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.”


Gretchen and Arin | A Tutor Story

In 2006, Gretchen signed on to idealist.org, looking for an opportunity to tutor in the Chicago area. She had no idea that, almost a decade later, she would still be riding the train to Family Matters every Thursday evening. 

For Gretchen, Family Matters is more than just a tutoring organization. It is a community, the source of numerous new friendships, and a place that has felt like “home” for nine years.

It is also the spot that has given Gretchen the opportunity to get to know Arin, a sixth-grader at St. Mary of the Lake who Gretchen describes as smart, hard-working—and just a little bit sarcastic. In the four years that Gretchen has been tutoring Arin, the pair has worked on everything from vocabulary words to science experiments. Gretchen has been impressed by the breadth of Arin’s intelligence, her analytical skills, and her willingness to learn.


But it’s the time that Gretchen and Arin have spent just hanging out that Gretchen has enjoyed the most. Gretchen constantly shows up to Family Matters with something new in her bag: Boggle, art supplies, the ingredients to make homemade biscuits. Arin says she likes working with Gretchen because of her fun personality and sense of humor. Gretchen similarly appreciates how much Arin makes her laugh.

“I just really like working with Arin,” she says, explaining that her reason for tutoring is pretty simple: “It makes me feel happy.”


And although Gretchen has seen a lot of exciting developments over her nine years at Family Matters, her favorite thing about Family Matters is that it still feels like the same place she found on idealist.org nine years ago. “It’s a home, it’s a community, and that hasn’t changed.”





Faces of Family Matters | Part 2


“I don’t have time. I don’t have time, and I thank God for this program. I work very far away, and Ashaki [the Teen Girls Director] supports me very much. Every year since my girls started coming to Family Matters in 2011, we have had new coats, new gloves. We had just left the shelter, and I couldn’t take my girls many places.

Through Family Matters they did a lot of things I can’t provide myself, like trips to Indiana and Chuck E Cheese. One day my daughter Heidy was jumped at the park after school. Ashaki took her in like her own child – she went to the police, talked to the principal and the teacher,she even sent me a text message and said, ‘Don’t worry.’ I thought, ‘My kids just moved from Africa where we have civil war, and now my daughter is traumatized because she was beaten in front of her friends.’

Being a member of the board has been a good experience for me because I can talk with people of means. They are very humble, and they support this program, and I’m very proud of how much I’ve learned. I’m the kind of person who is open, and this has opened my mind too because I have learned how to talk, how to be a part of meetings. I have learned how to be a leader, how to talk with others, how to share my mind, how to deal with different kinds of people.

The last Family Matters gala was my first time going out in Chicago at night. That day I said, ‘I’m in the US now.'”



Megan: “It’s always a pleasure working with Enrique. The place is set up to really support the pairs in tutoring or whatever program it might be – you don’t feel like you’re just left to your own devices, there’s a lot of good support there.”

Enrique: “Megan is really helpful, she encourages me to do things, she gets me involved in programs at school that I don’t really know about, she takes her time with me, it’s a lot that she does for me. I couldn’t have gotten into Lake View [High School] without Megan’s help.”



“Family Matters has changed me in a lot of ways. I’ve learned many things – how to be a better person, a better worker, a better friend, and basically a better self. I wasn’t trying hard enough and Family Matters gave me that push to try harder. They inspired me to keep going and never give up. I’m very proud that I took the time to be here and hang out with the youth and the people my age as well. I’ve learned how to deal with a set of different people. We get a better understanding every time we come together.

[Family Matters] is like a second home for me. A place of peace, a place I come to when I need things, when I need to get my work done, and other good things like that. It spreads my talents, shows my weaknesses, and helps me improve on them to make them not weaknesses but strengths.”



Megan and Enrique | A Tutor Story


When Enrique, a high school sophomore, first met Megan, she struck him immediately as someone who could offer him “a lot of help” with his schoolwork.
            He was right.
            Over the last three years, Megan and Enrique have used their weekly tutoring sessions to tackle a range of projects including bringing up Enrique’s algebra grades, improving his punctuation skills, and learning new vocabulary words. For a recent English project, Enrique was required to memorize and perform at least 14 lines of a Shakespearean sonnet. The idea of making eye contact while delivering his lines made Enrique nervous, so the pair drew pictures of peoples’ faces and hung them around their tutoring room. Delivering his lines to this “audience” over multiple tutoring sessions paid off: Enrique earned over 100% on the project.
            Megan, who works in Northwestern’s media relations department, says that she enjoys tutoring Enrique in part because of his pleasant personality and intelligence. She also credits Family Matters with providing an environment that supports tutoring pairs. “You don’t feel like you’re left to your own devices,” she explains.

            Beyond schoolwork, Megan also encourages Enrique to try out new activities at school. Last year, he participated in volleyball. This year, she has urged him to learn about his school’s drama program since he enjoyed performing the sonnet for his English class. “She takes her time with me,” Enrique says. “It’s a lot that she does for me.”
And though Megan is quick to deny it, Enrique insists he could not have gotten into his high school without her help. During his eighth grade year, he sat down with Megan and Keri, the evening tutoring coordinator, to discuss the high school he wanted to attend. He was attracted to Lake View for multiple reasons—they had a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, offered art classes, and of course, they didn’t require students to wear uniforms. As part of Enrique’s application, he had to write an essay about the neighborhood in which he grew up. Megan prompted Enrique to think about different details he could include in his essay and assisted him in organizing his thoughts into an outline. When he found out he was accepted into Lake View, Enrique “just felt so happy.”

