Zarian and Matthew

Tutor/mentor-youth pairs have participated in one-to-one conversations this year to learn more about one another. We’re pleased to introduce our first pair – Zarian (Z) and Matthew (M)!

Z: Hi, this is Zarian Cargill.

M: And I’m Matthew Walter. Ok Zarian, do you remember starting tutoring with me? What were your first impressions?

Z: Hmm. It was pretty fun. Because I was excited, I didn’t know what was going on but, I was like, maybe I get to play games! And my sister was here so if I didn’t know what was going on she’d help me.

M: Love it. Anything else? First impressions of your time with me?

Z: You were a very, very, very nice guy and you still are. Even if you were trying to say “no” to something you would say it very nicely.

M: Thanks for sharing that, Zarian.

Z: No problem. Do you remember starting tutoring with me? What were your first impressions?

M: I feel like I had a lot of first impressions of you. I noticed that you were very grateful and thankful. And you had a lot of joy and laughter, and you and I really clicked and connected. You’re very conversational, and we laugh a lot together. What more do you want, right?

Z: Yeah.

M: Pretty awesome. Ok next question. Zarian, what do you like about the time we spend together?

Z: I like when we work on math because usually in my class math is hard, but you make it easy.

M: What about it feels easy?

Z: Well like, you help me and make me feel good. Like if I get something wrong, you tell me to slow down and you say it nicely.

M: That’s good to know that that’s helpful for you. Thanks for sharing that.

Z: No problem! What do you like about the time we spend together?

M: I really like that we’re able to work on your homework, do activities from Brooke, read, or work on math. And we’re also able to talk about your life and about your friends and things that you like as well. That’s what I like the most.

Z: (whispers) Thank you.

M: (laughs) Alright Zarian. What have you learned about me during your time in tutoring?

Z: Oh I learned a lot of stuff about you! I learned that you are like the nicest person ever!

(M laughs)

Z: I learned your last name.. Literally just now!

M: (laughs) Yes.

Z: I learned that you’re one the best tutors ever! You should be on the news.

M: (laughs) Oh Zarian.

Z: Like WGN news! 

M: WGN? Like specifically?

Z: Yeah.

M: Man, thank you Zarian! That’s so kind. 

Z: What have you learned about me during this time?

M: Zarian, I’ve learned so much about your friends, Shaneke and Anders, your family, your mom, your sister, and your brother. And Hamilton. And I feel like I learned a lot about how appreciative you are about all of the things you are involved with in your life. You also like games, and learning about and creating stories. I love that. Perfect night to talk about this right? Because we just wrote a story! What have you learned about yourself during this time?

Z: I learned that I have the best tutor ever! I learned that I have the best manager of the best tutor, which is Brooke. (I don’t know if she’s manager…)

M: She’s the manager. 

Z: Oh! I learned that I’m actually good at math when there’s someone nice around me. See, I have a whole family here, and I learned about Sandy [Matthew’s wife], and I learned about everybody! Oh my goodness, I love Family Matters.

M: Love it. That’s just so great. But I’m glad you learned about yourself that you like math and that you’re good at it. And we’ll continue getting better, right?

Z: Yeah. What have you learned about yourself during this time?

M: I think I learned that when I help you it also helps me. When I remind you to like, slow down with math, I also need that reminder for myself to slow down when like I’m reading. Or to slow down when I’m doing math. So this experience of helping you is also helping me. Which is pretty cool. What are the things you remember most about our times together?

Z: Ohh.

M: What things stand out to you?

Z: I remember, I remember when you beat me in Foosball!

M: Oh man. I didn’t mean to.

Z: It’s okay!

M: It happens.

Z: You’re the boss.

(Both laughs)

M: I’m the Foosball boss?

Z: Yeah, and I remember when we did the hot chocolate stand, there was this nice man walking around and after he got the hot chocolate he was like, “Why, thank you for this free hot chocolate!” And then he walked away. He was very nice.

M: That’s awesome. That was fun. Was that during the Christmas party?

Z: Yeah.

M: Nice.

