Student Perspective: Northwestern’s TOSADTW Day


Family Matters’ youth had the opportunity to attend Northwestern University’s Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day on Thursday, April 24th. Three students shared their reflections of the day:

From Arin Afolabi, 5th grade

We started out with a light breakfast of bagels and apple juice. There were only about 11 of us from my after school program, Family Matters in Rogers Park, but there were hundreds of kids from all over. When we got there they split us up into different groups of about 12-15 by our age so I was the only one in my group from Family Mat- ters. At first this made me nervous but it was actually pretty cool because I got to meet new kids and make some new friends.

The “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” at Northwestern on April 24, 2014 was about showing kids about what you do at work,and explaining to them about how things work. Some things that we experienced were science, writing, and social networking.

My favorite parts of the day were the all you can eat lunch and being in the science lab. While in the science lab, I thought the hoods were creative. The hoods are where they kept things they did not want germs to get into, and prevented that by using the AC to keep germs flowing. I also found the machine where they tested DNA interesting.

The news article was very fun because we got to write our own news articles with our own creative ideas and put in many details and incorrect facts that in the real world we couldn’t do. Overall, the day was fantastic and I would like to go again next year.

From Adun Afolabi, 3rd grade

At the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day at Northwestern University, I made concrete. I learned how to hula hoop. I learned to juggle. I liked the food. I met a friend. I saw students. I am happy I got to go because it was fun and I met new people.

From Patrick Conlon, 3rd grade

Did you ever see a yellow glowing pickle? Neither had I before I went to the Science Day themed “Bring your child to work” day at Northwestern University (NU). Although the day was mostly for the kids of NU employees the Asso- ciation of Northwestern University Women (ANUW) sponsored kids from my after school program, Family Matters, in Chicago.

This was a fun day of touring parts of the NU campus and learning about science. This all day event had us in three locations around the campus.

In the first location we learned about spacial reasoning and Mobius Strips. A Mobius Strip is a skinny strip of paper that you twist 1 time and then tape together into a loop. The cool part about it is you can draw on both side without lifting up the pen! Then there are cool tricks like if you cut it a certain way down the middle then you end up with a bigger loop. If you cut down the middle again you end up with a kind of chain. This Mobius thing is supposed to be important in math and science and engineering. It makes a cool trick too.

In the second location we played with crystals, learned about microscopic cells and did that yellow glowing pickle thing that I mentioned earlier. They took a pickle and put wires into it on each end. Then they attached the wires to electricity. (Don’t try this at home!!) Guess what happened. The pickle glowed yellow and sparked in the dark. This works with pickles because pickles are packed in salt (sodium) and sodium is good for moving electricity. Don’t eat pickles in a lightning storm.

The third location was the NU Power Plant where we learned about how they keep the campus of NU run- ning. Basically the campus is like a city. It’s even bigger than some cities. We learned about how they take water from the pond then clean/filter to supply campus with water, and how they have sensors to tell if any pipes or electric places are broken. The power plant is a very loud place. We had to wear special headphones and hard hats.

We finished up with lunch in the cafeteria. This was definitely one of my favorite parts of the day. I have never seen so much food altogether in one place! There were hamburgers, pizzas, hot dogs, macaroni, rice- you name it. There were tons of desserts, too, like ice cream, pies, cake, cookies, rice crispy treats and brownies and more.

There was a raffle that was a lot of fun with lots of prizes. Although I didn’t win I really enjoyed the emotions and excitement about maybe possibly winning. One person from my after school program won so that was pretty cool.

All in all this trip was really fun. The campus is really cool and everyone was so nice. Maybe in 10 years I will be a student at Northwestern University and help give tours to kids.

25th Annual Walk A Thon


On May 17th, Family Matters celebrated their 25th anniversary for their annual Walk A Thon.

Being new to Family Matters and hearing so many stories and traditions about the Walk A Thon, I was anxious to see what it was like.

