Showing posts from November, 2020

Workforce Development for Immigrant Communities

Located between the Marshall Square and Pilsen neighborhoods, Instituto del Progreso Latino has been a significant pillar in workforce development and advancing education among the Latino community. In addition to their career pathways programs centered around healthcare, manufacturing, and retail, the organization also operates two public charter high schools and a nursing college. The community-based organization was founded in 1977 to help advance and improve the lives of Chicago’s immigrant and Latino communities through education, training, and employment, while still preserving their cultural identities. “I was the only Latina in the majority of my classes in college and felt very isolated. None of my peers looked like me. It made the statistics about Latinos having high youth dropout out rates and low college enrollment rates very real for me,” said Yesenia Cervantes, the Dean of Career Pathways and Community Affairs at Instituto. By the time she graduated, Yesenia knew she wan

Strengthening Community Relationships

The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), which currently has 45 member institutions, including local Catholic parishes, schools, and a hospital, strives to enable families on the Southwest Side of Chicago to improve life in their neighborhoods by building relationships across racial, generational, and faith differences, finding common community concerns, and acting collectively on solutions. “There’s an increased recognition that you can’t win by focusing on one community issue alone. It requires the interconnection between all the different aspects of the work. Rather than pointing to great work in schools, continuing to acquire and rehab homes, and working to reduce violence, what’s most striking to me is how they happen in relation to each other,” said Jeff Bartow, Director of the Southwest Organizing Project. Through collaborative efforts by SWOP and its partners, the Reclaiming Southwest Chicago campaign has been working to repair the physical and social damage caused by th

Helping Families Adapt to Online Learning

When Bonnie Kisielewski and her family participated in Chicago Commons programming through a partnership with her elementary school, she couldn’t have imagined the social services organization would still play a significant role in her life decades later. “My connection to Chicago Commons is quite the story! I attended a Chicago Commons pre-school, and my family used to attend the family summer camp before I joined the organization as a camp employee and then as a teacher after college,” said Bonnie. In her current role as the Education, Diverse Learner & Mental Health Compliance Manager, Bonnie provides technical assistance and training to the education staff in the areas of education, disabilities and mental health. Her work helps teachers achieve excellence in their overall education practices. Bonnie fulfills a dual role as she is also an adjunct instructor in the Child Development Department at the City Colleges of Chicago, which allows her to use her experience in education

Connecting Adult Learners with Resources for Education and Employment

The Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition was formed in 2003 to advocate for the improvement of adult literacy programs. Today, the organization works closely with workforce development organizations and gathers resources for adult education organizations to increase their capacity. The CCLC strives to help underserved adult learners improve their quality of life and become economically successful through educational programs involving technology and health literacy, the Career Pathways program, and continued literacy advocacy. When the CCLC recognized the declining number of adult education programs on the South Side of Chicago, which approximately 250,000 adults could benefit from, the organization took action to launch the South Side Career Pathways Collaborative in 2019 and created an organized career pathway system for the community. “My role as the Mid-South Career Pathways Navigator is to connect 12 adult education and workforce development organizations to increase their capaci

Growing Food and Careers through Urban Agriculture

“I didn’t know there was a farm in the hood .” Fred Daniels hears that a lot. As the site manager at the Growing Home farm in Englewood, he wishes more people knew about this community resource. “Our doors are always open to support. It’s more than just our training program and making sure people get a job. It’s getting to see people blossom into a different person. And, growing some of the best food one can get.” Growing Home is a nonprofit organization on the South Side of Chicago working to help people find meaningful, sustaining careers through agriculture. Through its training program, participants are involved in every aspect of farm production including planting, harvesting, packaging and selling to customers across the neighborhood and in Chicago. Participants, who are referred to as production assistants, also work with Growing Home staff to improve access to healthy food for underserved neighborhoods in Chicago. Before the pandemic, Growing Home sold produce every Thursday