Z: And I remember when I saved the day during the Christmas party with my phone by turning on some Christmas music.

M: You totally saved the day.

Z: What are some of the things you remember most about our time together?

M: I feel like we laugh a lot. I remember those times. I also remember dancing. I feel like randomly we just dance. So fun. Oh like right now.

(Z dances)

M: Uh oh, he’s dancing.

(both laughs)

M: Alright last question. If this were the last time we were gonna see each other, what would you wanna tell me?

Z: I would wanna tell you.. Oh my god you’re the best person ever!! I love you, you’re so nice! 

(M laughs)

Z: I hope this friendship never ends. You’re like the best person. I love you, you’re awesome. Sandy’s awesome!

M: Zarian, you’re so sweet.

Z: You’re awesome.

M: That’s so kind. That’s like the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. I don’t even know what to say. If I were to answer the same exact question for you, I would say, Zarian you’re an amazing person. And you’re gonna do amazing things and you’re awesome.

Z: Thank you.

M: And this isn’t the last time we’re gonna see each other so we don’t have to worry about that.

Z: Phew.

M: Cause we’re buds. Thanks for saying all that nice stuff Zarian.

Z: No problem.

M: We’ve always got nice things to say about each other.

Z: True.

M: Truth! Alright, so what do you wanna say to end it? Just say something classic Zarian.

Z: Uhm.. Uhm I’m a godson.

(both laugh)

M: You heard it here.

 

 


Evening Tutoring Gives Back

This winter, Evening Tutoring hosted a supply drive for two organizations that are neighbors of Family Matters: Care for Real in Edgewater and Refugee One in Uptown. The collected items were specifically requested by the organizations and included household items, personal care items, clothing, and food.

To promote the drive, youth in Evening Tutoring created posters to hang throughout the building, letting everyone who wanted to participate know what to bring and where to put the items. Youth and tutor/mentors were also asked to spread the word to people they know outside of Family Matters. A collection box was placed on the first floor. 

Over three weeks, multiples of the following items were collected and donated: toothpaste, soap, razors, shaving cream, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, clothing (for all seasons), boots, shoes, sheets, blankets, calendars, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, and pasta.

At the end of each week, the donations were delivered to Care for Real and Refugee One for disbursement to the families they work with. 

The idea for hosting a “drive” originated during Evening Tutoring’s Community Conversation last September. Tutor/mentoring pairs gathered together to discuss how they’d like to make a positive impact on their local and global community. The consensus was to host a supply drive, collecting items that people need and aren’t always able to access. 

Representatives from Refugee One said that they are “delighted” to receive the calendars they requested. During one drop off to Care for Real, a box of razors, soap, and shaving cream was handed to the gentleman organizing the donations. He looked at the box and said, “Wow! We can really use these.” 

Thanks to all who contributed to the drive for supporting these two organizations and giving back to this community!

 


Project RISE 2018

Two summers ago, Family Matters’ Boys to Men program launched an employment initiative, Project RISE, in partnership with the Community Church of Wilmette. Now in its third year, and with the support of the City of Chicago’s Chicagobility Summer Internship Project, Project RISE expanded this summer to include 31 youth.

Project RISE works to address biases and barriers that impede access to the workplace—deepening an understanding of how to leverage youths’ strengths and build relationships across ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. The program encompasses leadership, financial literacy, resiliency skills training and employment readiness, including the mock interviews and resume support given by members of the church’s congregation.

Mock Interviews

This summer’s participants worked 15 – 20 hours per week and had the opportunity to earn up to $450 in total. Teens were also provided a nutritious daily snack.

Community business partners included Sol Café, Little Beans, Neon, Urban Warrior, V-Tone Fitness, Neon CRM, Heartland Café, Ya Mon Jerk Grill, and the United Church of Rogers Park – all of which provided safe and supportive learning environments for youth.

Exposure to Possible Career Paths

Project RISE also afforded youth an opportunity to attend six field trips and to host four guest speakers. Guest speakers’ presentation topics focused on banking and personal investment strategies.

