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Author: Chris Brown

SWOP’s Citizenship Campaign: Lending a Hand to Our Neighborhood Families

SWOP’s Citizenship Campaign: Lending a Hand to Our Neighborhood Families

SWOP has an ongoing citizenship campaign to protect our immigrant families and to build power within our community by informing and accompanying legal permanent residents on their path to become citizens. This year, SWOP is collaborating with six other organization including Instituto del Progreso Latino, Latino Organization of the Southwest, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, and Casa Michoacan to bring monthly citizenship workshop events to the neighborhoods of Chicago. This effort is funded by the State of Illinois’ New American’s Initiative, supported by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Since August, SWOP has offered five workshops and has served an average of 40 people per workshop. Throughout this time, SWOP has connected with over 200 community members who are interested in becoming citizens. Some of these individuals are at the stage of learning about the process, others are already receiving classes, studying for the test, or have already come to a workshop where they were helped to start their application process.

Over the years SWOP has helped hundreds of people to begin the process of becoming U.S. citizens. At this time SWOP has 25 volunteers and staff that assist at the workshops. SWOP is always looking for new volunteers to be able to help more people in our community. Some volunteers started by going through the process themselves; moving from participating as hopeful soon-to-be citizens, to now supporting others who still need to go through the process. If you are interested in volunteering at a citizenship workshop or have questions about how to begin your pathway to citizenship, please contact Adriana Velazquez at 773-471-8208 ext. 113, or at avelazquez@swopchicago.org.

SWOP Celebrates the Holidays

SWOP Celebrates the Holidays

More than 250 people representing SWOP’s 38 member institutions came together on December 13th to celebrate the holidays.  They met in the cafeteria at Maria Catalyst School where they shared food and conversation and appreciation for all the work they had done together over the past year.

Sister Margaret from the Sisters of St. Casimir kicked off the event with a prayer and Adriana Velazquez of the SWOP staff followed with an overview of the year’s accomplishments.  Natalia Robles discussed her families work with SWOP.  Jeff Bartow, SWOP’s executive director, then closed out the brief program with his assessment of the state of the organization.

Everyone then headed to the food line.  Attendees shared a wide array of delicious items; everything from rice and beans to chicken and pizza to cake and cookies.  All the food came from SWOP leaders and member institutions who donated to the pot-luck meal.

During the meal, everyone met new friends, continued old conversations, took pictures, and drew pictures.  There was even a special appearance from the Grinch who brought lots of laughs from the crowd.  At the end of the night, everyone went home satisfied, both with the party and the work of SWOP over the past year.

Building a Southwest System of Care

Building a Southwest System of Care

Understanding that there is a great need for behavioral health services in the community, SWOP is beginning implementation of the Southwest System of Care (SWSOC).  With support from the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation and in partnership with Holy Cross Hospital, Ada S. McKinley, Catholic Charities, Esperanza Health Centers, IMAN, and Metropolitan Family Services, SWOP has begun to use a community organizing model of relationship building to bring together these institutions with local schools.  The goal of this work is to build a system that integrates service delivery for young people and their families and helps them build on their assets and address their needs.

We are currently in the planning phase of this work.  We have convened all partners and identified common intended outcomes.  Most recently, we worked together to identify logical ways to measure our progress.  The next step is to solidify the schools with whom we will work and begin to understand the specific contexts of those schools.  We aim to begin implementation in February 2019 after young people return to school for the start of a new semester.  For more information on SWSOC, please contact Jessica Biggs at jbiggs@swopchicago.org.

Chase volunteers and Chicago Cares help Reclaim Southwest Chicago

Chase volunteers and Chicago Cares help Reclaim Southwest Chicago

On Friday, November 2nd, 20 employees from JPMorgan Chase came to Southwest Chicago for a hands on service day.  The employees, some of whom live in the community, work all over the Chicagoland area and were looking for an opportunity to give back to the community.  They spent time in the 6400 block of south Maplewood working to clean out debris from one building to get it ready for rehab and to help with construction related tasks at another building.  Harry Meyer and the construction team from Brinshore selected work projects that will help speed up the development of affordable housing in the community.