As the Development Intern for Family Matters, I had the opportunity to help with the Walk A Thon by contacting various restaurants to donate food to the picnic. I also created information boards in order for people to learn about the after school programs. 

It was amazing to see how many people supported the Walk. From families to Alumni who participated in the after school program years ago, there were large amounts of people in red Family Matters shirts. I loved seeing the children play at the park after the Walk and seeing old friends connect.

My favorite part of the day was interacting with the Teen Girls. After the walk, we ate food and danced to music. 

Being part of the Walk-A-Thon was one of the highlights of my internship and I hope to be a part of it in future years.

     -Nya Brooks

Making Healthy Nachos


Every couple of weeks, the students at Family Matters participate in after school classes. One class that was offered was “Food to Go”.

According to Temple Hickman, one of the students from the Teen Girls Program, the purpose of “Food to Go” is to take basic foods that the students eat daily and make them healthy.

When asked why he chose to take this class, David Gray explained that after cooking one time with his father, he fell in love with cooking. 


The students from “Food to Go” decided to make nachos. As a group, they created a shopping list of healthy ingredients for the nachos. For example, instead of using concentrated cheese, the students used mozzarella cheese. For chips, instead of buying chips from the store, the students cut tortillas into small pieces and baked them. The students needed minimal assistance from the Family Matters staff; they cut the vegetables, cooked the meat, and cleaned the dishes by themselves. 

After the food was cooked, the students were able to enjoy their nachos, without having to worry about them being unhealthy.

Community Tutoring Student in the Chicago Tribune

 Today’s post is by Devin Jones,  a member of FM’s Evening Tutoring Program and a 6th grader at Hawthorne Scholastic Academy.  Devin had a class assignment to write a “letter to the editor” and submit it to the Chicago Tribune. Here’s what Devin has to say about his letter: 

My letter was about the topic we had to write about in reading class. The topic was about food insecurity. 
What I wrote came from my ideas about health problems caused by global warming when it can rain too much or it won’t rain enough so food can’t grow and crops dry out. People start starving.
There are categories in the Chicago Tribune and my letter went online. I was excited when my teacher sent an email to my mom telling her mine would be in the Tribune. I was the only boy out of three of us chosen. 
I give special thanks to my mom and dad, and Ms.Lang my teacher.
Read Devin’s letter in the Chicago Tribune here

Beyond Tutoring: Fixing a Tablet Computer one Saturday Afternoon

Brad Schwarzhoff shares a story about helping students through the Evening Tutoring program at Family Matters.

For the past few years, I’ve been working with my student Jaime during the evening tutoring program.   During our weekly sessions, I often share my knowledge of technology with Jaime, whether it’s adding some memory to a computer, learning the basics of programming, or most recently, fixing a tablet computer.

Jaime and Brad at tutoring

I’ve gotten to know Jaime’s family since I’ve been his tutor, including Jaime’s brother Marino, who is also a student in the evening tutoring program.  Jaime and Marino were lucky enough to obtain their own tablet computers through a program at their school. On one sad December day, Marino accidentally dropped his tablet and shattered the screen.

A month later a replacement screen was ordered and we spent a Saturday afternoon fixing the tablet.

The tablet in its sad state


We pulled up a youtube video on how to fix a screen on this particular tablet.

Following along with the video, we took apart the tablet, replaced the screen, and re-assembled the tablet. We ran into a couple of challenges along the way, persevered, and were triumphant in the end.

Marino removing the tablet battery

Through some hard work and perseverance, Marino and Jaime learned how their tablets are assembled, and learned how tablets work internally. As a result, they have additional pride when using their tablets.  I learned that it can be more fun to to fix a tablet when you’re teaching someone how to do it.  (A pointer for those of you who may also have a cracked tablet or phone screen – there’s a wealth of information on the internet, including videos that will show you how to do almost anything you want to do, including fix your own electronics.  Be brave and give it a try!)