Field trips exposed youth to a diverse array of postsecondary college or career tracks and included:

–   Morningstar, Inc. (to deepen their understanding of financial literacy and the power of personal savings).

–   WNBA Chicago Sky game (including a “meet and greet” with a player and the coaches to learn more about sports management).

–   Exelon (to learn from a panel of diverse employees about their experiences as people of color in corporate America).

–   Specialty Print Communications (to get a “behind the scenes” look at direct marketing and the company’s innovative online and manufacturing operations).

–   Oakton Community College (to be introduced to the offerings of two-year schools: two-year degrees, certificate programs, and how one can take alternative paths by combining the two – i.e. obtaining an EMT certificate to fund a nursing degree).

Project RISE youth leaning in and asking questions in the Morningstar Board Room

Reaction from Teens

When asked to name one skill gained during the Project RISE experience that they are most proud of, youth shared:

“Teamwork.”

“Getting along with new people I meet.”

“Better listening.”

“Working hard so I can get what I want.”

“My communication skills.”

“Patience and understanding my limits, and finding a way to go beyond them.”

Project RISE continued to provide youth a forum to build transformative relationships, created opportunities for leadership development, and fostered teachable moments. We are excited to continue to grow the Project RISE program in the coming year!

If you are interested in hosting Family Matters teens at your workplace, or in supporting the program in a different way, please contact Chris at chris@familymatterschicago.org. To make a contribution, visit our donation page here.


Learning Matters 2018

This summer Family Matters once again offered the Learning Matters summer program for area youth entering grades 2-6. The program included hands-on classes around a variety of engaging topics, educational field trips (including an overnight camping trip), one-to-one literacy tutoring sessions, and many leadership development activities.

Classes

Youth signed up for week-long morning and afternoon classes, all of which involved project-based experiential problem solving.

In Cupcake Wars, small groups adapted a basic cupcake recipe and decorated the cupcakes to represent countries in the World Cup. The groups then competed in the “World Cupcake Challenge.” In Mad Scientists, youth created a parachute to drop an egg safely to the ground from the 2nd floor fire escape. In Creative Expression, individuals used art materials to create a visual depiction of themselves. In The Building Challenge, popsicle sticks and hot glue were utilized to create a bridge that supported as much weight as possible.

Cupcake Wars

Youth also solved mysteries, created new crayons from crayon scraps, made every kind of slime imaginable, and created cheer routines and dance moves. They learned about animal species, native Illinois plants, and the properties of human blood and how it travels through the body.

During the über-popular Best Lemonade Stand Ever, groups of three devised, prepared, and implemented business plans that included what to sell, where to sell, how to price, and how to advertise their products. Several youth focused their efforts and their wits on creating plans and then rallying the rest of their groups to execute them. They problem-solved along the way; when the first location seemed to be a dud, one group leader started giving out lemonade free of charge, which actually enticed some people to pay. Another leader started walking the area with a sign and became a barker, calling out, “Lemonade — get your nice cold lemonade!” They encouraged their team members when they got distracted, saying, “Hey, you gotta come back over here and help. You want us to make money, right?”

When it was time to divide up the proceeds, each of the 13 team members had earned $4.50. There were happy faces all around!

The Best Ever Lemonade Stand

Underlying all of the fun, the new experiences, and the learning were opportunities to work together to accomplish tasks, to build friendships, to gain and sustain academically, to care for each other, and to build confidence in one’s own abilities to think and create and solve.

Field Trips

Many field trips were incorporated into morning and afternoon classes. Tea Time culminated in a Beach Tea Party (requested by the four girls in the class). The group prepared chai tea in a thermos, packed a bag with tea cups and treats, and then dined at the beach front. Before dipping their feet into the water, the group shared what they appreciated about one another.

Beach Tea Party

The highlight of Animals & Conservation was visiting Not Just Thee Fish Bowl, a pet store in Evanston full of exotic and diverse animals. The youth in the class saw numerous species and loved petting rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, ferrets, birds, a tortoise, and the store cat, which one of the youth insisted on naming “Steve.” It was exciting to see the children interact with the animals with such curiosity and interest that time stood still.

