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AmeriCorps Project YES! Operated by the Northwestern Settlement 2012-2013, Issue 2 Upcoming Dates  04/27 Global Youth Service Day  05/18 Seeds of Service

Inside this issue: 1 Martin Luther King Jr. Literacy Fair 1 Bridging the Generation Gap at Polaris 2 The Holidays at NUSH—An Inside Look 2 House In The Wood with Rowe After School 3 Partner Spotlight: Dr. Travis Commons 4 Winter 2012-2013 Members to Remember

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Edited by Annalise Petranoff

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Literacy Fair On a bitterly cold Monday in January, dozens of children flocked to the Northwestern Settlement for an afternoon of reading fun. AmeriCorps Project YES! collaborated with SitStayRead, The StoryBus, Chicago Public Libraries, Adventure Stage Chicago’s Trailblazers, and a professional storyteller to create a literacy fair in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In addition, about 60 volunteers from neighborhoods all across Chicago came to help set up, read to kids, and play literacy games. In Chicago, it is estimated that over 600,000 adults cannot read or

write well enough to meet their own career goals, and over a third of adults have low literacy skills. The issue is even more severe for immigrant and refugee populations as 25% of them have an 8th grade education or below. To help respond to this need, the fair offered numerous resources to encourage childhood reading both at the event and at home. Over 2000 books were donated by various schools, businesses and individuals, allowing parents and children to haul away armfuls of books as they left, and Chicago Public Libraries provided tons of

Bridging the Generation Gap at Polaris History is not some monolithic narrative where one experience represents a whole group of people. It is really many different personal narratives. This was proven true when the kindergarten through third grade afterschool students at Polaris Charter Academy went to visit Heritage Woods Assisted Living. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, the students visited Heritage Woods on January 22nd (the day after the official holiday) to meet some senior citizens who were alive during the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement. These Polaris students had watched a video on the involvement of children in the Civil Rights Movement the Friday before, but the real benefit came from actually hearing real people talk about their experiences. Talking about such a serious topic with youth was very challenging. When this visit was announced, the students had mixed emotions and lots of questions about the people they would be speaking to. One of the students asked, “Can they talk?” The students definitely had preconceived notions about older people. This was one of reasons why I wanted

Kerianne Fullin information for continual efforts to strengthen critical reading skills. But perhaps most critically for fostering a lifelong love of reading, the literacy fair was pure and simple fun. Whether it was reading to a happy Labrador, journaling about a sincere dream, or spelling words on a massive Scrabble board, the activities engaged adults and kids of all reading abilities and backgrounds. Beaming, children rushed from booth to booth to complete their own story, fully embracing each new challenge. As community members came together to joyfully tackle the problem of illiteracy, it became clear that the memory of Dr. King was truly honored.

Joshua Jackson

to bridge the generation gap in West Town. History has traditionally been passed down orally in most cultures, and I really believe that youth need to know about their history to pass it down to the next generation. The residents at Heritage Woods Assisted Living were more than willing to share their stories. One older woman shared about how she was very involved in transcribing speeches for a political figure named Timothy Black. Another older gentleman talked about how important music was to the movement and continues to make music today. Numerous people recounted stories of the riots that broke out all over the country in black communities and how hard it has been to recover from the trashing of those communities. I think that at the end of the day, the students walked away with at least a very basic understanding of what the Civil Rights Movement was and a seed was planted that will hopefully grow and prosper as they become older and form their own world views.

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2012-2013, Issue 2

The Holidays at NUSH - An Inside Look The Holidays were anything but dull at the Northwestern Settlement this year. We hit off the season with the annual Thanksgiving Dinner. Having the privilege to help out with this event, I started off the morning with Project YES! Manager, Claire Unger, and member Ally Moloney, cutting boxes of ham and pursuing damage control as ham juice spilled onto our shoes and clothing. At one point during the preparations, I had the honor of trying out Project YES! Director, Yasmin Rodriguez’s job – mixing a gooey, jellowy substance, which I learned would be responsible for ensuring that the evening’s meat was juicy and delicious. As scrumptious as I am sure this bucket of fat tastes on a plate full of turkey, as it squished through my fingers and filled my head with particular vapors, I had the epiphany that I may become a vegetarian. Many members assisted in the preparations throughout the day, from stocking thank you gift bags, to learning the precise science for making the perfect mashed potatoes. The day culminated with a great feast, served by Settlement volunteers and their families. It was a great night of friendship and joy that only a shared meal can bring.

