ENGLEWOOD — I Grow Chicago is launching a program to help Englewood families navigate a school year changed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Through Born to Thrive, the group will provide support for 40 students who are learning virtually this fall. The organization is offering the program for free to local families.
Born to Thrive will use a hybrid learning model to keep students engaged while they’re learning but unable to be at school. A “core advocate” to provide virtual and in-person support, weekly check-ins with parents and school staff to track progress and transportation to and from the program.
“We worked closely with school administrators, teachers and social workers that we’re connected to at Chicago Public Schools to develop a curriculum that would be able to fill the gaps,” said Laura Phillips, the program’s manager. “Part of our holistic approach is just making sure that we have an understanding of all the support and resources that our kids are already getting, specifically from CPS and other places.”
In an effort to make sure students’ basic needs are met, I Grow Englewood is giving participating students a laptop, headphones, face masks, care packages and eight meals and snacks a week.
Phillips and her team are implementing extensive safety protocols and adhering to coronavirus safety guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We had really regularized sanitation rituals. We’re really focusing on consistency, structure and ritual,” Phillips said. “Consistency being that the same people are going to be with each other the same days of the week. We’re limiting the amount of people who are able to be together, so there won’t be more than seven people in our houses.”
Born To Thrive is set to launch Sept. 21. Phillips’ team of volunteers are undergoing training, which involves socio-emotional work, a important component of the program’s holistic approach.
“We want our staff to be equipped with all the skills they need to be the teacher in spaces and to be the mentor, or to be the emotional support, just to make sure they can meet our kids where they are.”
The organization is running a campaign to raise money for the materials students will need for the year, raising $8,549 so far of the $75,000 they estimate they’ll need. The program will cost I Grow Chicago $500 per student per semester.
In the meantime, Phillips looks forward to the challenge of helping students this year.
“The idea is to provide as much support as we can,” said Phillips.
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