Visit to Not Just Thee Fish Bowl

Other groups visited Emily Oaks Nature Preserve, The Skokie Sculpture Walk, Patisserie Coralie, and Calvary Cemetery.

The overnight camping trip at the Little House of Glencoe near the Skokie Lagoons was a favorite for everyone. Just thirty minutes from Rogers Park, the campground seemed like a different world. The children ran out of the cars and into the cabin and grounds shrieking: “This place is great!” “How long do we get to stay?” “All of this is ours?”

Tents were pitched, a campfire was lit, meals were made together as a group, trails were hiked, boundless games were played, a hammock and tree swing were set up, crafts were created, and so much fun was had! For a number of youth, this was their first experience “camping,” or it was a first experience in a different way; two students made and tasted s’mores for the first time. It was a wondrous two days, full of fun, creativity, and deepening relationships.  

Little House of Glencoe Camping Trip

Literacy Work

Every student in Learning Matters participated in Power Hour – an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week dedicated to reading and literacy activities (and a little math). Additionally, the students were encouraged to participate in the Reading Challenge: to read 500 minutes — 100 minutes per week for each of the five weeks of Learning Matters. Students could count the time they read during Power Hour and also read at home to reach that goal.

Each child was encouraged further to partner with a parent, older sibling or another adult family member and read together during these summer weeks.

Power Hour Reading Buddies

Until Next Summer …

It is such an affirmation to witness the joy and enthusiasm for the learning environment and student camaraderie at Learning Matters each summer.

 


Family Matters’ 2018 Graduates

We’re excited to share the following list of Family Matters’ 2018 graduates. Congratulations to all!

High School Graduates

Ket Net Pree, Acero Cruz High School. Ket will attend a two-year program at Arrupe Loyola this fall, then plans to transfer to a four-year university.

Melissa Soriano, Senn High School. Melissa will attend Truman College in the Fall to complete her Associate’s Degree before transferring to a 4-year University.

Maung Htay, Senn High School. Maung will attend School of the Art Institute of Chicago this fall.

Yissel Saenz, Rickover Naval Academy. Yissel will attend Lake Forest College this fall.

Kaleyah Wesley, Pathways in Education. Kaleyah was the recipient of the CCH (Coalition for Chicago’s Homeless) Scholarship, and will attend Harold Washington City College this fall.

Shaniya Spears, Pathways in Education. Shaniya will attend DePaul University in the fall.

Ariel Thoma, Amundsen High School. Ariel will attend Wright College this fall.

8th Grade Graduates

Jennifer Nunez, Gale Math & Science Academy. Jennifer will attend Sullivan High School.

Serena Phillips, Disney Magnet School. Serena will attend Evanston Township High School.

Jair & Joav Silva, Nichols Middle School. The twins will attend Evanston Township High School.

Orimoloye Wiliams, Nichols Middle School. Ori will attend Niles West High School.

Alex Torrez, Gale Math & Science Academy. Alex will attend Sullivan High School.

Lamonte Weathers, Gale Math & Science Academy

Michael Porter, Gale Math & Science Academy

Jaheem Adams, Gale Math & Science Academy

Other Graduates

Kevin Jones, Curt’s Cafe Training Program

Bianca Armour (Teen Girls Alumna), Concordia University, BA in Healthcare Management and a minor in Human Resources.

Nachelle Burton (Teen Girls Alumna), Arizona State University, MA in Criminal Justice.


Teen Filmmakers Start a Conversation

Members of Boys to Men (Family Matters’ Teen Boys Program) have hosted four community screenings of their film, Silence the Violence, a documentary that looks at the multiple causes of gun violence through the eyes of young men in Chicago. The film is a culmination of roundtable discussions with the police and the community at large.

Silence the Violence was filmed in Rogers Park and includes stories from all around Chicago. It was produced by Chris Spence, Family Matters’ Director of Teen Boys and Youth Engagement, and members of Boys to Men. Funding for the film was generously provided by the Community Church of Wilmette.

