Ashaki McClain, Director of the Teen Girls program at Family Matters, a family centered organization in Evanston said, “I’m here today because we wanted to find out how to deepen our Out of School Time education. Its important to us to have SEL included in what we’re doing, its important that our education be deep and rich in our programming so I thought this educational symposium would be helpful for us.”
The Big Picture
The reoccurring theme throughout the event centered on providing quality Out of School Time programs that engage youth while allowing them to develop meaningful skills. This fits directly into Bethel’s larger West Side Forward initiative, which aims to transform Chicago’s West Side communities by utilizing strategies that bring an end to decades of concentrated poverty and improve the collective standard of living.
The morning began with a networking continental breakfast while the opening remarks were provided by Dr. Lori Vallelunga, current President and CEO of Bethel.
The first plenary session featured Ms. Ayoka Samuels, Center Director at the Gary Comer Youth Center who spoke about the need to create strong programs for inner city youth. She reminded the participants that Out of School Time activities must be relevant to students.
Representatives from CASEL, a collaborative group that works across the country to help school districts and community groups set up and evaluate programs, discussed the importance of Social Emotional Learning.
Kristin Vogen, President and CEO of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation provided valuable information to many small organizations in attendance on how to navigate the funding arena.
The event also included a session on Common Core. With many school districts across the country, including Chicago Public Schools, recently adopting the Common Core standards, the session was indeed timely. It was also interactive and required participants to read through a set of note cards trying to determine if the statements on Common Core were fact or myth.
During the last session of the day lunch was served as Jennifer Keeling, Director of Thrive Chicago, spoke about the idea of collective impact and how cities around the country are now using this new framework to improve the outcomes of youth. She also talked about how local organizations can plug into the work that Thrive is already doing here in Chicago.
Helping those who help others
Dr. Vallelunga added, “For us the goal of this event really is help the after school providers improve their practice. So the groups that we have here today impact around 5,000 children in this community and if they can do a little better job every year doing that then those kids are going to do better academically and behaviorally.”
Those same sentiments were echoed throughout the event. One participant, a child care worker at the H.O.P.E. Excel Reaching the World After School Program, located at 4821 W. Chicago Avenue said she very much enjoyed the experience because it allowed her an opportunity to grow.
She added, “ I took a lot away from this symposium. I learned a lot of great techniques and things that I can implement working with my kids, the West Side community kids as well as my own children.”