Twenty-three Chase Bank volunteers, CCH staff and interns teamed up Tuesday for back-to-school outreach to homeless youth living in two West Side neighborhoods. Every Child in School, Every Day is a Law Project initiative sponsored by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation to ensure that students without housing enroll in and attend school.
“I think this is a critical cause, and it is unfortunate that those who have the most need for it do not have the information,” said Chase volunteer Ava Smith.
Full of energy from the bright, summer day, the group split up to distribute flyers, brochures, and door hangers in English and Spanish explaining the educational rights of children without housing in neighborhoods near North Grand and Orr Academy high schools.
Youth Attorney Beth Cunningham, the Law Project’s new associate director, also worked in the community using the Youth Futures mobile legal aid van.
First-time volunteer and Chase paralegal Mary Reyes remarked that “it is so important for everyone to be informed in
whatever language they speak.” Many of the homes and businesses where materials were distributed belong to primarily Spanish-speaking individuals and families.
More than 4,000 outreach materials were distributed to homes and 55 different community venues, including churches, a public aid office, daycares, grocery stores, beauty salons, and medical clinics. The emphasis on distributing information in both Spanish and English is spurred by the under-identification of homeless Latino students in Chicago Public Schools, even in schools with more than 90% low-income enrollment.
“Neighborhood pamphlet distribution provides educational rights information that is not generally known. The pamphlets empower the students and guardians to recognize and even act on the rights available to them,” said Stephanie Ciupa, a Chase CIB transaction manager and returning volunteer.
After outreach, the teams met at Orr for lunch prepared by the homeless chef training program at Inspiration Corporation, and a visit from Onshelle Blackmon, CPS coordinator in the Students in Transitional Living Situations (STLS) office. She described how important it is for students who are moving from place to place to know about their right to remain in their school of origin and not interrupt their schooling.
Through August, Ms. Cunningham will train more than 1,200 homeless liaisons and clerks at six CPS training sessions, providing them with information about the citywide resources available to unaccompanied and homeless youth.
– Story by Ali Heinen & photos by Shruti Sharma