 

After spending more than two hours filling up two dumpsters, they headed back to the SWOP office for lunch and to learn more about the organization.  Jeff Bartow, SWOP’s executive director, provided a history of SWOP and the organization’s current campaigns.  Then all the participants paired up with SWOP staff and leaders to conduct one to one meetings, allowing for deeper relationship building between all the participants.  To end the day, everyone went on a walking tour of the community to see the impact of the Reclaiming Campaign.

 

This service day was coordinated and supported by Chicago Cares, which works with business partners and community organizations to create service opportunities.  Another service day will be held with Chase employees on December 4th.  For more information, contact Harry Meyer at hmeyer@swopchicago.org

SWOP’s New Adler Data Intern

SWOP’s New Adler Data Intern

SWOP is pleased to welcome Robbi Wiggins as the new Adler University Data Intern.  Robbi lives in the community and is a graduate of Ball State University.  In her role as Data Intern, she will be collecting and analyzing data on participation in SWOP events, helping with the regular housing vacancy survey for the Reclaiming Campaign, and researching data on neighborhood improvement.  Robbi is interested in working in the area of juvenile justice when she graduates from Adler.  This is the third year in a row that Adler students have helped SWOP better use data to improve the organization’s work.  Please welcome Robbi to SWOP.

Staff Changes at SWOP

Staff Changes at SWOP

It’s in with the old (or at least familiar) and in with the new at SWOP these days.  Joel Rodriguez rejoins SWOP after being away for a couple of years.  While away from SWOP, he was working on community engagement at Gage Park High School.  Joel will lead SWOP’s youth leadership development work.  

Amanda Reilly joins SWOP as a new organizer.  She comes to SWOP from Pennsylvania where she worked as a social worker.  Amanda is working on the Reclaiming and Southwest System of Care campaigns.

LaDarius Beal is also a new organizer at SWOP.  LaDarius is a pastor in the Church of God in Christ.  He will be working on GOTV efforts and the Southwest Corridor Collaborative.

And last, but not least, Monse Ayala joins SWOP as an organizer.  She comes to SWOP from Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council where she ran the Hoops in the Hood program.  Monse is working with parents and Talman Elementary School and on GOTV efforts.

Please welcome all of these folks to SWOP.

Nightingale Workshop

Nightingale Workshop

By Ana Laura Narro

Last Wednesday, October 17, Nightingale Parent Mentors had a workshop for “Parents of Children with Special Needs” by the Parents4Teachers group open to the community. In this workshop attendees learned about their rights as parents and how to advocate for their children who have special needs. The workshop was attended by around 50 people, among whom were parents from other schools such as Edwards and Hurley. At the end of the workshop, 4 mothers had individual consultations with lawyer Amarillis De León, specialist in Special Education.

SWOP Wins Sustainable Community Schools Funding For Morrill

SWOP Wins Sustainable Community Schools Funding For Morrill

SWOP recently received word from the Chicago Public Schools that it will be a recipient of Sustainable Community Schools funding for its work at Morrill Elementary School.  SWOP staff people Jasmine Serrano and Joel Rodriguez are partnering with Principal Dawn Sydnor-Cole to implement expanded and new out-of-school time programming at the school.

Parents, school staff, partners from Metropolitan Family Services (MFS), and SWOP staff are spending the week of August 20th in training provided by CPS.  At the end of the training, this team and others will make decisions about the specific programs to be implemented over the coming year.  All the new work will build on SWOP’s Teen REACH, Parent Mentor Program, and Southwest System of Care as well MFS’s Community Schools Initiative programing.  The team hopes to add additional after-school options for early grades and middle school students, support for behavioral health services, and mentorship for young people.

