2017 Family Matters Graduates

Family Matters celebrated the graduation of 3 high school seniors in June 2017.

Cindy Borski and Adrian Hernandez have tutored together since Adrian was in 4th grade. Over the most recent years, Cindy has supported Adrian through numerous academic and personal goals he’s set for himself (like helping him search and apply for jobs), assisted his application process for various colleges and financial aid, in addition to weekly homework support. One of their favorite tutoring pastimes this year was having lively discussions about politics and the relevance of it in our lives.

This Spring, Adrian graduated from Mather High School’s Information Technology Academy and will be attending Oakton Community College in the Fall to continue his education.

Enrique and Jaime have each worked with their tutors, Megan Fellman and Brad Schwarzhoff, for six years. Both young men plan to attend Northeastern University in the fall.

Brad attended Jaime’s graduation ceremony in May, during which Jaime was asked to hand out roses to three people in the audience who played a role in his success. He chose Brad as one of those recipients. During the signing ceremony for a  scholarship awarded to Jaime, Brad shared that he is going to continue his tutor-mentor relationship with Jaime, meeting with him at least once a week as he transitions into college next year. Jaime plans to study computer science, in large part because of Brad’s encouraging guidance when Jaime showed interest in the field.

 

Enrique insists he could not have gotten into his high school without Megan’s guidance. During his eighth grade year, she worked with Enrique on his application essay to Lake View, which Enrique was attracted to in part because they had a strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program and offered art classes. With Megan’s support, Enrique was accepted into his first choice high school. Four years later, she was by his side when he accepted his college scholarship.

A positive relationship with a consistent adult can nurture a youth’s potential in powerful ways, and Adrian, Jaime and Enrique are powerful examples of that. We are so excited to see what their next chapters bring!


Learning Matters 2017

The 21 youth involved in Family Matters’ summer program, Learning Matters, packed a whole bunch of learning and summer fun into their four weeks here. Participants chose classes to participate in each week. Here are some of the highlights:

Sew What?

The youth in this class learned how to hand sew, use a sewing machine, and measure fabric for a desired outcome. By the end of this week, they made a fleece blanket and a bean bag (with fabric they tye-dyed earlier in the week) for Family Matters’ Peace Room and Library. They also got to make and take home their own personal pillows, head bands, and phone cases.

Thank you to volunteer Moriah Turner for sharing your talents!

Snuggling with finished sewing projects

Cardboard Creations

The idea for this class came from a former student who loves creating things out of cardboard. On the first afternoon, the children were presented with a challenge to see what they could do with the cardboard. They watched Cain’s Arcade about a little boy who was bored one summer and created a whole arcade of games out of cardboard. They were mesmerized by the video. It was suggested that they make either a game or a fort with the cardboard and they were off!

First they had to submit a design and then they could start gathering their materials. The only struggle was getting the kids to stop working at the end of the class! The next day there were asking to work on forts during lunch and the normally full to capacity computer lab had one person in it.

Forts included features like skylights (or turrets as the case may be), telescopes that can double as ammunition launchers, mailboxes, swinging doors, flags. We also had several arcade games created involving tossing balls at targets and through slots. Each group offered a video tour of their creations and then had a ball destroying the forts which were too big of course to travel home.

It was reassuring to see the creative and inventive spirits rise to the challenge and the pure joy the participants exhibited in the process of completing their creations.

Change Agents

In this class, discussions centered around what it means to be an agent of change and change agents that youth know or have learned about. On the first day, participants “transformed” into change agents with the goal of beautifying Family Matters’ neighborhood. This proved to be an exhausting, yet exhilarating task, especially since it was the day after the July 4th holiday. Julissa thought she picked up “hundreds of fireworks!”

Youth returned to Family Matters to discuss the experience and decide on their activity for day 2- writing letters to advocate for a cause. They learned about “Advocacy” and the youth provided examples of activities that qualify as advocacy. Rogelio “Junior” told the group about Malala Yousafzai and Cesar Chavez. Junior was well informed and added great information to enhance the class experience. The youth decided to write letters to President Donald Trump, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the Chicago Public Schools Nutrition Services, and took their task very seriously.

Joselin asked how to spell “separate” so that she could write a letter to President Trump about his policies separating families. Julissa noted that this was the first time she had ever written a letter. Intern (and former Learning Matters student), Amy, wrote 2 FULL pages to CPS to advocate for better school lunches. This was truly a fulfilling class and a great taste of what we can do to work toward dismantling systemic oppression!


Anna’s Story


Anna, 12, attends the Family Connections program, where she she spends Monday through Friday afternoons receiving one-on-one literacy coaching, learning and practicing life skills, and engaging in hands-on learning projects. She also has time for things she loves – music, dance, and being with friends. “At Family Matters I like how respectful everyone is. I also like all of the activities we get to do, skills that we learn, and having access to computers so I can get my homework done. “Through Family Matters, I can be a better person and I learn new life skills. At Family Matters I feel free, joyful, and excited to see what’s in store for the day. I love Family Matters!”

“Being in the classroom all day is difficult for me. I have trouble focusing because I need to move often. The material is very hard and I don’t always understand it.” At Family Matters, Anna learns strategies to cope at school. “I learn life skills that I can use now and when I grow up. They really help me in the hardest of times. For example, when I am very frustrated I use the balloon to remind me to take a deep breath and calm down. And the hula hoop – which reminds me to ask for personal space and give it to others.”

Anna’s mother Vivian shares, “Family Matters was there for my family during a critical time when my child was in need of educational support. Not only were they able to assist her academically, but since attending the program her confidence level has skyrocketed and she has flourished emotionally and socially. There is not a day that goes by that I have not recommended the program to someone I know. The wonderful staff and the dedicated families have truly become like family. It is our home away from home.”