Marta Michalska Next up in the holiday extravaganza lineup was the neighborhood Christmas caroling and concert. The entourage of children and youth singing carols around the neighborhood were led by the Noble Street College Prep Choir. The children loved it of course, and citizens dining out stopped, fork mid-air, to stare out the restaurant windows at the crowd. The night culminated in an adorable concert by the Head Start children of the Northwestern Settlement. Dressed as snowmen and coordinating (or not) their arm movements to the music was a sight warm enough to melt the hardest of hearts. Wrapping up the holiday events at the Settlement, the food pantry distributed 746 holiday baskets filled with food, clothing, toys, blankets and more, helping to spread the warmth of the holidays to our Settlement neighbors. “People were extremely grateful,” says member Sue Winn who helped distribute the baskets. “They were telling us their life stories and how they wouldn’t have a Christmas if it weren’t for us; out of everything I’ve done in my service thus far, this felt the most meaningful.” Although the paper snowflakes have been put away and the sound of children practicing their songs has ceased, the spirit of joy (and the holiday pounds) have persisted and continue to sustain us here at the Northwestern Settlement throughout the Chicago winter.

House In The Wood with Rowe After School My first weekend of February was not spent preparing for the Super Bowl like most sports fans or even casual sports fans. Mine was spent visiting Val, Terry, and Alex at House In The Wood with the Rowe Elementary After School Program. I, along with Gorguis Yalda, Annalise Petranoff, and Kerianne Fullin, were the four brave Project YES! Members to sign up and assist with about 30 students (scholars). Let me sum up the 2 hour bus ride to Delavan, Wisconsin on Friday evening: Mr. Paul how old are you? What grade are you in? Are you married? Why not? Where are you from? Are we there yet? How old are you?

Upon arrival we had snack time and then bed time…well it was more like a suggested bed time because it took an hour plus to get all the kids to fall asleep. After a few hours of sleep we were up bright and early for a tour of the camp, which was unexpectedly covered in a few inches of snow from a couple nights before. Surprisingly no snowballs were thrown. The afternoon was spent alternating between sledding, crafts, group activities, and some more sledding. To everyone’s disappointment I was not able to sled entirely down the hill and onto the frozen lake, only Val was able to make it with her many years of skilled sledding. If it were an Olympic sport, I think she’d surely win a medal in it.

Paul Hibbeler Saturday came to an end and we were finally learning everyone’s names, but sadly were preparing to return to Chicago the next day. Possibly the highlight of the weekend on the bus ride home when Gorguis started listening to music and was mouthing the words to “Some Night” by Fun. Some students heard this and then immediately started singing the chorus. Soon the entire bus was singing and made me regret not having a camera to record it. We safely made it back to Chicago and I made it home and then fell asleep the rest of the day, forgetting completely about the Super Bowl.

2012-2013, Issue 2

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Partner Spotlight: Dr. Tavis Commons Food connoisseur, Cross Fit enthusiast, proud owner of an Italian Greyhound named Harvey Livingston, and avid reader – these are just some of the qualities that describe Dr. Tavis Commons, Dean of Scholars at Rowe Elementary. As Dean of Scholars, Commons is in charge of designing and overseeing the culture of Rowe, including deciding what traditions the school will practice as well as how it will exemplify its core values. Additionally, he provides workshops for the teachers and staff and coaches them individually. Dr. Commons has provided numerous trainings to the Project YES! teams as well, including workshops on personal culture and communication. One of the first questions I put to Dr. Commons was how he found himself in such a diverse and unique position. Dr. Commons began with an undergraduate degree in education. Upon graduating, he took a job as a child care specialist at a residential treatment center at Rush Medical Center. Born in Kansas and

raised in Indiana, Commons recalls almost crashing his car on Lakeshore as he gazed, entranced, at the towered buildings. Despite this initial shock, Commons acclimated quickly to life in the city. At Rush, Commons soon learned that being a teacher in a clinical setting, where there was no “school culture,” was difficult, revealing to him the important role culture plays in institutions. Commons left Rush to earn his PhD in education from the University of Illinois at Chicago, but he soon discovered he missed working closely with families. He left academia to teach special education, but ultimately knowing he wanted to serve in a leadership position, so when a friend told him about Rowe he applied. When asked why he chose to go into education, Commons explained that, “Contrary to an all-too-common belief, teaching is actually a very complex profession. You need to know a lot about psychology, child development, group think, etc. I am drawn to the intellectual and emotional challenge that this career requires and to the very evident impact it makes on children’s lives”.

