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Showing posts from 2017

Building Cantigny's Future

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by Matt LaFond, Executive Director, Cantigny ParkAbout a year ago, we announced major revitalization plans for Cantigny, the former home of Robert R. McCormick in Wheaton. We didn’t have a name for our project at the time, only big plans for the estate’s gardens, grounds and museums. Project New Leaf is still years from completion, but progress came quickly in 2017. Just before Labor Day, the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park reopened after a 10-month renovation. If you’ve had a chance to visit, we hope you agree that our world-class military museum is better than ever—as an educational resource and as a tribute to those who served or serve today. “Better than ever” aptly describes our goal for Cantigny Park overall. Through Project New Leaf, the McCormick Foundation is investing to ensure a superior guest experience for current and future generations of visitors. Colonel McCormick, our benefactor, would want nothing less. We honor and share his vision for Cantigny as a communi…

Schools Play Definitive Role in Students' Civic Development

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by Shawn Healy, Program Director, DemocracyAs a former high school teacher, I believe deeply in the premise that formal education can shape students’ civic development. The sustenance and success of our democratic experiment is dependent upon each generation being knowledgeable about both the issues of the day and the institutions of government, possessing the skills necessary to work together to resolve collective problems, and the belief that civic participation is both valuable and impactful. The Foundation certainly understands that schools play a vital role in cultivating engaged and effective citizens. In 2015, the Foundation and other statewide partners helped pass legislation that requires all high school students to complete a semester-long civics course effective with the Class of 2020. Through our statewide civic learning and engagement work, including the implementation of the new course and the Illinois Democracy Schools initiative, the Foundation provides guidance and …

Building an Education Media Ecosystem in Chicago

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by Cornelia Grumman, Program Director, EducationToo many compelling education stories in the Chicago area are simply not getting told. Stressed, constricted newsrooms have increasingly limited resources. Expertise in complex issue areas such as early education is in limited supply. Meanwhile, students, educators, and families stand at the center of sweeping changes that carry profound implications for our communities and Illinois’ future. Residents, thought leaders and policymakers need to hear – and be informed by – compelling accounts of what is happening inside classrooms, higher education institutions and community early learning centers, and how those stories illustrate larger systemic issues or trends. To help boost understanding of education issues, philanthropic, education and journalism leaders have come together to successfully attract Chalkbeat, an award-winning education news organization, to Chicago. Chicago, along with Newark, N.J., was selected by Chalkbeat’s national …

Fighting on Both Fronts

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by Don Cooke, Senior Vice President, Philanthropy This year marks 100 years since the United States entered World War I. To commemorate this important event in our history the McCormick Foundation and WTTW partnered to present to the people of the region a series of five vignettes titled Chicago World War I Moments. This series highlights the many roles of Chicago and Chicagoans in the “war to end all wars.” Out of this project surfaced a remarkable, untold story of the 370th Infantry Regiment, one of the only African-American regiments that fought in combat during WWI. Fighting On Both Fronts: The Story of the 370th, a documentary produced by WTTW with the Foundation’s support, first aired on November 11 and tells the story of the nearly 3,000 unsung heroes, largely from Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, who fought in combat during WWI. They were men who believed that if they fought for the principles of democracy overseas it would translate to equality for them back home – equal…

New Program Strategy Helps Strengthen Chicagoland Communities

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Since February, the Foundation’s Communities Program has been working with more than 20 local and national organizations with expertise in poverty alleviation and race equity work to discuss ways to improve our grant and development strategies to achieve the greatest impact in the communities we serve. Through these discussions, we have decided to focus on (1) adopting a Race Equity lens, supporting programs and policies that respond to community voice and address the root causes of poverty and systemic racial bias and (2) develop a holistic grant framework that responds to the complex mix of barriers experienced in Chicago’s most under-invested communities. Recently, the Communities Program developed a new fund, the McCormick Foundation Communities Matching Fund, to help create long-lasting impact in Chicagoland communities. Through the Matching Fund, the Foundation, along with frontline community organizations and community partners, will work to fight hunger, homelessness, and othe…

Making Illinois the Best State for Veterans to Thrive

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by Megan Everett, Veterans Program Director As 2017 quickly comes to a close, the Veterans Program continues to build and strengthen relationships with our grantees that serve veterans and military families through partnerships with Chicagoland businesses and nonprofits throughout Illinois. This year we have invested more than $2 million in Illinois-based organizations and national organizations that are doing this important work in Illinois. We strive to work alongside our partners, and public and private donors to support impactful work that best supports Illinois veterans. The McCormick Foundation Veterans Program supports high-quality, integrated, and coordinated services in the areas of education, employment, health and wellness, along with providing capacity and technical support for veteran-centered institutions. To ensure Illinois is the best state for veterans to come home to, we believe collaboration and coordination among partners, in addition, to delivering high-quality s…

