Y.O.U. hosts talk on pilot school model

Hal Jin, Reporter

Youth Organizations Umbrella, a local youth development agency, hosted a discussion Tuesday on its pilot program of the “community school” model, which aims to engage Evanston and Skokie parents in their students’ school communities.

The goal of the community school model is to enhance community engagement by bringing schools, parents and nonprofit organizations together. It has been implemented at Chute Middle School in Evanston and Lincoln Junior High School in Skokie for almost a year.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 superintendent Paul Goren, Y.O.U. representatives and parent leaders presented “Harnessing the Power of Parents through Community Schools” to an audience of about 75 people at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.

“We can’t expect schools to do everything on their own,” said Melissa Carpenter, director of community schools at Y.O.U. “We really saw an opportunity to use the community school model to rearrange resources around parents and families.”

Graciela Suarez, the lead organizer at Community Organizing and Family Issues, was one of the presenters. COFI facilitated a six-week leadership training program that taught parents how to set goals for themselves that can be implemented in the community, according to Y.O.U’s website. Suarez said she is delighted with the level of involvement of parents in the program.

“When I came from Mexico, I never saw myself as a leader,” said Suarez, a first generation immigrant from Mexico City. “My experience is with the Latino community, some of whom are still going through the (immigration) system. Seeing yourself able to make a difference in the (schooling) system is really just a life changing experience.”

Audience members voiced both support for and concerns regarding the community school model and asked how its success would be measured.

Carpenter said administrators would consider a variety of academic measures, such as course performance and state testing, as well as improvements in infrastructure and emotional support for students.

“Really, we’ll need two to three years of engaged analysis to see how this program has turned out,” Goren said. “We’re very curious to learn what emerges from the pilot.”

Erin Moore, the Y.O.U. community school manager for Lincoln Junior High School, said her biggest concern for the project is that parents will not be able to transition from a consumer paying for their child’s education to a member of a community.

Carpenter said there is no solid plan that Y.O.U. or the school district has set for the future.

“This is a plan that the community needs to develop together,” she said. 

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