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Author: Chris Brown

Action Council Meeting

Action Council Meeting

Action Councils are spaces for SWOP organizers to share about their work. Partners, members, volunteers, and more gathered together to learn updates and be invited to work on campaigns.

At Thursday’s Action Council on November 14, organizers shared updates on their work with immigration, building community safety, and education. Most of the time focused on the 2020 census because it impacts everything of which SWOP is a part.

Imelda Salazar, who is leading SWOP’s work on the Census work, presented why the census matters to SWOP. Imelda emphasized that SWOP’s primary reason for doing census work is to build power – the power to act – in SWOP’s communities.

The census will also impact SWOP’s communities and therefore our work together. Politically, the census may impact the number of representatives Illinois has. Illinois could lose one or two seats in the House of Representatives. Economically, the census impacts the distribution of resources to different communities. It is important that all people are counted in the right place.

To learn more about the Census, check out the links on our Census 2020 page.

To partner with SWOP to get an accurate count of our population, contact organizer Imelda at isalazar@swopchicago.org.

Work on Maplewood Avenue

Work on Maplewood Avenue

Community organizing looks like many different things. The reason for this is that community organizing depends on relationship building. Sometimes, this looks like a group of people doing fall yard work.

Through SWOP’s partnerships with United Power for Action and Justice and Ascension Parish, Nick Brunick became a supporter of SWOP. Nick is an attorney at Applegate and Thorne-Thomsen (ATT) which focuses on affordable housing and community development. So Nick connected ATT with SWOP. 

Now ATT is sponsoring the rehab of a vacant property on Maplewood. ATT gathered together members of their firm and their families to spend their Saturday with SWOP. They learned more about the work of SWOP and gave their time and energy as well. 

The group from ATT began by learning about the two phases of the Reclaiming Southwest housing project. SWOP staff showed the volunteers maps demonstrating the impact of SWOP’s work. For example, within the first target area, vacant properties dropped from 93 to 8 since 2012. SWOP staff also described how housing work is intertwined with education initiatives and building community safety. 

Then it was time for some yard work and demolition! The ATT group helped clean up the property on Maplewood by picking up trash and trimming weeds in the yards. Inside, they helped demolish parts of the kitchen. 

The ATT group also toured a fully-rehabbed building that is ready to be sold. This tour gave them a vision to what their work is contributing.

Joining SWOP

Joining SWOP

National Health Corps is a branch of AmeriCorps that provides support for community organizations that effectively and compassionately bridge the health-resource gap in underserved communities. In these neighborhoods, the social determinants of health are often outside of individual or family control and lead to disproportionately health-damaging experiences. Organizations like SWOP connect people in the community with holistic support and address factors such as housing, education, income, and healthcare while fostering one-to-one relationships. I plan to support SWOP’s System of Care by conducting a series of nutrition workshops for parents at partner schools. After this year of service, I hope parent mentors and navigators will be leading a strong health education program for the community.

Only three weeks into my year of service, I have really come to appreciate SWOP’s relationship-driven model, and I would like to learn how to apply it to fostering community health. I would also like to understand the creation and implementation of the System of Care and how a community can coordinate existing resources to support individuals and families that often fall through the cracks.

          –Apurva Jolepalem

Communities of people who are committed to one another and to shared visions are the best forces of change, and we need much change. Community organizing gets at this – building relationships to gather communities together and build power. I’m at SWOP because I believe in this and want to learn more. 

I’m also at SWOP because I’m a social work student at the University of Chicago School of Social Administration. After working with people experiencing homelessness and mental illness last year, I wanted to learn more about preventative, proactive work around housing and the many interrelated pieces which are a part just communities. When I learned about SWOP, I saw a group of people committed to placemaking. I’m here to learn about placemaking and community organizing. 

Practically, as I’m an intern, I am at SWOP twice a week. I will support the work of SWOP through behind-the-scenes tasks – starting with working on writing about the work that is happening to both create an archive and spread the word and posting on social media to share events that are happening and opportunities to join.

-Laurel Bornman

Southwest Side Schools Unite

Southwest Side Schools Unite

 

Snow and rain didn’t dampen community support for teachers on the tenth day of the Chicago Teachers Union strike. Students, teachers, parents, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members, and community members showed up to support teachers in their stand for equity in Chicago Public Schools.

Southwest Organizing Project, led by organizer Jasmine Serrano, and local teachers organized a community march to unite the southwest community and to share testimonies and strike updates. 

The gathering began with a march north on Kedzie Avenue. Afterwards, supporters gathered in Marquette Park field house to hear students, teachers, and parents share their stories. 

Supporters testified to the need for nurses, social workers, and librarians to support students. They described the need for teacher prep periods, for class sizes where students can be heard, for support for students impacted by structural and systemic harm including gun violence and food insecurity, for Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to be available in the language of parents, and for school maintenance. 

Students and parents spoke of their respect for the dedication teachers demonstrate daily while school is in session, and during their strike for change.

SWOP’s Position on CTU Strike

SWOP’s Position on CTU Strike

We are intimately aware that members of the Chicago Teachers Union have worked without a contract since June 30th, 2019 and that contract negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and leadership of the Chicago Public Schools have been slow moving. As of October 2nd, 2019, 94% of the members of the CTU approved a strike authorization and no contract has been reached. We are hopeful that all parties will exercise the full extent of their resources to ensure that there is no disruption to the educational experiences of our youth and families.

We, community, parent, and neighborhood groups throughout the southwest side of Chicago, support the CTU’s demands for lower classroom sizes; a nurse, librarian and caseworker in every school; social workers, counselors and other clinicians at professionally recommended staffing levels; sanctuary protections for students and families; creation of 75 sustainable community schools; and a fair raise for educators and paraprofessionals, who are some of the lowest paid staff in our school district. We also support SEIU’s contract proposals for higher pay, better working conditions and work schedules, and an end to the privatization of engineers.

We pledge to stand in solidarity with members of CTU and SEIU by suspending all programming housed in CPS schools until a contract is reached.

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.