Our Pledge To You

News

Kudos to the dedicated minds working to help Chicago kids

So, it’s a big deal that Chicago was mentioned in the State of the Union Address.

Ensuring that all kids have a chance at higher education by providing free community college tuition to students who keep decent grades is a big deal. It may not be as interesting to report as debating whether kids are sent to school in subfreezing temperatures, but the president thought it was worth a shout-out. When it comes to education, we’re so good at venting our frustrations, yet, we often neglect attending to what’s right. The college proposal is right.  Earlier this month, our city was doing something else right. On an icy morning, when CPS decided our kids were safer staying home, a meeting was held by a consortium comprising nearly 200 non-profit organizations, government agencies, businesses and private foundations -all dedicated to one thing — helping our youth succeed.

Started in 2013, Thrive Chicago is an ongoing, collaborative effort to tackle some of the most challenging issues facing our kids: Preparing our neediest children for kindergarten; re-engaging youth who’ve dropped out of school or are at-risk; identifying students needing additional help; preparing kids for college, for work, and more. Members include the Joyce, MacArthur and MacDougal Foundations, Boeing, IBM, Microsoft, CPS, City Colleges and Lurie Children’s Hospital. If we’re serious about investing in our kids, the private and public sectors must work together — and they’re doing it.

On this particular day, members gathered at the Cultural Center to listen to Mayor Emanuel talk about education; and to discuss outreach, research, and programs for improving our children’s futures. A UIC professor shared data coming out on high school dropouts. A recent Northwestern graduate, working at Strengthening Chicago’s Youth, described their violence prevention program.  Listening to people speak, I was struck by the diversity; each coming from different vantage points; some wearing ties, some wearing t-shirts, some in skirts, some in jeans, but all focused on our kids.

As a CPS parent, Local School Council member and a psychologist, I’ve worked closely with some of these organizations and I’m obsessed with programs that motivate children and improve education.  I also understand the frustrations. I’ve waited at 5 a.m. downtown with fellow parents to make cases to the Board of Education on behalf of teachers, students. It’s essential to speak out when things are unfair, but we can’t ignore what’s being done to make things better.

This winter, as we continue to debate what’s best for our kids, let’s consider this. Chicago will only be as good as the education we provide for all of our children. On one of the coldest days, when our kids were kept home safe, talented, dedicated minds were working together to ensure that fewer Chicago children will be left out in the cold. If that’s not worth a few shout-outs, I don’t know what is?

Alana Baum is a psychologist and an associate professor at Northwestern University medical school in Chicago. She is also a local school council member for a Chicago public school.