Auburn Gresham elementary school administrators and principals listen during Auburn Gresham GOLD meeting. Credit: [Lee Edwards / Block Club Chicago ]

AUBURN GRESHAM — An Auburn Gresham group is working to improve third grade literacy levels in the neighborhood for future generations.

The Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation’s education task force created a comprehensive educational plan that serves students, parents, schools and communities as a whole, said Tenisha Jones, director of education at the Greater Auburn Gresham Development. The group is teaming with United Way of Metro Chicago on the initiative.

The development corporation decided to address third grade literacy after officials combed through data from neighborhood schools, Jones said. 

“Our goal and what we’ve been working for for the past decade is to really work with principals and administrators to turn schools into fulcrums where multiple things can happen to support children and families,” she said.

By partnering with United Way of Metro Chicago, through their Neighborhood Network, an initiative that aims to provide 10 Chicagoland communities with resources to address challenges, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation will work to achieve two “bold” goals as part of their Auburn Gresham GOLD plan.

Auburn Gresham GOLD is a two-generation strategy designed to simultaneously engage students and parents. This development model was supported by the Kellogg Foundation with the goal of fostering quality education for children in addition to helping parents maintain economically stable and supportive home environments.

The two Auburn Gresham GOLD bold goals are:

  • 80 percent of pre-kindergarten-3rd grade students read at or above grade level by 2027
  • More neighborhood parents choose CPS neighborhood schools (an increase of 50 percent over five years)

Auburn Gresham GOLD has been implemented at five neighborhood elementary schools: Joplin Elementary School, 7927 S Honore St.; Cook Elementary School, 8150 S Bishop St.; Westcott Elementary School, 409 W 80th St., Barton Elementary School, 7650 S Wolcott Ave.; and Oglesby Elementary School, 7646 S. Green St.

Tenisha Jones, director of education at the Greater Auburn Gresham Development, has been working with her staff to improve childhood education in Auburn Gresham for several years. [Lee Edwards / Block Club Chicago]

“We partner with principals to provide wrap around resources such as health care to kids. We offer high quality out-of-school programing. We also have a laser focus on interrupting the cycle of children who are not reading at grade levels,” Jones said. 

Iona Calhoun-Battiste, community engagement manager for United Way of Metro Chicago, applauded the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation’s efforts. 

“I really enjoy seeing people be empowered, and that’s exactly what we are doing here in Auburn Gresham,” she said. “We are empowering teachers, principals to come with solutions.”

United Way has made a 10-year commitment to Auburn Gresham, but Calhoun-Battiste declined to say how much the neighborhood project will receive from the United Way over time. 

“In addition to funding what we will do is bring our other corporate partners and other resources to offset the funding gaps that even we can’t cover,” Calhoun-Battiste said. “For example, if a school needs to be painted because it’s part of the parent resource room we have a whole volunteer group that could help.”

(L-r): Alene Mason, principal at Joplin Elementary; Tenisha Jones, director of education at the Greater Auburn Gresham Development; Dr. El Roy Estes, principal at Cook Elementary; and Monique Dockery, principal at Westcott Elementary pose following a recent Auburn Gresham GOLD meeting. [Lee Edwards / Block Club Chicago] 

Alene Mason, principal at Joplin Elementary School, hopes through Auburn Gresham GOLD systems will help create attainable goals for students. 

“Many times in our community our kids go from school to school within the community but they are learning different things at different schools,” she said. “This approach makes it so that all of our students have access, the same access, at each of the five the schools.”

Working with other neighborhood principals has been an eye-opening experience, Mason said. 

“We critique the impacts on what’s working, what’s not working,” she said. “We’re like a think tank, it serves as a think tank, it helps me as an administrator to have other administrators that I can bounce some ideas and see what’s working at their school.”

Englewood, Chatham & Auburn Gresham reporternnEnglewood, Chatham & Auburn Gresham reporter Twitter @Mario_Demiuex