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Author: Chris Brown

Job Fair in Southwest Chicago Draws Nearly 200 People

Job Fair in Southwest Chicago Draws Nearly 200 People

By Amanda Reilly

On Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, 27 employers, and nearly 200 job seekers piled into the gymnasium at Catalyst Maria School in a combined SWOP & Youth Job Center (YJC) event to help connect people in the community with jobs. As part of SWOP’s mission to enable families to determine their own future, SWOP has established a growing partnership with YJC to connect young people and adults with stable employment opportunities. From 3 pm to 6 pm on the 22nd job seekers spoke with diverse employers, some of whom were willing to hire returning citizens.  Employers ranged from the US Census Bureau to Starbucks to the YMCA to FedEx. Individuals from Southwest Chicago and from around the city heard about the fair and came to apply for jobs.

The same week as the job fair, SWOP partnered with YJC to bring a youth job readiness training to Chicago Lawn. The training helps prepare young people to enter the workforce for the first time, or to re-enter the workforce after experiencing barriers to employment. The training is available to young people between the ages of 18 to 25 once a month and focuses on professional readiness, interview skills, building a resume, and how to sustain employment once a job is secured. The next job readiness training with YJC that will be held at SWOP is scheduled for Sep. 24 – 27. To learn more about SWOP’s and YJC’s combined work around jobs or to register for the next youth job readiness training please contact Joel Rodriguez at jrodriguez@swopchicago.org.

SWOP Receives Extension of Sustainability Community Schools Grant

SWOP Receives Extension of Sustainability Community Schools Grant

By Amanda Reilly

For the 2018-2019 school year, SWOP was one of just 20 community-based organizations partnered with schools to receive the Sustainable Community Schools Grant from the Chicago Public Schools. The grant made it possible for SWOP to expand after-school programming in Morrill Elementary School throughout the year and create extensive parent programming. The funding was also utilized to bolster SWOP’s existing Teen Reach program within the school and develop a new partnership with the Youth Job Center, commonly known as YJC. The partnership with YJC is enabling SWOP to assist young people in the neighborhood in getting connected to jobs and job training programs.

This summer, SWOP received an extension of the grant to provide summer programming, alongside the original 20 school and partner institutions that received the 2018-2019 grant. The summer programming grant has enabled SWOP to hire five student interns to build their own campaigns around social issues in the community that they are passionate about. The campaign topics range from mental health to immigration. The grant is providing the opportunity to have movies in the park throughout the summer and has enabled the “Brain Arts Productions,” a financial literacy program to be available for students at Morrill School in Teen Reach. In addition to the hiring of five interns, the funding is being used to deliver parent programming throughout the summer at Morrill like Zumba and yoga classes. The grant will bring a resource room to Morrill, which will provide computers, reference material, and other resources to the students, parents, and staff.

Leslie Carrillo, the resource coordinator for the Sustainable Community Schools grant, says these opportunities are vital for the neighborhood during the summer months as kids just need places to be kids, and young people need access to work opportunities. The best news of all is that SWOP will be continuing to work with Morrill School in the fall, as SWOP has received additional funding for the coming school year. The funding will allow SWOP and Morrill to continue to work together to build a stronger community, and a stronger future for the students, families, and residents of Chicago Lawn.

Beating the Summer Heat with Hoops and PlayStreets

Beating the Summer Heat with Hoops and PlayStreets

By Amanda Reilly

Throughout the summer groups of youth have been outside our local schools and parks shooting hoops, chowing down on hot dogs, kicking around a soccer ball, and just enjoying being kids. SWOP’s long-standing programs, Hoops in the Hood and PlayStreets have come to Chicago Lawn again this summer! On July 12, 2019 Play Streets was out in front of Edwards School with giant human-size Jenga, basketballs, face painting, and even Mickey Mouse. Parent volunteers supported the effort to encourage kids to get out and enjoy the summer months. Yoga and Zumba have also been available for the youth to enjoy during Play Streets. On August 2, 2019 PlayStreets and Hoops in the Hood combined their programming outside of Marquette School where the community was out and ready to have fun.

