Monday, April 20, 2009

Family Matters

Last Thursday, on a beautiful Spring Day, Chris Warren and I visited Family Matters, located just north of Howard St, near the Evanston-Chicago border. We had a wonderful conversation with Jennifer Bricker and Devon Lovell, who are in charge of the tutoring program at Family Matters about all the wonderful programs Family Matters offers it's diverse community. What we didn't expect was that we would get to visit a greenhouse that the program helps maintain for Gale School, the only school in the Chicago Public Schools system that has a greenhouse.

Family Matters has been serving the "North of Howard" neighborhood for over 20 years. It's mission centers around empowering the members of its community to become leaders and be involved in the community. This spirit of empowering the people it serves is a central part of all of its youth programs especially. The newest program, and the program that Jennifer and Devon spoke about the most was the TIGRO program, which stands for Third Graders Reaching Objectives. This program is for Third Graders at Gale School, where they come in after-school and meet one-on-one with their tutor/mentors. There are only 10 students in the program, and many of them are deemed at-risk by the school. What's truly wonderful and unique about the program is that the students have the full use of the greenhouse at the school learning about nutrition, sustainability, environmental awareness, and botany - in addition to their regular homework help. Many of the tutors come from Loyola University and the ones I talked to were extremely dedicated and enthusiastic about the program.

There is also the regular evening tutoring program for students in grades 1-12 that is Monday through Thursday 6:30-8pm, where students can get help with their homework one-on-one with their tutors. Yet another program that Family Matters offers is the reading tutoring program for students with learning disabilities.

Many of the students at Family Matters are in several of the programs offered. For those in kindergarten-6th grade there is the Family Connections Program, which is an after-school program which includes a leadership corps for students to learn the principles of leadership. Parents are heavily involved in this program and are encouraged to come to monthly parent meetings so that they can have a say in the direction of the program.

Hopefully the students who are in the Family Connections Program will continue on into the Teen Girls or Teen Boys groups. Teen Girls and Teen Boys emphasize the idea of shared leadership. For the Teen Girls, activities include learning about community activisim, learning how to make jewelry, making documentaries on domestic violence, and learning African dance. The middle school and high school boys meet twice a week for dinner and have done activities such as African drumming. An especially novel idea is that the students do their own grant-writing, taking ownership of supporting the program that serves them.

I must say I wish I could've stayed longer at the greenhouse, helping with the tending of the plants, or reading in the amazing library in the cozy two-flat building that houses Family Matters. I had a wonderful time learning about this inspiring program and I especially appreciate the time that Devon and Jennifer took out of their busy schedules to explain to Chris and me all the details of their outstanding program.

1 comment:

Stefanie said...

I remember tutoring for Family Matters when I was in SESP - truly a great program!