Cuando niña, en México, a Sofía Gutiérrez le dijeron que no necesitaría educación más allá de la escuela primaria, por lo que nunca continuó estudiando. Pero a medida que avanzó en la vida y se transformó en madre de dos curiosos niños, se dio cuenta de que la educación no era algo frívolo, sino necesario.
A few years ago, when Jahnice Johnson would play with their son Ja-lijah, she kept noticing he wasn’t speaking new words or making new motions despite being enrolled in speech and physical therapy. As a young child with a developmental disability, Ja-lijah was entitled to educational and therapeutic services through Early Intervention — a federal program that pairs toddlers with a range of therapists to improve their skills. However, the providers frequently missed visits and Ja-lijah wasn’t progressing.
Throughout parenthood, mothers and fathers often find themselves wishing for instructions on how to raise their children to be successful in school and in life. Though no such manual exists, some neighborhood organizations supported by United Way of Metro Chicago are providing parents with the next best tool – parent leadership programs.
In addition to preparing youth for academics, the Carole Robertson Center for Learning establishes a strong foundation for the entire family by pairing parents with family support specialists to help them create goals and plans to achieve them. The support specialists assist with families’ ongoing challenges, like accessing employment opportunities, mental health services and parental development workshops.
Courey, a 7th grader at Charles P. Caldwell Middle School, is one of about 15 students who meet twice a week after school to build and program robots in the computer lab of Gary Comer Youth Center, a United Way community partner in Greater Grand Crossing. There, the group of fifth through eighth graders from the South Side Chicago neighborhood learn the building blocks of academic success — critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
In the winter months of 2016, Claudia Gonzalez*, a mother of three living in Brighton Park, unexpectedly lost her job. Though she aggressively searched for alternative employment, she couldn’t keep up with rent payments for her apartment.
For many families in the Chicago region, the annual ritual of back-to-school shopping can put their wallets in a pinch. The cost of school supplies, clothing and backpacks adds up quickly, especially for families with multiple children. To ease the financial burden and prepare students for their first day, United Way of Metro Chicago teamed up with Target to offer $100 shopping sprees to hundreds of local students in the weeks leading up to their return to school.