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.


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!


Anna’s Story


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

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

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

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


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​.”


Vivian, Anna & Avah

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

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


Family Matters’ Free Little Library

Family Matters has enjoyed a longstanding partnership with Sacred Heart Schools in Chicago, and was honored to be a recipient of the SHS Goal Award for the 2014-2015 school year. We are happy to welcome a group of 8th grade boys from Sacred Heart monthly throughout the school year. The boys volunteer time at Family Matters through their Service Learning Program, while also learning about our programs and mission.

On Justice Day, 2014, Sacred Heart Schools celebrated Family Matters, inviting Dan McNeil (then-Director of Teen Boys Programs) and Ashaki McClain (Director of Teen Girls Programs) to speak to SHS students.  Dan presented the Family Matters Teen Boys program to Hardey 8 students and showed a video made by the young men, highlighting the similar piece of SHS and Family Matters’ missions in teaching the importance of making wise choices and responsible decisions.

Sacred Heart has Buddy Benches and Peace Tables. Stemming from these, 8th grade boys were given the task of building a Peace Bench for Family Matters and finding a way to connect Family Matters, Sacred Heart and the community. For this, they constructed the little libraries, born from the Free Little Library initiative. The Teen Boys at Family Matters helped to paint the libraries and posts to symbolize each organization.

 

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Students at Family Matters worked together to decide where to place the library, thinking through where it would be most visible and best utilized. After the post was secured, the group of 8th grade boys who visit Family Matters each month as part of their Service Learning program attached the library to the post, officially planting Family Matters’ first Little Library in our garden.

The final step was filling the library with books! Youth in our Family Connections program filled the library, while also taking some time to enjoy the stories themselves.

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     Little Library books 121615 049

Once the ground thaws, another library will be planted at Sacred Heart on Kenmore and one at Howard Area Family Center.  Sacred Heart students will leave and take books from these libraries as well.

Family Matters is incredibly grateful for our partners at Sacred Heart. Please stop by 7731 N. Marshfield to leave or take a book for yourself!


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 www.familymatterslibrary.org.




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 gretchen@familymatterschicago.org.





Cooking Matters! Healthy Cooking Club Gathers

 

 
 
 
As part of our FEEL Fit Initiative, Rogers Park residents Barbara Moore and Jayne Hoffman, are facilitating a Healthy Cooking Club this Spring.  4 Family Connections families and 1 Teen Girls family meets monthly at Barb’s home to prepare healthy meals together in the context of community and relationship building.  Local businesses and residents are supporting this unique venture by providing ingredients for the recipes as well as kitchen supplies and staples for families to take home for their personal kitchens. 
 
On March 17, the Cooking Club had their first official gathering.  They focused on healthy, make-ahead breakfast items, including homemade granola bars, apple puff pancakes, and carrot muffins.  They measured, chopped, grated, folded, and whisked ingredients together, sharing lots of smiles, laughter, and joy as they baked. They have already met again in April, and are planning to meet again in May.  
 

 

 

 

 
 
The second session was “casserole week”.  Participants made a whole grain pasta bake, quinoa and broccoli casserole, a brown rice and beans vegetarian taco bake, and a breakfast egg casserole.
 
Thank you, Barb, for spearheading Family Matters’ first off-site Cooking Club!