Monday, March 16, 2009

Gads Hill Center

Last Thursday, Chris Warren and I visited Gads Hill Center in the Pilsen Neighborhood. Gads Hill has three wonderful programs serving students from kindergarten to college. It's this continuous commitment to helping youth throughout their childhoods that makes Gads Hill such a great example to other programs.

For elementary-school aged students, there's Club Learn, which is an after-school program where students can come in for homework help, or just have a safe place to go after school. The kids do sports, learn about computers and technology, and learn about healthy choices such as not doing drugs and eating well.

Teen Connection starts when students are in the 7th grade and is a college-preparation program. The tutors are graduate students from local universities such as Loyola and the University of Chicago. Students are given a specific schedule for them to follow, based on their age. Students get help with their homework, but also attend workshops about getting into colleges, and take test prep classes. There are scheduled college visits and financial aid and college admissions counseling since many of the students will be the first ones in the family to attend college. To keep the parents on the same page, there are also monthly parent meetings for parents to meet with volunteers and staff members.

The newest program at Gads Hill Center is the New Horizons program. New Horizons is the one-on-one tutoring and mentoring program, where at-risk students from Orozco Middle School are paired one-on-one with a tutor/mentor. The program is in its infancy, having just started in January, but looks forward to helping many students stay on track to graduating from high school and going to college, rather than dropping out and joining gangs or getting into drugs.

Gads Hill offers many great programs, but sees the endless need that there is in its neighborhood for its services. Johnny Tirado, the coordinator of the Teen Connection Program mentioned the need of a program for students needing extra help before going to high school, who may not fit the profile of the high-achieving Teen Connection student preparing for high school. He feels that a middle-school program for those needing that extra boost in their academics before going to high school.

Chris and I had a great time at Gads Hill Center, and look forwarding to helping them in any way possible in the future. Thanks to Johnny Tirado of Teen Connection, Xavier Salvado of New Horizons, and Cecelia of Club Learn for taking the time out of their busy schedules and sitting down with Chris and me and helping us really understand what makes Gads Hill such a great tutoring and mentoring program.

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