Honoring POW/MIA Recognition Day at Cantigny Park

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A major theme of the recently re-opened First Division Museum at Cantigny Park is “Our Soldiers,” a reminder that all our service-members are ours. We must care about their welfare, about where they go and why and we must welcome them home. But some do not return. In the conflicts from World War II to the present, more than 82,000 Americans are still missing in action. To help keep them in the public’s (and government’s) mind, we at Cantigny Park are observing National POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 15. We will proudly fly the National League of Families black and white POW/MIA flag and we will remind our fellow citizens of our solemn responsibility to bring these people home. Fortunately, our government is making progress. There is a permanent agency dedicated to accounting for, identifying and recovering the missing – the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Underfunded and under staffed, it has nonetheless accounted for 132 missing service-members just in 2017. A look at thei…

Exciting Times for the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance

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by Molly Baltman-Leonard, Assistant Director/Grantmaking, Communities ProgramIn May 2017, the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance, a collaboration of foundations and corporate funders focused on employment equity, received a $1 million personal gift from President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. The Obama’s donation will support an effort to open apprenticeship pathways into the building trades for adults, especially young adults, who have been underrepresented in the trades sector. In partnership with the Obama Foundation, the Chicago Jobs Council, and a variety of other foundations and corporate partners, the Obamas’ gift will help to identify and solve workforce challenges within the Building Trade Sector such as: Capturing better data on diversity and inclusion.Coordinating leadership from "construction buyers" to support shared solutions and track progress in the sector as a whole.Designing and supporting effective career pathways for young adults …

Striving Together to Support Illinois Veterans

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A look at several community collaborations working together to serve veterans. by Megan Everett, Director, Veterans ProgramWhen veterans come home they do not return to federal agencies; they return to communities across the country. And many of these communities do not have the knowledge, capacity and/or resources to support veterans, especially those facing service-related challenges. While most veterans successfully transition into civilian life, those who need assistance find that the post-service process can be frustrating and support hard to come by. There are approximately 415,000 veterans in the Chicagoland area, 700,000 in the state of Illinois. The McCormick Foundation veterans program strives to make Illinois the best state for veterans and military families to thrive. One way we approach this mission is to support pathways and networks to coordinated outcome-based programs that provide transitioning service members, veterans and military families ease of access to supporti…

Beyond the Classroom: Promoting Civic Learning at Home

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Director, Democracy ProgramAs a young boy, I developed an early interest in politics, thanks in part to the influence of my parents and grandparents. I recall my father bringing me along with him to vote, my paternal grandmother taking two newspapers each day and faithfully watching gavel-to-gavel coverage of the party conventions, and my maternal grandmother meeting with her alderman at the kitchen table. Now, with two kids of my own, I’ve tried my very best to pass the torch, modeling these same behaviors and demonstrating my daily commitment to strengthening democracy in Illinois. However, democracy is not a solitary sport. Schools, community members, and families must come together to educate the next generation to collectively discuss and resolve common problems. In early August, I attended the 2017 Summer Convening of the Action Civics Initiative in Philadelphia where I participated in a Facebook Live session sponsored by Pearson. During the session we di…

First Division Museum Reopens at Cantigny Park

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The First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton reopened its doors to the public on Saturday, August 26. The Museum began a transformational update last fall including the addition of “Duty First,” an all-new gallery focusing on the modern (post-Vietnam) history of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division.The new experience features new and updated exhibits plus cutting-edge storytelling techniques. The “Duty First” gallery occupies the 2,500-square-foot space formerly used for temporary exhibits and programs. Inside it, visitors will learn about the different types of missions performed by the 1st Infantry Division today with the information, in many cases, delivered by the voices of military veterans. Interactive exhibits apply virtual reality technology that is sure to leave a lasting impression. The First Division Museum’s other major gallery is “First in War.” This space, thoroughly updated with new media and more artifacts, will be familiar to previous visitors. Powerful immersiv…

