Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Supporting Veterans through Chicago's Faith Community

by Megan Everett, Veterans Program Director

Where 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?

Rev. Oluwatoyin Hines of the Multi-Faith
Veteran Support Project, leading a Spiritual
Integration Training.

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 organizations as a way to help ease transitions home. I am thrilled to announce that the McCormick Foundation will continue to work with DePaul by supporting a second phase of the MVP initiative.

In the last year, DePaul has identified four faith-based organizations and communities in Chicago to anchor this work including Lockhart Resource Institute in the Austin neighborhood, Apostolic Church of God in the Woodlawn neighborhood, Endeleo Institute in the Washington Heights neighborhood, and DePaul University in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. In each neighborhood, DePaul has provided community engagement training to cultivate clergy leadership’s participation in this program and to enhance connections between the faith-based community and local VA medical centers. Each of these sites has adopted strategic plans to create networks across the faith, behavioral health, and veteran communities

In the coming year, DePaul will identify two new community engagement sites to begin equipping more faith-based organizations with the skills and training they will need to address and understand veterans’ needs. Additionally, at these sites, DePaul will develop alternative safe healing spaces for veterans and formalize their psycho-theological curriculum for spiritual care for issues of moral injury, military sexual trauma, and veteran family healing. This important work is helping to bridge the military and civilian divide, and allowing veterans to receive both spiritual support and the health and social services they may need.

Follow the Multi-Faith Veteran Support Project on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the initiative and its progress.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Downstate News Collaborative

by Jennifer Choi, Program Officer

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 is not, said David Hiller, President and CEO of the McCormick Foundation. “The Foundation investment in the Illinois Newsroom shows our commitment to sustaining a strong local journalism ecosystem in Illinois.”

Reducing Violence and Creating Opportunities through Employment

by Carrie Thomas, Executive Director, Chicago Jobs Council

Unemployment 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 after the work experience had concluded for the youth involved in the program.

Not only do we understand the approaches that work, Chicago has a strong track record for putting them into action. Unfortunately, not to the scale needed for broader impact. During the recession, federal funding created hundreds of jobs in Illinois for unemployed resident creating positive benefits among all age groups; however, funding stopped after only one year. Every year programs like One Summer Chicago connect Chicago youth to employment opportunities during the summer months. But demand is high so only one out of every four candidates is placed.

Full year jobs and private sector opportunities for young people are also in short supply. Our efforts creating jobs for young people have been big enough to demonstrate their effectiveness, but too small to create the broad impact Chicago needs.

To maximize the benefit of these programs, they need both more funding, and strategic local targeting. Chicago Job Council (CJC) member organizations and community leaders across the city have been calling for greater investment for months, holding rallies, testifying at public hearings, and outlining ideas for reaching more young people.

Here are some approaches organizations can take to identify and recruit potential employees who are most at-risk of unemployment:

  • Partnering with community organizations and leaders working in communities experiencing high levels of unemployment and violence
  • Strengthening income eligibility requirements
  • Creating local in-person application opportunities in addition to online recruitment

Strategic investment in job opportunities decreases unemployment and violence, and provides opportunities for disadvantaged youth to thrive. It’s incumbent upon all of us to work together to create a more hopeful future for the next generation.

The Chicago Jobs Council is one of the many local nonprofits that receive funding through Chicago Tribune Charities, a Robert R. McCormick Foundation Fund.

Developing Strong Education Leaders in Illinois

by Christy Serrano, Program Officer

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 need to be addressed.

A recent white paper, released by Illinois State University on principal supply and demand, addressed these concerns and outlined what can and cannot be concluded from the available data. Researchers also provided recommendations on ways Illinois can create and sustain a healthy supply of high quality principals. Those strategies include:

  1. Developing a longitudinal data system that collects and stores a wide variety of metrics that can more accurately inform principal supply and demand
  2. Identifying regional differences in principal supply and demand, and distribute resources accordingly
  3. Establishing and implementing talent management efforts that improve requirement, selection, training and retention

Overall, principal preparation programs and school districts strongly believe that the new requirements will attract higher quality candidates and improve practices statewide. The Foundation’s education grantees continue to partner with private and public stakeholders on implementing a state plan to advance the preparation and development of future school leaders.

To learn more see ”Statewide Data on Supply And Demand of Principals after Policy Changes to Principal Preparation in Illinois.”

Coming Summer 2017! Major Updates to the First Division Museum

by Gayln Piper, First Division Museum

When visitors step into the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton next summer, they will be greeted by new, interactive exhibits celebrating all 100 years of the 1st Infantry Division’s history.

In early April, the First Division Museum announced the start of the redesign project that will update existing exhibits -- which span the period from the 1st Infantry Division’s inception in 1917 through the Vietnam War in 1970 -- and create new ones highlighting its more recent history.

While the footprint of the Museum will not change, visitors will see dramatic differences inside. Led by Luci Creative, the project will be divided into three areas: the existing 10,000-square-foot exhibit, which will be updated with revised text, updated artifact displays and new digital components; the 2,700-square-foot temporary exhibit area, which will be converted into a permanent exhibit focused on the 1st Infantry Division’s history after the Vietnam War; and the lobby.

The First Division Museum, which attracts about 170,000 visitors annually, will close its doors the day after Veterans Day, November 11, 2016, and remain closed until summer 2017. The reopening will coincide with the centennial of the 1st Infantry Division and World War I.

While a final design concept is still being determined, here is a sneak peek at what the space may look like after the redesign.