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Department of Partnerships - Bits and Bites

March 2019
Advocacy AlertCommunity Schools and Afterschool Funding
On February 22, State Representative Karina Villa and State Senator Jim Oberweis visited Currier Elementary School in District 33 for a community school site visit. The pair toured the after school program and heard from students, parents, and staff about how the afterschool program and the community school supports have positively impacted their lives.
Thank you to all the partners who were pivotal in making the legislative site visit a success:

= Maria Santiago and Wonzey Carlson, parents

= Susan Castrogiovanni and staff, Breaking Free, Inc.

= Rosie Delgado and Kyle Reschke, Puente del Pueblo/Wheaton Bible Church

= Kristina Davis, District 33 Assistant Superintendent

= Mark Truckenbrod and Kellie Barros, Currier School Principal and Assistant Principal

= Susan Stanton, Act NOW!

In West Chicago, over 1,500 families receive support through community schools each year, including over 450 students that participate in high quality after school programming. It is vital that we advocate for the resources necessary to support community schools. In West Chicago, we receive funding from the following grants:

= Federal Full Service Community Schools grant that supports building based community school programs and resources

= 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) for afterschool programming at four schools (ISBE)

= Teen REACH grants for afterschool programming at three schools (ISBE)

The Illinois State Board of Education's proposed budget includes $20 million in direct funding for afterschool programs and $15 million in funding for community schools. Join us in advocating for the General Assembly to include both of the proposals in their budget. Click here to download our one page community schools infographic and help us advocate for these resources by sharing this information widely. Note: this resource was originally developed by Act NOW!
February 2019

The DREAM afterschool program, run by Breaking Free, is held at Currier, Gary, and Pioneer Elementary Schools and Leman Middle School. The program extends the school day through tutoring and homework help. The program also enhances other skills through social and emotional skill development, art and music, nutrition lessons, and physical activity.
Here are some recent highlights from each site
Currier: A group of students is working on a comic book project focused on promoting reading. Program staff share that the students really enjoy it.
Gary: Students will become pen pals with an afterschool program in Texas run by a former DREAM staff member.  They are very excited to get started writing letters to their new friends! 
Leman: Staff and students are planning an upcoming career and college day. normal;background:white'>DREAM lumination letters that were created for the Lights On Afterschool event held last October have found a temporary home at the Gallery 200 - be sure to check them out the next time you're downtown West Chicago!

DREAM is funded by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and Full Service Community Schools federal grants.
January 2019
 “Hope anchors the soul. With hope, one can move forward and up. Hope gives us the fire to burn bright. We hope for health, we hope for a good future, we hope for others. The definition of hope is trust and reliance. If we trust our gifts and in our heart, we move in only one direction. Forward. We must never give up hope. Once we choose hope anything is possible.” -Unknown

We believe it is important to always lift up hope. As we watch the news or talk with friends and co-workers, the world can feel defeating. Hope provides us a beacon of light that creates pathways for us to continue moving forward. As we begin a new year, we reflect on what motivates us to move forward. We have often found that the relationships we have with our families, friends, co-workers, and others we interact with on any given day, are what we value most, especially to continue working on goals that take time to reach. Without relationships, we wouldn’t have the power to truly create positive change. 


We challenge you to think about what motivates you and brings you hope? What one word would you use to sum it up? Share your one word with us - click here. We will use these responses to create a word cloud to share in the Department for Partnership's next NewsBites update.

December 2018
The Department of Partnerships is excited to introduce two new Community School Coordinators to the team. In addition to Ciara Thomas at Leman Middle School, Kathy Niedorowski is the Coordinator for Birth - 5 and Sarah Norton is the Coordinator for elementary schools.
Kathy Niedorowski - Community School Coordinator, Birth to 5 Katharine (Kathy) Niedorowski recently received her Master's in Social Work from theUniversity of Illinois at Chicago and has a Bachelor’s of the Arts in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. Before working in District 33, she interned at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless creating policy reform and participating in advocacy efforts in Chicago and Springfield. As a Community School Coordinator, she will build relationships with the community and schools ensure families are linked and have access to community resources through the assistance of Family Liaisons and co-facilitate the West Chicago Early Childhood Collaboration. She is excited to have the opportunity to learn more about West Chicago and the families in District 33!  Kathy can be found at a variety of locations including District 33 Early Learning Center, Trinity School, and Winfield School.  
Sarah Norton - Community School Coordinator, Elementary
I am very excited to begin a new journey working as Community School Coordinator for elementary schools in D33! My most recent position was working as a Community Mental Health Clinician from a partnering agency in Leman Middle School. I have a passion for working in the West Chicago Community with school staff and community members. I am a proud graduate of West Chicago High School (Go Wildcats!). I then received my Bachelors of Social Work at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and went on to complete my Masters of Social Work at Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC. I specialize in working with Children and Families utilizing strengths based approach. I look forward to continuing to work in this awesome community and building new connections with staff and families. 
Family Ties
 A WeGo Together/District 33 Parenting Education Program
Family Ties is an evidence-informed parenting education program that supports parents in supporting their child's development birth-12th grade. This program is facilitated by family liaisons who have been trained to facilitate the program. Sessions cover a wide range of topics including developmental milestones, positive discipline strategies, and establishing rules and routines. Parents are surveyed to find out what topics they are interested in learning about.
October 2018