The young men in the film provide courageous, genuine reflections about life and death. They maintain that the violence is an issue of easy access to firearms and lack of access to alternatives to violence. The result is a powerfully arranged collection of everyday footage, statistics, 911 calls, and personalization of what have come to be all-too-familiar news stories.

Through the screenings and panel discussions, Family Matters seeks to offer Rogers Park youth a platform for relating their experiences of discrimination, sharing their opinions on the issue of gun violence, and providing other youth an opportunity to offer insight on promoting peace within our neighborhood and city.

“The experience I had at the theater was amazing. It gave me a platform to show other people how minority youth, including myself, struggle in the neighborhood we live in and to tell our personal story. Being on stage answering questions from the audience made me feel as if I was a spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the people in my community.”  

– Elijah, Boys to Men member

The four screenings (held at the Community Church of Wilmette, Centered Studios, and the New 400 Theaters) were followed by panel discussions, which engaged diverse audiences in constructive dialogue with the young men. Given participant responses, we believe that they emerged with a deeper understanding of these complex issues.

“The screening was a great thing. I love the way I got to talk about our community problems and to find a solution. We need all the help we can get to make our community a better place.”

– Derek, Boys to Men member

Proceeds from the screenings support Project RISE, which offers internships for the youth at local businesses.

We are hopeful that the screenings have inspired future opportunities for collaboration and justice-oriented action.

If you or someone you know is interested in hosting a group screening of the film, please contact Amanda Reuter at amanda@familymatterschicago.org. We would also welcome feedback from anyone who attended one of the screenings.

If you would like to make a contribution to support Boys to Men, please follow this link.


Family Matters’ Road to Equity

The road to equity began long before us, and the journey is ongoing. For the 2017-2018 program year, Family Matters has updated its mission, vision, and core value statements to reflect the fact that we are now viewing the work we do through the targeted lens of eliminating racism and oppression. In doing so, we sought the input of youth, parents, the Board, volunteers, and staff and hosted a community Peace Circle to ensure all voices were represented. Our intent is to add more voices to the conversation to address the following justice issues:

Efforts to close the educational gap—Much of the disparity in test scores between youth of color and white youth can be traced to the limited resources of under-performing schools in the area. At Family Matters we offer individualized, culturally relevant academic tutor-mentoring to support youth in reaching their highest potentials, receiving equitable opportunities, and achieving outcomes for college- and career-readiness.

Disproportionally high rates of suspension—According to the Brown Center Report (BRC) on Education, African-American youth are suspended at a rate 13.4% higher than their white peers. The goal of our Alternative to Suspension program is to transform the suspension period into a positive, reflective, and valuable experience for youth by providing a safe space, holistic counseling, and a restorative approach to resolving conflict.

Swimming access and inequities—Historical segregation, persistent stereotypes, and lack of access and instruction have kept many of the youth in the North of Howard neighborhood from the opportunity to swim. Family Matters’ Making Waves program, in partnership with the YMCA, is changing that—providing swimming and water safety lessons weekly.

Youth employment opportunities—One of the most effective means of preventing neighborhood violence and promoting peace is employment. With the support of Northwestern University, a CPR certification program was offered to 20 youth in January, opening up pathways for job options. Also, Project RISE, the summer employment initiative of the Teen Programs, will continue, and we hope to expand it to a full-year program.

Community engagement projects—The argument could be made that focusing on social justice issues is a luxury available only to those with substantial resources. We at Family Matters think that it is vital to the lives of Family Matters youth to learn how social change can be effected through community service. Check out our website to learn of the many community engagement projects youth from K – 12 grades are spearheading!

Co-creating a safe space for all—Peaceful dialogues are underway as the Boys to Men program members have begun to screen their documentary “Silence the Violence” around the community. Trainings on our model, Principles of Leadership, are also intentionally focused on facilitating personal and collective justice—through developing strong relationships, meaningful communication, and safe environments—for courageous social change.

In the Family Matters community, we inspire each other as our expectations for equity elevate. We are counting on others in the community to push us to aim higher and higher. To this end, we have created a “Staff Picks” list of our team’s favorite social-change books, songs, podcasts, movies, and more as a way to deepen understanding of the social justice issues. Distributing this list is our way of reaching out and inviting responses, including the addition of our supporters’ personal favorites.