A happy Marino with his good-as-new tablet.

I’ve now been tutoring at Family Matters for over 7 years.  It has been, without a doubt, the most rewarding experience that I’ve ever been a part of.  It truly is a wonderful organization, and I highly recommend getting involved.

Brad Schwarzhoff

Family Matters evening tutor

Jumping Rope


With the weather being severely cold these past few months, the girls in the Teen Girls Program were eager to go outside. We walked over to the near by park where many of the girls played double dutch.
Shakira Grayson shared that she loves everything about double dutch. She was one of the girls who jumped the most, using every opportunity to jump when someone else did not have a turn.
“It expresses me…makes me feel like I am me, expressing myself in a rope”, said Grayson.   
Because the Teen Girls Program is committed to health and wellness, jumping rope was an opportunity for physical activity.
Eriana McArthur loves doing tricks when she jumps. “I think it’s cool to jump because it gives you exercise”, she said.  
Similar to McArthur, Anataho Ganga sees jumping rope as a way to exercise her legs, but also a way to have fun. When asked why she decided to jump rope at the park, Ganga responded, “I just wanted to have fun. When I jump with my friends, it makes me feel like I can jump.”
Hopefully, this will be one of many afternoons where we will be able to get some fresh air and jump double dutch. 


Family Matters Student Authors

Our students are published authors! Volunteer Claudia Stevenson has been working with Family Matters youth during their afternoon course time. She shares the following about her experiences:

I have been profoundly touched by my interactions with the children and teens at Family Matters. These children walk in the door with a wide array of experiences, feelings, abilities, and desires. As they participate — whether dancing, cooking, writing, or doing their homework — Family Matters provides them with the principles and life skills to excel. The mentors — both staff and volunteer — teach, model, and reinforce the implementation of these principles and skills in everyday situations.

It’s been my great pleasure to participate in some of the various writing workshops, classes, and activities at Family Matters; from the “little kids” storytelling to the teens’ Poetry class, to the MyBook workshop. In reading these submissions I have laughed out loud, shed a tear or two, and shaken my head in amazement at what these young people have to say. 

Storytelling is fun. That’s why the children sign up for it. And storytelling is a very efficient way to promote the principles on which Family Matters is based.

Claudia Stevenson
Volunteer at Family Matters

It is encouraging to witness the students’ excitement about the opportunities that technology offers. Recently, a teacher had this to say about the online book publishing project in which youth at Family Matters are engaged: 

We were so proud of Daejon as he brought the book to school and said, “Look what I did!”  We took him all around the school with his book (and this is a pretty big place) and he isn’t through yet. Today he was supposed to read his book to his 1st grade class.  He needed the successes. 

The students and teachers were so inspired by Daejon’s book and his enthusiasm that they scheduled a reading for the entire administration!

What is particularly exciting to witness is his new eagerness to read and share stories with anyone who will listen. Last week, he proudly announced to a new volunteer: Do you know? I am a published author! 

Take a look at all of the published books at

Field Trip to Robert Crown

On non-holiday days off of school, Family Matters offers full-day programming to students. Field trips are a favorite on these full days, and our January 24 field trip to Robert Crown was a crowd-pleaser. This was the first ice skating experience for nearly all of the students. Guest Writer and Photographer Shavon, who is a 3rd grader in the Family Connections program, summarizes the day:
On Friday, we went on a field trip to Robert Crown Center in Evanston. First we put on our ice skates. Then we all went on the ice. At first, everybody fell down. But afterwards, everybody ice skated and had a lot of fun. Danny said,
“I was nervous when we started because I kept falling and I didn’t know how to skate. But when we left, I was sad because i was learning a lot and didn’t want to stop.”
After ice skating, we went to McDonalds to eat. Then, we went to the field house to play dodge ball. At the end of the day, everyone went home happy. 
Thanks Shavon for being our on-location reporter!