The goal of PlayStreets and Hoops in the Hood is to keep kids active during the summer and promote peace on the streets through sports. Hoops in the Hood has been bringing basketball to young people in the neighborhood on Fridays throughout the summer. During the first week of Hoops in the Hood 40-50 young men gathered to play basketball at Gage Park High School. As the summer has progressed Hoops has also been present at Edwards, McKay, and Morrill schools.

Additionally, as a part of this summer’s programming, nine student interns from the community have been working with the groups, six with Hoops in the Hood, and three with PlayStreets. The interns have been developing their leadership skills, engaging the community, and going door to door to let residents know about the programs. As summer is passing by, the fun is still going on. The Hoops program will have one last hoorah for summer 2019 on August 17th. SWOP’s Hoop’s program will have 2 teams attending the citywide Hoops in the Hood tournament, which will give the youth an opportunity to shine, display their talents, and show who they are. That’s ultimately what it’s all about: enjoying the summer, promoting peace on our streets, and giving kids a chance to be kids. If you’d like to know more about Play Streets or Hoops in the Hood please reach out to Carlil Pittman at cpittman@swopchicago.org.

Parent Mentor Graduation 2019: “Seeing the Big Picture”

Parent Mentor Graduation 2019: “Seeing the Big Picture”

By Amanda Reilly

On June 14, 2019, over 900 Parent Mentors gathered at Carl Schurz High School for the 8th annual statewide parent mentor graduation. Miguel del Valle, former senator and the incoming president of the Chicago Board of Education, spoke at the event on the important and valuable work of the program. Both first-time parent mentors and seasoned parent volunteers alike had the opportunity to walk across the stage and shake hands with state representatives and senators. For many parents, it’s a moment that puts into perspective the work they have been doing all year and grasp what it means to be active in public life. The parent-mentor graduation and celebration enabled the parents participating in the program to see in a very physical way that their work is a part of a bigger mission.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the parent mentor program has made it possible for over 14,000 students to be assisted across the state of Illinois. This school year alone the program welcomed 9 new organizations and 19 new schools to make a total of 119 schools being served. Elideth Hernandez, Parent Mentor organizer, shared that “When you realize you are a part of something huge… it’s exciting, even to see some of the principals coming together.” For Maggie Perales, director of the Parent Mentor Program, the most special part of the graduation was to see the smiles on the parents’ faces. Sherri Miles, Parent Mentor organizer, also commented that “you see 8 Parent Mentors in your school every day but when you go to the graduation and see 900 that’s another thing, you’re not just part of a small team, you’re part of a whole group.” That’s what it’s all about: SWOP, the Parent Mentor Program, our parent volunteers… it’s about making a difference on a broader scale and giving community members the chance to become leaders in their own communities.

Interfaith Celebration of Reclaiming

Interfaith Celebration of Reclaiming

By Amanda Reilly

On Thursday, June 6, 2019, at 9:30 am over 150 people from the neighborhood began to gather in front of Saint Rita’s Catholic Church on 63rd ST. for an inter-faith celebration with Cardinal Cupich. The morning began with the sounds of mariachi and mingling of people from SWOP, United Power for Action and Justice, as well as other local community organizations and faith-based institutions based in Southwest Chicago. The gathering was opened with remarks and greetings from Rev. Homero Sánchez of St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church, and it continued with readings from Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic traditions.

Imam Omar Karim from the Ephraim Bajar Cultural Center, Rabbi James Brazelton from Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, and representatives from St. Rita’s read from religious texts. The readings were followed by testimonies about the “Reclaiming Southwest Chicago Campaign.”  The well-established campaign is an effort to address vacant properties and blight in the neighborhood as a direct result of the foreclosure crisis. The campaign continues to work through the neighborhood house by house, unit by unit, family by family, changing blocks, and reshaping the community.

Testimonies from Keana Lindo, local resident and SWOP leader, and parishioner of Ascension Parish, Nick Brunick, highlighted the impact of the campaign, as well as the work yet to be done around rehabbing vacant buildings, giving the neighborhood a physical facelift, and most importantly, continuing to create a stronger community through development of relationships throughout Southwest Chicago. Alia Bilal, from Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), gave brief comments and offered a prayerful reflection for those gathered. Additionally, Rabbi Capers Funnye from Beth Shalom provided spiritual fruit for contemplation. The event culminated with Cardinal Cupich speaking about the work of the Reclaiming Campaign and the work’s connection with our call to action as people of faith. The cardinal extended his best wishes on the work of the campaign and prayed for peace for the community. The gathering was closed with a renewed call to action from Rev. John Celichowksi.

