Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets members of Teamwork Englewood's Safe Passage team at the annual Safe Passage pep rally at Chicago State University. Credit: Lee Edwards/ Block Club Chicago

ENGLEWOOD — Starting this school year, students will see some Safe Passage workers both on the way to school and inside their school building as teaching assistants.

Teamwork Englewood won a $50,000 grant from the Illinois Parent Mentoring Program, administered by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, according to Rosalind Moore, director of programs for Teamwork Englewood.

The grant is earmarked for the next 10 months.

Here’s how the Illinois Parent Mentoring Program works: Community organizations partner with schools to allow up to 10 parents per school two hours a day as parent mentors. Once placed in a classroom, parents are mentored by teachers. Parent mentors can earn a stipend after 100 volunteer hours.  

One of the requirements for prospective candidates to get into a classroom is being civically engaged. Moore said because a number of the individuals were hired through Chicago Public School’s Safe Passage program, administered by Teamwork Englewood, they would qualify for the program.

The program will be implemented at Bass Elementary School, 1140 W. 66th St., and Benjamin E. Mays Elementary Academy, 6656 S. Normal Blvd., both of which are Safe Passage schools. Hope College Prep High School, 5515 S. Lowe Ave., is the third Teamwork Englewood Safe Passage school.

Moore said parents will able to take advantage of the program to develop workforce and leadership skills. About 16 parent mentors will be involved with the program and they will be supported by a parent coordinator at each school and an additional parent coordinator who will supervise the schools’ programs. Program training begins on Sept. 10. 

In years past, parents have expressed a desire to get involved in the schools but were unsure how to get involved, Moore said. 

“The students will have parents in the classroom with them and become more engaged in school in a positive way,” she said. “A lot of parents feel shut out by the school, they don’t feel welcome at the school, and all of that impacts the performance, so we’re expecting these programs will improve the performance of the students in the school.”

In addition to the program, Englewood Quality of Life Plan’s education task force picked Mays as its adopted school this year, which means students, parents and teachers at the school will receive additional social and emotional support.

The majority of Teamwork Englewood’s 36 Safe Passage workers came as referrals and more than 95 percent of the workers hail from Englewood, Moore said. Each worker must clear a CPS background check, she said. 

The Safe Passage program has had an impact on the larger Englewood community, Moore said. A few years ago, a fifth grader confided in a Safe Passage worker that he was contemplating suicide. The worker was able to connect the student with Teamwork Englewood, who helped the student access mental health services and he was able to complete elementary school, she said. 

“Because of that person every day speaking to him, asking him how he was doing, he felt safe enough to disclose that,” she said.

Lauronia Ditiway Credit: Lee Edwards/Block Club Chicago

Lauronia Ditiway, a Safe Passage worker with Teamwork Englewood for the past five years and an Englewood resident for 57 years, said she previously walked her children along with neighborhood children to Mays Elementary for years. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with a young man who asked her if she was interested in working for Safe Passage that she considered working for the program. 

“I’m just doing this for the kids. I just want to make sure the kids are safe,” Ditiway said. “I think it’s a good idea for everyone to get out here and participate and take care of our kids, because if not,  who will do it for us?”

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