Tracing America's Painful Past Can Offer Lessons for the Future

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On Saturday night, staff from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation will be attending the DuSable Museum of African American History’s “Night of 100 Stars,” a benefit highlighting the amazing achievements of notable individuals, including artist and musician Chancelor “Chance the Rapper” Bennett, former World Food Program executive director Ertharin Cousin, and Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. and former president of the Chicago History Museum.Lonnie Bunch also had a piece in today’s New York Times about a recent incident at the National Museum in whcih someone placed a noose near one of the museum’s exhibits. This follows instances of nooses being left elsewhere on the National Mall in recent weeks, and in other places around the country as signs of racial hate and intimidation.Bunch offers a powerful view into the continuing story of racism and bigotry in this country, as well as our uneven progress t…

Expanding Early Childhood Leadership in Illinois

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by Cornelia Grumman, Director, Education ProgramWith support from the McCormick Foundation’s Education Program, the Erikson Institute in March launched a new track of its Early Childhood Leadership Academy. The McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows program trains high-level leaders across disciplines — including politics, government, law enforcement, education, the law — about key components of the early education system. Fellows will hear from experts on leading-edge research, visit exemplary early childhood settings, network with cross-sector leaders and receive on-demand online content. Equipped with this information, the executives can make better informed decisions about policies and resource allocation in their respective fields to advance outcomes for young children.

Discussing Controversial Topics: Civic Education is Key

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by Shawn P. Healy, Director, Democracy ProgramIn April, I participated on a panel at a Council on Foundations’ preconference in Dallas, discussing Philanthropy’s Role in Strengthening America’s Democracy.I was asked to weigh in on a narrative that dominates our county today: (1) Are we a divided country? (2) And if so, how do you see civic education helping to bridge our differences?The McCormick Foundation’s statewide civic education work offers guidance on how schools and educators can begin bridging ideological and geographic divides. Context matters a great deal. A controversial issue in one region is settled in another. Research suggests that most of us follow the guidance of our grandparents to not discuss politics or religion. For the junkies among us, we're more likely to discuss politics among those with whom we agree, leading to the ideological amplification that increasingly cripples our democracy. Understanding how to productively discuss controversial topics and learn…

Securing Meaningful Careers for Chicago Veterans

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by Megan Everett, Director, Veterans ProgramThere are a lot of misconceptions about veterans.PTSD or on the brink of committing suicide.Physically aggressive.Broken heroes.The list goes on and on.Veteran-stereotypes are just that, stereotypes. And like most stereotypes they are not true.The reality is most veterans are neither heroes nor broken, they are normal people looking to lead happy lives, have loving families, and obtain meaningful, successful careers. Sadly, this is not reality that most veterans face when returning from service. According to a recent survey issued by the University of Southern California and Loyal University of Chicago, Chicago veterans are unprepared for the shift from military to civilian workforce, and, consequently struggle during the transition process. The study also showed about half of post-9/11 veterans, returning to Chicago, will experience a period of unemployment. Here’s the thing — veterans ARE trained leaders for whom accountability and strong w…

Remembering the Forgotten War: WWI Centennial

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One hundred years ago, the United States entered "the war to end all wars." Two momentous events in 1917 set the U.S. Army on its path from the U.S.-Mexican border in Texas to the poppy-covered fields of Cantigny, France. Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare provoked an American declaration of war in April and a promise from President Woodrow Wilson to immediately dispatch “a division” to France, which at the time the U.S. had none. The four infantry regiments selected to comprise the “First Expeditionary Division,” were among the very first to arrive in France in June 1917 and complete enough training to be ready by the spring of 1918. The 1st Division's formative experience preparing for combat on the Western Front in World War I challenged soldiers in ways their counterparts today might recognize - raw recruits manning a new organization; extreme personnel turbulence; unfamiliar technology; precarious relationships with allies; doctrinal uncertainty; …

We All Have a Stake in Strengthening Democracy

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by David Hiller, President and CEO At its recent meeting our board of directors approved several grants in our Democracy Program to support organizations committed to strengthening democracy and enhancing civic engagement in Illinois. The program, representing an $8 million annual investment, addresses a critical issue we face — sustaining our democracy in an era of great political polarization and lack of trust in our civic institutions.Several of our partners are working to strengthen civic education and civic engagement among our young people. This is aligned with the state-wide effort to bring quality civic education back to all Illinois high schools, and to improve civics, history and other social studies in all the K-12 grades under the new Social Studies Standards. Mikva Challenge, Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, Illinois Center for Civic Education, Golden Apple Foundation, and WE Charity are all champions of this work.Speaking of civic education, we are also excited…