Our Neighborhood Network Initiative continues to gain momentum. As you know, United Way is working like never before in ten neighborhoods including Austin, Auburn Gresham, Brighton Park, Bronzeville, Cicero, Evanston, Little Village, Robbins/Blue Island, South Chicago and West Chicago to solve pressing community challenges.
Each neighborhood has been working on defining clear goals that will lead to transformational change in their communities. Four of our Neighborhood Network communities have identified their bold goals and are working toward honing strategies and coordinated action to achieve them.
The goals identified include:
Austin: 3,900 children (0-5) living in poverty will have access to quality early learning programs by 2025 and 500 families with a child age 0-5 will transition to living wage jobs/careers and overcome poverty by 2025.
In third grade, students transition from learning to read to learning to learn, and reading proficiency by third grade has been found to be the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. In the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side, only 30% of 3rd grade students attending Chicago Public Schools were meeting or exceeding state reading standards in 2014. This means that 2 out of 3 students from Austin are at risk of dropping out of high school when they complete 3rd grade. In response to these alarming numbers, the Austin Neighborhood Network will work toward increasing 3rd grade success through quality early learning programs. Knowing that family support is critical to childhood development and success, they will also focus on improving family financial stability.
Brighton Park: Increase graduation rate at Kelly High School from 72% to 90% by 2020.
Improving graduation rates and reducing dropout rates are critical to building stronger communities. A high school diploma is often the minimum requirement for success in the workplace. Thomas Kelly High School, a neighborhood public high school located in the Brighton Park Community, has a current graduation rate of 72%. The Brighton Park Neighborhood Network has set a goal of increasing the graduation rate so more youth have the skills to achieve future success. They will achieve their goal through thoughtful and strategic collaboration among schools, agencies and families.
Evanston: Increase kindergarten readiness from 54% to 85% by 2025 while significantly increasing racial and ethnic parity for African American and Hispanic children.
The academic success of children in later years depends heavily upon their kindergarten readiness. The first few years of education are crucial to establishing a solid foundation for successful learning. In Evanston, 46% of kindergartners did not meet the state benchmark in 4 or more foundational literacy skills in the 2014-2015 school year. Of those 46% –
• 74% of low-income kindergartners did not meet the benchmark
• 67% of Black/African American kindergartners did not meet the benchmark
• 77% of Hispanic/Latino kindergartners did not meet the benchmark
The Evanston Neighborhood Network set a goal of increasing kindergarten readiness to ensure children are on track for success when they enter school which will put them on a path to brighter futures.
Little Village: Increase the percentage of healthy weight children in Marshall Square between the ages of 2 to 17 from 51% to 60% by 2020.
Research shows that healthy students are better learners. Evidence links healthy eating and physical activity to better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance and classroom behaviors. According to the Chicago Department of Health, Little Village has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Chicago at 33%. In an effort to create a healthy and vibrant community, the Little Village Neighborhood Network has committed to work towards increasing the percentage of healthy weight children in the neighborhood.