Anna is one of nearly 100 children who come to Family Matters each week, where they are heard, supported, and encouraged to dream big.


Alex’s Story

Alex Smith Hickman came to Family Matters in 2004 at the age of 12 and participated in the Teen Boys program until he graduated from high school. “My father knew about Family Matters and put me in the group – it was something for me to do after school instead of being out on the streets.

“I’ve realized how vital Family Matters was to my growing up. We learned art, electronics, business skills, and carpentry – how to work as a team and to communicate with each other. Family Matters helped me, as a young man, to see how I could contribute to the world with the talents that I developed here, in a space where I was with brothers. It brought us together as a family. Dan shaped us into the young men that we are today. I’m so grateful to have this place to come back to. Family Matters will always be like home to me.

“Family Matters showed me how important teamwork is. In this neighborhood, I don’t see a lot of teamwork between younger guys in a productive way. They need direction and guidance. I think there should be a Family Matters in every neighborhood in Chicago. More people should be able to have access to a place like this.”


Tabitha and Judi

In 1994, thirteen-year-old Tabitha Williams joined the Teen Girls Program at Family Matters after hearing about the program from friends. She says, “Through each meeting, I felt a kinship with the girls and it became apparent that this was the place I needed to be.”

Tabitha was paired with her mentor, Judi Schindler, who met with her regularly both inside and outside of Family Matters. Tabitha connected deeply with Judi and her husband Jack, and became part of their family. Twenty-three years later, they are still close. In January, Judi and Jack traveled to New Orleans to celebrate the opening of the Troubador Hotel, where Tabitha is now the Director of Food and Beverage. She shares, “Right now, I’m at the top of the world.”

“Family Matters became a family – to me and to all of the other girls in the program as well. It provided an environment where there was no judgment and where you could be who you were. We learned about choices and consequences, and we were listened to. Everything at Family Matters started me on the path to where I am now, and I am so grateful.”

Tabitha (left) with Judi (second from right) and Jack at their son’s wedding


Julissa’s Birthday Cake

Spring is a time for celebration at Family Matters – celebrating warmer weather, longer days, and some other special celebrations like this one. Julissa, a student in Community Tutoring’s IREAD initiative, is celebrating her birthday and her efforts sharpening her reading and writing tools. She baked the cake with her tutor, Mattie, and composed the following writing piece with her tutor, Laurie.

Julissa’s Birthday Cake

First we washed our hands. Then we went to the kitchen. In a pan there were chocolate candies, colored frosting (pink, purple, black), sprinkles, eggs, oil, chocolate cake mix. We put the cake mix, water, eggs and oil in a mixing bowl and stirred it up. We heated the oven to 350. We put the mix in the pan and put the pan in the oven. We waited then took it out. We let the cake cool down. We put pink frosting on top. Then we put purple icing on it and decorated with the chocolate candies and the sprinkles. We made it a gymnastics cake. Then we ate it!

Love,
Julissa Nuñez, 10 years old


Silvina, Ofelia and Family

Ofelia and Silvina have three children at Family Matters. Francesca is a member of the Teen Girls Program, Alexis attends the Teen Boys Program, and Nathan is in the Family Connections program. They share:

“Family Matters is a place where we have fun doing our homework; where we are learning how to be strong and positive; where we discovered a world full of possibilities; and where our kids are safe, happy and better people. Family Matters is a place where, as a family, we learned to take care of each other, our community, and our world.”


Theresa, Mason and Madison

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Mason and Madison attend the Family Connections program. Their mother Theresa, an alumni of Family Matters, shares:

“I have been a member of Family Matters for 20 years. I started out in the Teen Girls Program​ and became a member of the​ ​L​eadership ​C​orp​s​ and ​the Board of Directors. Family Matters has played a very important role in my life ​through​ the philosophies and leadership skills I have learned​ there​. It has groomed me to be the woman and mother I am today. When picking a neighborhood to move back to after having children, I decided to come back to Rogers Park for one reason only: to get my children into Family Matters. I knew this was the only program I wanted them to be a part of because it would help me ​guide them and ​continue to teach them what I already had instilled in them—choices and consequences and learning to think positively. Family Matters is my second family and I am so grateful for everyone​ there​.”


Anna & John

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John is in 8th grade and attends the Teen Boys Program and Evening Tutoring. His mother, Anna, shares:

“Family Matters offers my son and me a community where we can both offer help and get help. I wanted John to be part of something where he felt like he belonged, not just where he attended or showed up — a place that really fostered relationships, connections and values about accountability and leadership in a very intentional way. The Teen Boys program is exactly that. Homework time was a source of tension and frustration for us. At Community Tutoring, John’s tutor is really able to encourage and push him to pay attention to the smallest details that make big differences in the quality of his work. I [recently] started tutoring a 3rd grader named Lar May and that’s been really rewarding – he set goals of getting A’s and B’s on his tests and that goal helped him get on the honor roll this past fall.”


Vivian, Anna & Avah

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Anna and Avah attend the Family Connections program. Vivian, their mother, shares:

“Family Matters, for my family, is a place for social connection, a place where each of us – Anna, Avah and myself – can feel truly accepted regardless of our race or ability. Family Matters was there for my family during a critical time when my child was in need of educational support. Not only were they able to assist her academically, but since attending the program her confidence level has skyrocketed and she has flourished emotionally and socially. There is not a day that goes by that I have not recommended the program to someone I know. The wonderful staff and the dedicated families have truly become like family. It is our home away from home.”