Dear Friend of Chicago Commons,
First and foremost, I hope this letter finds you safe and well. While this has been a difficult year for many, I continue to be in awe of the ways in which we lift each other up and affirm our common humanity in the face of adversity. I sincerely thank you for your past support to Chicago Commons and I hope that you will consider a contribution as we approach Giving Tuesday and the End-of-Year giving.
As we look to the future, I would like to introduce you to Serenity Peters.
Our programs, however, do not just benefit children – they serve and benefit the whole family, seniors, and the community. One example: Knowing her daughter was well cared-for, Shontae Johnson returned to college to enroll in a dental hygienist program. Serenity’s story was featured in the Chicago Tribune on July 23, 2021.
When Serenity was six weeks old, her mom, Shontae Johnson, enrolled her in our Nia Family Center Head Start program on Chicago’s West Side. Now, it’s five years later. Serenity thrived in our program. She is now in kindergarten at Chicago Public Schools. That’s so important: Only 25% of all children in Chicago are adequately prepared to enter kindergarten.
Serving the whole family
Kristin Pettice, Senior Director of Programs, shares how Chicago Commons serves Serenity, her mom, and many other families. “We want children who come into our programs to feel that they are in a safe, warm, homey, and loving environment where they can learn. If children have to go to sleep, or need a meal, or play, Chicago Commons is a place where they can come and know their needs will be taken care of. We want our parents to know that their child will be okay. For parents and families, we also ask ‘What do parents need to succeed—a job, health services, financial assistance, or planning’? Our Family Hub provides key services in those areas.”
Our early childhood programs feature a welcoming environment where children meet and exceed educational expectations, including academic skills and social and emotional development.
Consider what is at stake. Research overwhelmingly shows that early childhood education is critical for all children. Children have an incredible capacity to learn and grow in the first five years of their lives. We must encourage that.
In the Classroom
Ebony Westbrooks, Director of the Nia Family Center, also has a parent’s perspective on the Head Start program. Ebony’s children attended the program in 2003. “Nia Family Center has always set the standard to help parents and provide resources,” she says. Westbrooks watched Serenity grow in recent years. One of the keys to the program is that Commons follows the widely recognized Reggio Emilia approach to education, which emphasizes that children learn by exploring their interests and interacting with others and their environment.
Consider another reason early childhood education and a welcoming environment are so important. Children and families in our communities face major challenges – not just the pandemic, but poverty and living in communities that are among the most affected by gun violence.
It Takes a Village
Yes, we’re in a new world because of the pandemic, but our work continues. In our community, children have a place where they can learn and grow. Families have a place where they can get support.
Serenity, her mom, her dad, aunt, uncle, grandma, and all families in our programs want the best for their families. Our teachers, family support and other staff at Commons are there for them.
You are an important part of what we do. I hope that you will reinvest in Chicago Commons. Please consider renewing your support so our families and communities will continue to thrive generation after generation. As always, thank you for standing behind the mission of Chicago Commons.
President & CEO
P.S. Will your employer match your donation? Contact us to discuss potentially doubling your donation!