Supplies for Dreams launches new program to help CPS students

Meghan Morris

Four years ago, Weinberg senior Hiro Kawashima said he recognized an educational disparity between the North Shore and the Chicago Public Schools and decided he wanted to do something about it.

To combat the discrepancies, he and a New Trier Township High School classmate used $600 to start Supplies For Dreams, an organization serving CPS students through mentoring and extracurricular opportunities. In 2011, they finished the year with more than $53,000 in donations.

As the nonprofit continues to expand, Kawashima, a former ASG vice president, said the group will increase its services for CPS students. At its second annual Inspiration Gala next Thursday, SFD will launch a new informational video and a Skype-based mentoring program.

“Everyone tells you education is such a big issue and you can’t solve it by doing something small today, but that’s not true,” Kawashima said. “There are so many things people can do actively today to make a difference in their communities.”

Kawashima said SFD’s original mission was to give low-income children school supplies, but said the group realized students need guidance too. SFD currently offers a mentoring program for sixth graders and will expand its program to include a Skype platform that allows students to interact with professionals. Students can select a field of interest, such as medicine, law or aeronautics, and then will be paired with a professional in that field.

“We wanted to find something that’s proactive, that’s not necessarily tied to test scores or standardized scores,” Kawashima said. “Instead, it’s tied to confidence levels and raising the self-efficacy and self-confidence of students, and it gives them guidance.”

In addition to introducing this program at the gala, SFD will present a new, three-minute video about CPS. Kawashima said the video, created by the Chicago production studio Ink Factory, examines problems facing CPS and SFD’s role in solving some of the issues.

“If it goes well, it should be the primary education video for the next year or so,” he said. “We hope that it will go viral in Chicago in the next few weeks.”

Marketing director and Weinberg senior Ellie Ryan said the target audience for the video goes beyond educators to anyone who lives in the Chicago area.

“Northwestern students pride themselves on the Chicago culture and like to enjoy it,” she said. “At the same time, it’s easy to not notice the incredible inequalities that are so close to our campus. Northwestern is a very socially conscious campus, but this is something people don’t get excited about.”

The gala, which will be held at the Kenilworth Club, costs $50 per ticket. In addition to traditional banquet events – a silent auction, music and food – SFD will try to give the expected 60 to 120 attendees a hands-on taste of the organization, said Meredith Schaefer, the group’s event coordinator and a McCormick junior.

Ryan said donors will rotate through different activity stations, which include packing a backpack with SFD supplies and going through an artificial museum field trip with an SFD chaperone to imitate what students can experience through SFD programs.

“We want our community to come away from the gala thinking about what we do, but also what they can do to make the organization better,” Ryan said.

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