Marta Michalska Being an expert on school culture, I asked Dr. Commons what his advice would be to members currently serving in Project YES! who don’t feel “at home” at their school sites. “Being an AmeriCorps volunteer is difficult”, he acknowledged, “It’s not easy knowing you are only part of an institution for a year. Additionally, teachers are a very busy bunch and may not be able to give you the support or direction you desire.” His advice? Be proactive –find someone who understand the needs of your school and approach them. Come up with projects that interest you and present them to your supervisor. Although faculty may not know how to reach out to you, they will gladly accept your help and ideas if presented. He adds that as an outsider you also have an advantage. You can see the school with fresh eyes and perhaps highlight certain aspects that those within the system might have a hard time seeing. As many of us prepare to move into the next stage of our lives, we can take this advice with us as we enter into new institutions, organization, and jobs. We can follow Dr. Commons’ example and find courage in the knowledge that we have something to offer.

A Favorite Recipe from the Project YES! Staff 2. Pour batter into a greased 8x4x2-inch loaf pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes or till a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from the pan; cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

Moist Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients: 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 2/3 cup sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 4 -5 very ripe bananas, mashed 1/3 cup butter, softened 2 tablespoons milk 2 eggs 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions: 1.In a large mixer bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add mashed banana; butter; and milk. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed till blended, then on high speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and remaining flour; beat till blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

** This recipe has recently become a favorite and household staple for the Project YES! staff. Our friends and families are raving about it, so we thought we’d share it with you! Enjoy! ~ Yasmin & Claire Source: moist-chocolate-chip-banana-bread157942

AmeriCorps Project YES!: Getting Things Done in Chicago

AmeriCorps Project YES! Northwestern Settlement 1400 W. Augusta Blvd. Chicago, IL 60642

PROJECT YES! (Youth, Education, and Service) Project YES! educates youth holistically by providing classroom support, after school programming, and volunteer initiatives. Project YES! nurtures youth through positive mentorship by fostering relationships of trust and respect. Project YES! inspires youth through connections with caring role models by encouraging and facilitating civic engagement and leadership opportunities. Project YES! provides a structure of growth and self-motivation that empowers youth to develop skills in becoming self-sufficient individuals who succeed and contribute responsibly in a global community.

Phone: 773-278-7471 Fax: 773-278-2621 E-mail:

Save the Date! Global Youth Service Day: Ultimate Field Day Saturday, April 27, 2013 Seeds of Service Saturday, May 18, 2013

Looking for more service opportunities? Check out Serve Illinois at:

AmeriCorps Project YES! is a proud program of the Northwestern Settlement. More information on Settlement programs can be found on our website:

Email for more information

Winter 2012-2013 Members to Remember December: Bridget Sanchez

January: Megan Green

February: Tasha Richardson

Bridget was recognized by the Project YES! team for getting things done in and out of the classroom. Bridget did an excellent job on the Donations committee for MLK Day, serving as the committee secretary and soliciting donations. Additionally, one of her Project YES! peers commented, “Everyday she’s the best person to work with and she always gets things done with a big smile!”

Project YES! members appreciate Megan’s positive attitude and ever-present smile. Members noted that Megan was a supportive and dedicated leader during MLK Day planning, and helped the project to run smoothly and successfully. As described by another member, “Megan is a dedicated worker, creative, motivating, and fun to be around!”

Tasha’s peers admire her dedication to her service, and note that she goes above and beyond in everything she does. Members feel that her passion, warmth, and generosity make her an inspiring member of the team. “Tasha is always putting in the extra effort with her students and fellow Project YES! members to make them feel valued.”

From left to right: Bridget Sanchez, Megan Green, Tasha Richardson

AmeriCorps Project YES! Newsletter  

Newsletter March 2013