Staff Picks on the Topic of Equity

Books

White Rage by Carol Anderson

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Waking up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Yurguru by Marimba Ani

The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace by John Paul Lederach

A People’s History of Chicago by Kevin Coval

Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

Integrating Mindfulness into Anti-Oppression Pedagogy by Beth Berila

Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice by Carla Shedd

Beautiful, Also, Are the Souls of My Black Sisters: A History of the Black Woman in America by Jeanne Noble

Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? The Afrikan American Family in Transition by Haki Madhubuti

Honoring Genius: Gwendolyn Brooks by Haki Madhubuti

By Any Means Necessary Malcolm X: Real, Not Reinvented edited by Herb Boyd, Ron Daniels, Maulana Karenga, and Haki Madhubuti

Liberation Narratives by Haki Madhubuti

Walking in Circles by Barbara Sizemore

2000 Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah

Books by Audre Lorde


Podcasts

Bronzeville

Code Switch

On Being by Krista Tippett

This American Life – “Three Miles” https://www.thisamericanlife.org/550/three-miles 

Snap Judgement – “Senior Year Mix Tape” http://snapjudgment.org/senior-year-mixtape 

 

Films

13th

Get Out

Moonlight

Sankofa

Quilumbo

Remember the Titans


Articles

https://onbeing.org/blog/what-i-said-when-my-white-friend-asked-for-my-black-opinion-on-white-privilege/

Sojourners –  (https://sojo.net/)

Videos and Music
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=43gm3CJePn0

https://www.wbez.org/shows/morning-shift/the-physical-long-term-effects-of-childhood-trauma/68f8d847-492b-4a82-9f43-e332461a780a

https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime?utm_campaign=tedspread–b&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

 


Jennifer and Faith

With eighth grade on the horizon, Jennifer, That Goddess Power (Teen Girls Program) member since 2015, decided she could benefit from Evening Tutoring. In the past twelve months, she has suffered two devastating losses – an uncle to cancer and a close friend in a drowning at the neighborhood beach. Focusing on academics was difficult to do with the anger that surfaced.

Her tutor-mentor, Faith, shares, “That’s one of the first things we bonded over – losing someone. It’s a challenging situation, and I think it’s why Jennifer ended the last year with D’s and F’s. She’s got the drive and motivation. She can do anything she puts her mind to.”

Faith supported Jennifer, and Jennifer worked closely with Ashaki, the Director of That Goddess Power, on ways to regain control of her emotions. The Family Matters community watched eagerly as Jennifer gained the skills she needed to be the star she always wanted to be. She now has all A’s and B’s and is going to sing at her eighth grade graduation ceremony. “It’s because of [Faith and Ashaki]. Because they tell me not to give up; that if I want something I have to earn it.”

Looking back, Jennifer recalled the crucial love and support Ashaki showed to her when she was feeling at her lowest. “She was always there for me. She told me ‘Never give up on what you want. You’re a strong girl. You’re a powerful girl.’ I’d like to thank her for everything she did for me, and especially for listening to everything I had to say.”

Jennifer and Faith also find enjoyment each week when they play math games and listen to music. Faith appreciates the collaborative nature of the Evening Tutoring program, and how she feels listened to and supported. “I’m a piece of the puzzle here.”

Jennifer realizes that hard work and community will be integral in achieving her long-term dreams. She wants to be “a social worker, a dancer, a singer, and a counselor who helps kids who’ve been through things like I have.” She knows, too, that self-love will be the first step in accomplishing these goals. “First we have to love ourselves, then we can love others.” she reflects.

For Jennifer and Faith, that’s what Family Matters is all about. Faith says, “It’s Supportive. Positive. Collaborative.” Jennifer adds, “It’s Community. Leadership. And Love.”