For more information on SWOP’s Sustainable Community Schools program, contact Jasmine Serrano at jserrano@swopchicago.org or 773-471-8208 ext. 125 or Joel Rodriguez at jrodriguez@swopchicago.org or ext. 112.

SWOP Parent Mentor Program Expands

SWOP Parent Mentor Program Expands

With support from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Chicago Public Schools’ Community Schools Initiative (CSI), SWOP is expanding the Parent Mentor Program to four new schools.  The new schools in Southwest Chicago that are implementing the program are Hampton, Edwards, Hurley, and Christopher.  Parent Mentor organizers are busy right now recruiting coordinators and parents for the expansion effort.

This exciting development was made possible when ISBE increased the Parent Mentor Program budget from $1.4 million last year to $2.5 million this year.  In addition to providing SWOP with the funding to expand to four schools, the Parent Mentor Program will also be implemented by nine new organizations around the state.  Each new group will be working in two schools in their communities.  SWOP, in partnership with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, runs the Parent Engagement Institute and already supports 13 non-profits in Illinois to implement the Parent Mentor Program and will be assisting these new organizations as they roll out the program.

CSI is providing an additional $25,000 to SWOP for the expansion in the four Southwest Chicago schools.  The CSI team sees the Parent Mentor Program as an excellent way to increase parent engagement in schools and to help improve academic outcomes for students.  The CSI team also helped make connections with the principals and teachers at the new schools.

For more information on the Parent Mentor Program, contact Maggie Perales at mperales@swopchicago.org or 773-471-8208 ext. 118.

David McDowell, An Appreciation

David McDowell, An Appreciation

Sixteen years is a long time.  A person can be born and then legally drive.  Both the Cubs and White Sox won a World Series in that span.  Cities and communities can go through great economic turmoil and then Reclaim themselves.  An organizer can be hired and spend those sixteen years working to build relationships, leadership, and power in Southwest Chicago.  That’s what David McDowell did at SWOP.

David had an interesting path in joining SWOP.  He was a transplant from Kansas City (most recently) and Boston originally.  He’d done a little community work, but had much more experience with political and union organizing.  The person who hired him left SWOP two weeks after he came on board, leaving him wondering a little bit about what he’d gotten himself into.

But David dived right in.  He built a lot of long-standing relationships with leaders like Sister Immacula and Sister Margaret and Paul Marshilonus.  David organized the first Quality-of-Life planning process in 2005 and then the second one in 2016.  This work has resulted in the investment of over $40 million in Southwest Chicago.  David also led the planning processes for the Elev8 program at Marquette and the Smart Communities Program.  Both of which brought additional valuable resources to the community.

David’s attention to detail and his curiosity helped his organizing.  One day he received a list of addresses of foreclosures in Southwest Chicago and wondered what it might look like on a map.  He plotted each address using an old (even at that time) version of Microsoft’s Streets and Trips.  The result was stunning to everyone who’s ever seen the maps: a sea of red dots overwhelming the community.  Those maps helped coalesce the anti-foreclosure work and ultimately led to the Reclaiming Southwest Chicago Campaign.

Sometimes David could be grumpy or argumentative.  He would on occasion find some picayune detail to fight over, one that most people would never notice.  Everyone understood though, that David did this not from a sense of superiority or meanness or anger, but rather from a desire to push himself and others to be the best organizers possible.  We learned from this push and kept on going.

After 16 years of hard work in Southwest Chicago, David met someone.  That someone (Katherine is her name) lived in Waukegan and for them to be together, David moved to her hometown.  He made a valiant effort to commute to SWOP, but finally had to concede that a two hour commute each way, made little sense.  David left SWOP on May 31st.

David had a profound impact on the organization and the people who worked here.  He pushed himself and others to do good work and to always fight the good fight for the community.  He built lots of relationships and leaders and power.  For all of this, we will miss him.