            This year, the pair’s goal is to continue working on essays and writing thesis statements, a skill that will no doubt come in handy when Enrique eventually starts applying to colleges.  Although he doesn’t really like to think too much about the future, he says he might like to become an artist, or maybe a photographer. He also likes to sing and wants to travel the world. In the meantime, though, he’s focused on getting through the next few years of high school—and he’s grateful to have Megan’s help along the way.

Faces of Family Matters | Part 1


“Growing up, violence was a big thing in this community, and still is to this day. Walking home from school, in the park we saw crazy things, and we could come to Family Matters and talk about what we’d seen. One girl came to programing one day and shared that she had just seen a man pull out a belt and start beating his girlfriend in the park. That was the day we started talking about domestic violence. Every girl had something to share about something she’d seen or had heard or had happened in her family. We were so young and knew so much about rape, about domestic violence. Children shouldn’t see that at a young age. Being a young teen in this area, you see and experience so many things.


I thank God every day for Family Matters – to have had somewhere to come to be safe.”

“I love coming to Family Matters. I feel safe here. I learn about ways to solve
conflicts and I have fun. I wish I could come to Family Matters every day, even
on the weekends. I learn something new here every day. “


“Besides the smell of the house (good smells, like books) I remember feeling very safe and peaceful at the Family Matters house back on Ashland street. I remember just going in the attic and looking out through the small window and reading books. As a recent immigrant family, when we came to Family Matters, my parents were not aware of the school system, nor anything in this country, and Family Matters became a resource to them.aware of the school system, nor anything in this country, and Family Matters became a resource to them. They were not only helping me academically, but also supporting my family.

I volunteer at Family Matters because I think there’s a need in our communities for these types of organizations that support our youth, who are our future leaders. If there is no guidance or enlightenment during our formation years we will become lost adults. I want to feel and be part of a better society.”


Volcano Explosion!

Hi, my name is Axel. I’m nine years old. I have been coming to tutoring at Family Matters for two years. I come two times a week and I work on reading with my tutors. This summer, I came to Family Matters on Wednesdays and Fridays. My tutor and I made a volcano. We made this because we read about it in a book. The book was That Crazy Eddie and the Science Project of Doom by Judy Cox.  It’s a chapter book. I read the book at tutoring and at home.
The book is about two friends, Matt and Eddie. They heard in their school about a science project competition. (A competition is like a battle or a contest.) Matt wanted to win the contest because the prize was a fifty-dollar gift card. He wanted to buy himself a skateboard. Matt asked his best friend Eddie to be his partner.  Eddie said “yeah, sure” because Eddie’s dad was a scientist. Eddie had a lot of good ideas about science projects.
Eddie decided he and Matt were going to make a volcano that would erupt.  While they were working on the project, they got in a fight.  Matt had to stay home from school one day because his stomach felt weird. When he got back to school, other kids made fun of him. Matt found out that Eddie told the other kids Matt was sick. So, Matt was mad at Eddie. They only had one day before the contest, and their project wasn’t finished. 

That day, Matt’s little sister climbed on their roof because she wanted to play with their cat, Mittens, who was up there. Matt’s mom was gone. Matt was scared. Matt ran down the street to Eddie’s house and told Eddie.  He wanted Eddie to help him. Eddie helped Matt get his sister off the roof.  Eddie’s sister said that they should be friends and enter the contest. They decided to finish their project that night.
They did the contest, and they lost. They got third place. Matt didn’t win the money to buy the skateboard. Matt felt kind of sad. He also felt kind of happy because he decided that having his friend back was more important than getting the skateboard.
I liked this book because I liked reading about the volcano. And I liked that Matt and Eddie stayed friends and worked things out and they helped Matt’s sister get down from the roof. 

After the last chapter, there is a section called “How to Make a Volcano That Really Erupts.” My tutor and I read it together and we found out what tools we needed to make a volcano. I brought some things from my house, like a cardboard box, flour, and 2 dinosaurs (for decoration). 



It took three days to make the volcano. On the first day, we got an empty Pepsi bottle and put masking tape from the mouth of the bottle all the way down. Then we put newspaper into warm water and flour to put around the tape. We had to measure the exact amount of flour and water we needed.  Then we let it dry. The next tutoring session, we painted it.  
The next tutoring session, we used baking soda, vinegar, dishwashing liquid, and red food coloring to make it erupt. We used a funnel to pour everything in. After we poured everything in, we waited. Nothing happened. We tried again and nothing happened.
We decided maybe it didn’t work because the baking soda was expired. We walked across the street to the store and got more baking soda. Then we poured everything in again. Then nothing happened again. The next time, we poured in a lot more vinegar than the directions said, until it exploded. 

I loved it when it exploded! I liked making the volcano, too. Next time, I want to put more red food coloring in it so that it would be more red. 



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.


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