The North of Howard neighborhood lies in the far northeast corner of Chicago. The community is a study in contradictions – poverty alongside rich resources, despair amid great hope, creative energy beneath rampant resignation. Within these contradictions lie the building blocks of community: leaders ready to be tapped and resources ready to be uncovered.
The North of Howard neighborhood is a culturally and ethnically diverse community: 55% African American; 14% Hispanic; 22% Caucasian; 2% Asian and Pacific Island; and 7% identifying with other ethnic groups. More than 90% of families at Family Matters have incomes at, or below, the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Family Matters is deeply committed to the children and families of the North of Howard community. By extension, we work closely with Gale Academy, our local K-8 Chicago Public School (which most of the children at Family Matters attend). More than 20% of Gale students meet limited-English-proficiency guidelines, and 87.7% meet low-income guidelines. The CPS Office of Research, Evaluation and Accountability reported that the percentage of third grade (a benchmark year) students at Gale who met or exceeded the reading standards on the 2009 Illinois Standards Achievement Test was 31.4%. The percentage of third grade students who met or exceeded math standards was 46.5%.
A significant number of high school students at Family Matters attend Sullivan High School, where the composite percentage of students who met or exceeded state academic standards their junior year in 2009 was 15%. Sullivan’s graduation rate in 2009 was 58.1%, compared to the regional rate of 73.8% and state rate of 87.1%. During 2009-2010, Gale Academy and Sullivan High School were identified for School Improvement under No Child Left Behind and were placed on Academic Watch Status.
To achieve all of our goals, we intentionally seek collaboration with other organizations in the community. Family Matters is one of the founding members of Partners for Rogers Park, a coalition of community organizations and residents working to improve the quality of life in Rogers Park by broadening outreach and community development opportunities. Family Matters has been active in the North of Howard Parks Advisory Councils that oversee the three parks in the community. As a result of the Councils’ work with the Chicago Park District and the Alderman’s office, the Willye B. White Fitness Center opened in Gale Park in August 2008.
Family Matters also collaborates with such organizations as Chicago Girls Coalition, The Institute for Women and Gender Studies at DePaul University, Girl World at Alternatives, Inc., Sisters Empowering Sisters, Family Focus, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, Access Living, the Columbia College Auditorium Theatre Education Department, the Adler School of Professional Psychology, Beyond Media Education, Global Girls, IMPACT Self-Defense for Women, the Institute for Urban Studies. Loyola Academy, Northwestern University, Soul Creations, Web Screen Media, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection to supplement and strengthen our programming. Recently Kim DeLong, Family Matters’ Executive Director, was appointed to the Center for Civic Engagement Chicago Advisory Board at Northwestern University. The committee is charged with directing the Center as it works with neighborhoods across Chicago to bridge the gap between campus and community.