If you are interested in learning more about the Reclaiming Campaign or would like to become more involved in this effort please contact either Harry Meyer: hmeyer@swopchicago.org or Amanda Reilly: areilly@swopchicago.org.

Building Leaders

Building Leaders

On Thursday, April 25, 2019, 37 people jammed into a conference room on the seventh floor of Holy Cross Hospital for the English version of SWOP’s Leadership Development Training.  A similar number were meeting in the auditorium of the hospital for the Spanish training.  This was the third and final session of SWOP’s April 2019 leadership training.  These leaders were Parent Mentors from local schools, young people active in SWOP’s jobs campaign, health professionals wanting to become more active in the community, parishioners from churches, and other people from one of SWOP’s 44 member institutions.

 

During the session, participants reviewed what they had learned in the first two sessions on the differences between public and private life and how to do a power analysis.  Then they spent most of the session on the heart of community organizing: one to one meetings.  Participants learned what is a one to one meeting (an intentional conversation) and what it is not (an interview).  Then three pairs of volunteers conducted one to one meetings in front of the group, one after another.  The facilitators coached them through the process and asked the group for feedback and learnings from the demonstrations.  The last activity of the training session was having everyone pairing up with someone they didn’t know for a 10 minute conversation to practice what they had just learned.

 

As the meeting wrapped up, these leaders were challenged to come to one of several upcoming SWOP meetings and actions to practice their new found skills.  For those interested in leadership development training, SWOP will do these sessions again in October of 2019.

Get Out The Vote 2019

Get Out The Vote 2019

SWOP’s non-partisan Get Out The Vote Campaign began on March 30th 2019 and extended through the evening of Election Day on April 2nd.  Eighty-nine Parent Mentors, young people, SWOP organizers, and volunteers mobilized and knocked on doors throughout the four day campaign.  In an effort to increase voter turnout in in Chicago’s southwest side in the runoff election, SWOP leaders walked through their neighborhoods talking to voters about the importance of the election.

Through Get Out The Vote efforts, SWOP successfully made contact with 1,607 registered voters and confirmed that 603 people went out to vote in the April 2nd elections. Leaders and organizers who canvassed the neighborhoods came from diverse backgrounds and were a reminder to everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, and ethnic background, that going out to vote is a way to make your voice heard. This campaign served as a great way to expose leaders to public life and increasing understanding of what civic engagement is all about. Together, parents, youth, volunteers, and organizers experienced what is was like to have a meaningful impact in our communities by getting people out to vote.

Coming Soon- Community Employer Assisted Housing Program!

Coming Soon- Community Employer Assisted Housing Program!

SWOP is pleased to announce the development of a “Community Employer Assisted Housing Program (CEAHP).” Through the generous support of Chase Bank and local employers, SWOP will be offering this program. The community employer assisted housing program will be providing $2,500 grants to eligible employees to purchase a home within the Reclaiming Southwest Chicago Campaign borders. In line with SWOP’s mission to empower and enable individuals and families in the community to determine their own future and connect with each other to improve the neighborhoods, the community employer assisted housing program will provide an opportunity to encourage home ownership and expand affordable housing.

The $2,5000 grant assistance can be used on any home between California Ave and Western Ave and 59th and 71st streets. Additional financial assistance may be available through the city’s Micro Market Recovery Program (MMRP) and lending opportunities are available through Neighborhood Housing Services. Current employers included in the program are Chase Bank and Holy Cross Hospital/Sinai Health System, however, any employers located in or near SWOP’s target area are welcome to join the program.

Interested families and individuals must be employed by a participating employer for one year and be in good standing. Applicants to CEAHP must also be the primary resident of the home for the first five years after purchase and must complete a HUD-approved home-ownership counseling course. To be eligible an applicant’s household income must fall within 120% of the area median income.

If you would like to apply for the program or are interested in having your local business become part of the program, please reach out to us! Please contact Harry Meyer at 773-471-8208 (ext. 131) or hmeyer@swopchicago.org or Amanda Reilly at 773-471-8208 (ext. 115), areilly@swopchicago.org to learn more about this opportunity.