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.”


2017 Family Matters Graduates

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

Cindy Borski and Adrian Hernandez have tutored together since Adrian was in fourth grade. Over the most recent years, Cindy has supported Adrian through numerous academic and personal goals he’s set for himself and assisted him in his application process for various colleges and financial aid. One of their favorite tutoring pastimes this year was having lively discussions about politics and its relevance in their 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 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 him 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!


Anna & John

Anna_John 021116 004bw_web
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.”


Anna and Diamond | A Tutor Story

When Anna and Diamond started working together six years ago, Anna devised a simple but effective tool for motivating Diamond: stickers.

“She loved stickers,” Anna says.

The two laugh as they remember the binder Diamond covered with all of the stickers she earned for things like writing down her assignments.

Although she still has that binder today, Diamond says stickers aren’t quite the motivator that they used to be. “Don’t get me stickers now,” she jokes.


Her love for stickers isn’t the only thing that has changed. Six years ago, Diamond was a shy sixth-grader who hated books. Today, she is an outgoing high school student in Senn’s theater program, and she cites reading as one of her favorite hobbies—thanks, in part, to Anna.

The relationship between Anna and Diamond has evolved, too, from that of tutor-tutee, to that of friends.


“It’s just interesting the way it’s changed so much,” Anna says, explaining that early on, the pair focused more on skill-building, like multiplication and reading. Now, though, Diamond is able to complete most of her assignments on her own.  “So we just talk about things,” Anna says. “It’s just more of a relationship that way.”


Their relationship extends outside of their weekly tutoring sessions, with Anna frequently attending Diamond’s theater performances, such as Our Town. The two also enjoy spending time together baking cookies and apple pie, a hobby Anna introduced to Diamond. Diamond has also taken advantage of Family Matters programming other than tutoring, such as the Teen Girls program and weekly piano lessons. “I have so many memories from here,” she says.

Yet both agree that their friendship is one of the main reasons they return to evening tutoring year after year.

“It’s just Diamond,” Anna says. “Just the relationship that we have.”

“I agree,” says Diamond.


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.”





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.

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

Community Tutoring Cooking Fun


Family Matters is a flurry of activity during CPS Spring Break.   As part of our FEEL (Food and Exercise to Eat and Live) Fit Initiative, Community Tutoring students and tutors had the opportunity to participate in a healthy cooking workshop in lieu of regular tutoring during Spring Break this year.

Facilitated by Howard Area Community Center Nutritionist Kathryn S., we learned about ingredient substitutions we can use to make desserts healthier, and prepared and ate a delicious Banana and Berry Crumble.  It was a lively, educational, and fun evening, and we would like to share some pictures and the recipe with you.  Enjoy! 
Playing a matching game to learn about ingredient substitutions…

Getting our baking instructions from Kathryn

Carefully measuring whole wheat flour…

…and plain non-fat yogurt

Yum! Giving Banana Berry Crumble a big thumbs-up!!

Banana and Berry Crumble (Serves 10)
Ingredients*: 
4 large bananas
2 cups fresh mixed berries
non-stick cooking spray 
5 Tbsp whole-wheat flour, divided 
1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4  c. light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter
2/3 c. plain nonfat yogurt
1 Tbsp. honey 
*We doubled the recipe to fit a 9 x 13 pan /serve 20.
Directions: 
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. 
2. Peel and slice bananas in half lengthwise.
3.Rinse berries and pat dry.
4. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place banana halves flat side down in baking dish. 
5. Toss berries with 1 Tbsp whole-wheat flour.
6. In medium bowl, add 4 Tbsp flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to blend. 
7. Cut cold butter into little pieces. Add to bowl.  Using your fingers, quickly blend the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly. 
8. Spread the crumbly mixture over the fruit in an even layer.  Press down slightly. 
9. Bake about 10-15 minutes, or until the crumble is firm and golden in color. 
10. While crumble bakes, stir together yogurt and honey in a small bowl to create a lighter version of whipped cream. 
11. When crumble is done, spoon 1 Tbsp of yogurt and honey topping over each serving. 




Musical Matters

One of the highlights of Learning Matters Summer School 2012 was Musical Matters– a daily music class facilitated by Valerie Guerra, musician and Schweitzer Fellow through the University of Chicago School of Social Work Administration.

On December 5, 2012, Valerie, Teen Boys program participant Chijoke McClain, and nine Musical Matters participants reunited at Family Matters for a special afternoon: a trip downtown to See Music Recording Studio to record the two songs they chose to learn this summer — Wavin’ Flag by K’Naan and Waka Waka by Shakira.

While the majority of Musical Matters participants are also part of Family Matters school-year initiatives, it was the first time they had been together as a cohesive group since August.  As students walked in the door to Family Matters, arriving after lunch due to an early dismissal day on the CPS calendar, they bent down to untie shoes and boots and hang up heavy winter jackets instead of slipping off sandals and wiping off beads of perspiration, as they did every day this summer.  As each new arrival opened the door, the entryway filled with squeals of delight as participants hugged and high-fived friends they made this summer.

When everyone had arrived, we walked to the Red Line and set off for the studio. At See Music, composer and musician Jon Guerra gave a tour of the studio, while discussing how music is recorded, both for albums and commercials.  Then everyone filed into the recording room and practiced keeping hands and feet completely still so the recording would not pick up extra noises. Rehearsal began!

The energy level rose higher and higher as Chijoke beat the drum and participants started singing. Everyone was transported back to the summer as they sang out with all their hearts.  When the recording was finished, shouts and cheers rang through the room, expressing pride and joy in their accomplishment. Enjoy listening to the final product!

Musical Matters cover of Waka Waka, by Shakira
Musical Matters cover of Wavin’ Flag, by K’Naan