Verna’s Story

We hope you are on our mailing list and have already read Verna’s inspiring story. For those who missed it, please read on!

When Verna first walked into Family Matters one fallevening in 2002, she felt an instant sense of belonging. Her 11-year old twins, Errol and Errolyn, had heard about the Family Connections after-school program from friends at their new school, and had begged their mom to sign them up. Verna had just moved with her husband and children from Florida, and was looking for a safe place for her children to go after school. What she didn’t realize was how much more than after-school care she would find. “Family Matters became my kids’ family, and mine.”

Family Matters is a place to learn, grow, and experience.”

Verna’s children thrived in their new home at Family Matters. They participated in the Family Connections program and then joined Family Matters’ teen programs. They continued to explore areas of interest, develop their confidence, receive support with schoolwork, and cultivate friendships. Verna shares that, “Because of Family Matters, my kids blossomed into wonderful young people. They were well rounded and never in trouble.”
Errol & Errolyn, during a recent visit to Family Matters

Verna is especially grateful for the opportunities that her children had as a result of their participation in Family Matters programs. “I could never afford to take my children to ballgames or plays or movies. Here at Family Matters, the kids were exposed to so many different things. They took field trips that expanded the kids’ understandings. Then they came home and shared those experiences with us.” Through Family Matters, Errolyn traveled to San Francisco as one of two Chicago Teen Girls Council representatives participating in a National Girls Forum. “To send her away on a plane was so hard for me,” Verna remembers. She also remembers with joy the photos Errolyn shared with her family upon her return.

“Family Matters is support for parents and families.”
All parents of Family Connections students attend monthly parent meetings, where they have the opportunity to share their experiences and plan various aspects of the program. Verna says, “Coming here was a blessing for me in helping me to focus, and many times to forget all of the troubles that were going on at home.” When she came for her first parent meeting, she describes walking in and feeling able to take a deep breath. “I could see why the kids wanted to come. The environment here relaxes you.”  From assistance with immigration papers, to supplying their first home computer, to problem solving at home and school, to providing Thanksgiving dinner, Verna found a caring support network. “We didn’t have anything, and Family Matters helped us out.”

Verna with her grandchildren, Azarieae (7) and Josiah (5)
Family Matters is about Giving Back
Errol and Errolyn finished high school and went on to postsecondary education. Both return to volunteer regularly, illustrating what many say about Family Matters – that once you’re here, you never really leave. Fifteen years later, Verna continues to feel a sense of peace when she walks into Family Matters. Now she comes as a board member, an annual Walk-a-thon volunteer, and as a grandmother to a third generation of Family Connections participants. Azarieae and Josiah heard about Family Matters from their Aunt Errolyn, Uncle Errol, and their grandparents and couldn’t wait to be old enough to attend. “Whatever Family Matters asks of me, I will gladly do it because of what they’ve done for me with love. Whatever I can give, I will give.”

Thank you to all of our generous donors for allowing us to support families like Verna’s. If you’d like to join our mailing list, please contact Gretchen Nord at

Learning Matters 2013

Learning Matters 2013 Is Underway

Family Matters youth are engaged in another summer of hands-on learning through our Learning Matters annual Summer School.  This summer, youth selected the courses they were most interested in taking from our Learning Matters 2013 Class Catalog, and we are in the midst of our first session of classes, which include Cooking Around the World, Yoga & Conditioning, DIY Divas, Peace Art, Soccer, Super Snackers, and Building Challenge.

Here are a few pictures of some of our experiences this week. Enjoy!
Cooking Around the World youth participated in a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, including roasting coffee  beans.


Ready for the coffee ceremony, which includes coffee and popcorn, to begin.
Rolling injera, traditional Ethipioan flat bread.
It tasted delicious with the homemade red lentil dish we prepared together!



Building Challenge participants were tasked with the challenge to build a working roller coaster.
Brains at work: How can we build the roller coaster so the marble can go from start to finish?