The Line That Connects: OfficeMax & The Berwyn Community School Initiative
After a year of planning, United Way of DuPage/West Cook, in partnership with United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, was preparing to launch LIVE UNITED 2020, a decade long vision to transform communities of greatest need throughout our region. At the same time, the OfficeMax Foundation was gearing up to make one of their largest philanthropic investments into a school sponsorship. United Way had recently identified the Berwyn region as one of its target communities.
In a neighborhood where 63% of students are low income and will be entering a high school with the lowest graduation rate in west Cook County, Freedom Middle School and Youth Crossroads are partnering to create the Berwyn Community School Initiative, a program aimed at providing the highest quality classroom and extracurricular activities to enhance the lives of students and their families.
Following the community school model, The Berwyn Community School Initiative ensures families and students are provided with an array of on-site programming and services that are essential to the building blocks of a quality life- income, education and health. Programs and services range from tutoring and mentoring to tax assistance and nutrition classes. Each community school is unique to its respective community as the programs are developed through different partnerships with agencies, businesses, families, students and residents. While the programs and services of a community school are fundamental to improving a population, they can also be expensive and difficult to fund.
Understanding the potential of the community school model and the necessity for funding, OfficeMax Incorporated, headquartered in Naperville, stepped up to the plate to adopt and help maintain a community school in one of United Way’s target Partner Communities. Recognizing United Way’s expertise in identifying community needs and delivering results, OfficeMax granted $1 million over three years to support Freedom Middle School and Youth Crossroads and back their mission to improve education by boosting classroom and community services.
“We are excited to partner with United Way on its Education Initiative and to be the first company to adopt a community school,” explained Carolynn Brooks, President of OfficeMax Charitable Foundation. “Education is an important cause for OfficeMax because, as a leading office products supplier, we interact with the education community on a daily basis. When we help improve education, we can help improve entire communities.”
On August 22, United Way and OfficeMax surprised the Principal of Freedom Middle School, Jim Calabrese, and the Executive Director of Youth Crossroads, Dave Terrazino, with a check addressed to the Berwyn Community School Initiative. This money will allow Freedom Middle School and Youth Crossroads to supply their students and families with the resources and education needed to achieve success.
“One of the things we know is that it is extremely difficult to catch students up once they have fallen behind without a tremendous amount of resources,” said Jim Calabrese, Principal at Freedom Middle School. “With the help of this funding, we are able to offer an after school program to do just that- catch students up in time for high school. The benefits are nearly endless for our students and in turn, our community.”