History

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by Angela Ford, Executive Director of T.A.G. FoundationIn early 2015, I was sitting in a community meeting daydreaming, when someone said in passing “Well, about 10,000 photographs are disintegrating at The Chicago Defender.” I snapped into the present. “What did you just say?!” I replied.The Chicago Defender is one of the few institutions that have chronicled the lives of African Americans in Chicago from the early 1900s to the present. That is why it is imperative that we salvage these damaged images and stories. Through its content, The Chicago Defender has been integral in moving the needle on countless historic issues facing African Americans including segregation in the military, campaigning against Jim Crow era violence, influencing the Great Migration and much more. My organization, the T.A.G. Foundation, is committed to preserving and sharing The Chicago Defender's photo archives, which is why we are in the process of building a digital platform, The Obsidian Collection.…

The State of Chicago Veterans

by Megan Everett, Director, Veterans ProgramLast August, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, in partnership with Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work and the University of Southern California Center for Innovation and Research on Military Families (CIR), commissioned a study, the Chicagoland Veterans Study. This comprehensive study is intended to survey more than 2,000 veterans in Cook, Will, Lake and DuPage Counties to examine the needs of veterans living in Chicagoland area, and identify gaps and opportunities for program and service development. A range of issues are being surveyed including housing, employment, barriers to care, physical and mental health, and transition from the service to civilian life.In 2013, CIR first conducted this comprehensive study in Los Angeles County. You can find the results of the study here.Veterans can still participate in the Chicagoland Veterans Study. Once completed, participants will receive a $15 gift card. A comprehensive data ana…