The Band-Aid Activity

This fall, Family Connections is addressing the concept of Educational Equity. To introduce the youth (ages 8-12) to the concept of equity, members participated in a “Band-Aid” activity:

Each youth chose an injury card from a basket. The injuries ranged from a scratched finger to a stomach ache to a shark bite. After reading the injury aloud, each child was given a band-aid to treat the ailment. The youth then answered a series of questions, including: “Is it fair that everyone received a band-aid?” and “Did you receive the treatment that you needed?”

At first, the children said that the band-aid treatment was not fair, because the individual with the stomach ache, for example, needed medicine and not a band-aid. They discussed the concept of equality and fairness, sharing that everyone receiving the exact same thing is, in fact, “fair.”

“Equity” is defined as all individuals getting what they need, as opposed to “equality,” where everyone receives the same treatment.” The youth were invited to share other examples of people receiving “equitable” treatment, instead of “equal” treatment. As they transitioned into afternoon tutoring, they were invited to think about their individual needs regarding academic support, and encouraged to seek what they need at Family Matters, whether it be a break during homework completion or an opportunity to research a personal interest with the support of their tutors.

If you have an example of Equity vs. Equality, we’d love to hear it!


Making Waves

by Chris Spence, Director of Youth Engagement at Family Matters

A recent survey by USA Swimming reveals that nearly 40 percent of White children have little-to-no swimming abilities; however that staggering percentage is minuscule when compared to the 70 percent of Black children who cannot swim. Sixty percent of Hispanic children face the same concern.”

The reason for this has nothing to do with physical differences and everything to do with lack of access. Swimming should be a skill offered to everyone. However, it’s a privilege afforded to those who live near a pool or accessible natural body of water, and who can afford to pay for lessons. This excludes inner city children who lack one or both of those opportunities.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports drowning as the second leading cause of injury-related death among children under the age of 15. Other studies show that Black children from ages five to 19 drown in swimming pools nearly five times more often than White children. The painful stereotype of African-Americans’ poor swimming skills is one reminder of the trouble a child can face.

Family Connections youth swimming during Spring Break

The world was also reminded in 2010, when six African-American teenagers from Louisiana drowned in Shreveport’s Red River. The teens (from two different families) were found dead after trying to save a friend from rough waters.

Sadly, parents and friends watched in horror as the teens drowned in up to 20 feet of water because they, too, couldn’t swim.

“None of us could swim,” Marilyn Robinson, a friend of the families, told the Shreveport Times, adding that she watched helplessly as the victims went under. “They were yelling, ‘Help me, help me. Somebody please help me.’ There was nothing I could do but watch them drown, one by one.”

A trip to the lake during Family Matters' summer programming

Today, nearly 60 years after the abolishment of Jim Crow laws that kept African Americans from pools and safe swimming places, many children still never get the chance to swim.

When racial integration finally became a mandate, many areas responded by closing public pools so they didn’t have to mix, creating a bigger social divide that transcended race because if you didn’t have the money to go to a country club or private pool, you either didn’t learn to swim, or you tried to learn from an untrained friend or family member in rivers, lakes and even ponds.

That’s the history, and it has undoubtedly contributed to where we are today, to this troubling acceptance that swimming — an important life skill — isn’t for everybody.

The historic separation of African Americans from pools is a problem that affects the elite world of competitive swimming. Despite Simone Manuel’s Olympic gold-medal success last summer, only three of 45 swimmers on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team were black. And out of 107 historically black colleges and universities, not one has a functioning 50-meter pool. Howard University is the only historically black college or university with a competitive swim team. With few role models and scarce opportunities to swim, too many black children see swimming as an inaccessible and uninviting sport.

Making Waves at Family Matters

In addition to safety concerns, an inability to swim bars children from being qualified for a variety of summer employment and career opportunities, ranging from lifeguards to camp counsellors.

This fall, Family Matters Boys 2 Men program, in partnership with the Evanston YMCA, plans to change that with their Making Waves Program.

The eight-week program will kick off in September, and will teach ten young men basic water safety tips and how to swim, which is a priority, especially in the wake of a recent tragic drowning of a neighborhood youth.

Family Matters is incredibly grateful to the YMCA for this opportunity, and plans to continue to expand the program to include additional youth members.