Family Liaisons through a Child’s Development

As a community school district, we promote strong partnerships between schools, families, and community. This philosophy provides opportunities for everyone; teachers, parents, community partners and the students to contribute their gifts and expertise towards the academic success of all students and the health of the family and community as a whole. The US Department of Education’s federal education policy, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), approved interventions that indicate that community schools, with good implementation and a sufficient amount of services, can positively impact a range of student outcomes (Learning Policy Institute, 2017).

In District 33, community school supports are being integrated at every level; birth to three, preschool, elementary and middle school. Foundational pieces of these supports include Community School Coordinators, After School Coordinators, Community Mental Health Clinicians, Family Liaisons and an array of resources.

Family Liaisons promote student attendance, assist with access and linkage to resources, and facilitate parenting education and community engagement. As a family moves through the District, the role of a Family Liaison adjusts to support families as their children develop. In Project HOPE, the Birth to 3 Program, Family Liaisons support parents in their roles as a child's first and most important teacher. Liaisons focus on supporting parent-child interactions as well as parenting topics and connections to resources. At the Early Learning Center, Family Liaisons support families for children to be ready to learn through goal setting and developing good habits. In the elementary and middle school buildings, Family Liaisons work alongside families to provide parenting education and facilitate out of school engagement opportunities.

Families who have worked with a Family Liaison have shared with us; the supports increased their confidence in parenting their children as they grow.

September 2018

WeGo Together for Kids operates from an Asset Based Community Development approach where everyone has gifts, talents, and passions that contribute to a thriving community. We have been using listening conversations (the questions below) to learn more about each other and how we each bring unique assets to the community. We encourage others to do the same. Let us know your gifts and passions by filling out a short survey available HERE! Try asking others these questions too!

1.      What are your gifts of the hand? (Skills like knitting and dancing).

2.      What are your gifts of the head? (Knowledge you have about a particular topic, for example teaching early childhood or the history of West Chicago).

3.      What are your gifts of the heart? (What are you passionate about?)

For more information about WeGo Together for Kids, contact Marjory Lewe-Brady at [email protected]  

May 2018

WeGo Together Community School

A Moment in a Family Liaison's Day!

Community School Teams promote student and family success by connecting our community and strengthening our families. Family Liaisons are a critical piece of the community school teams. They promote student attendance, provide access and linkage to resources and services, and facilitate parent engagement through advocacy and education.


This month we spoke to Natalie Cabral, Family Liaison for Currier and Turner Elementary Schools. Natalie gave us a glimpse into what she does as a Family Liaison and why she loves the work she does.

When asked about what a "typical" workday looks like, Natalie reflected that it looks different every day! Some days she facilitates parenting education workshops in the community and other days she runs an after school crafting club at Currier or a Girls Who Code club at Turner. Natalie also spends much of her time working directly with families that are usually identified by the school health aides for student attendance issues. Natalie often goes on home visits to meet with families to gather information about why students are missing school and takes time to discuss the importance of students being in the classroom every day.


Natalie says she can identify with the parents she works alongside. It's "so awesome that family liaisons exist because we are able to support families. I can identify with many of the families because I remember how tough it was to be a new parent in a new community." Natalie's favorite part of the job, besides working with students during clubs, is empowering families. She is regularly supporting families to remove barriers to academic success.


Natalie shared a recent "success" she had with a family. She told us about a couple of students who were regularly missing school. She went on a home visit to talk with mom and learn more about what was going on. Through their conversation, Natalie learned about the various barriers that were preventing mom from being able to get her children on the bus on time. Natalie and mom worked side by side to come up with the long term solutions necessary to get the children to school on time, as well as to substantially reduce the amount of stress that mom was living with.  A month has passed since Natalie made the initial home visit and the students have not been absent or late to school once!

March 2018
WeGo Together for Kids is a community collaboration of over 60 community partners that come together to support and enhance the health, safety, and well-being of families in West Chicago.
Partner Spotlight
We would like to highlight two partners, the West Chicago Police Department and West Chicago Fire Protection District. These first responders have long partnered with WeGo Together and District 33 to support safety and emergency preparedness efforts in West Chicago.
The West Chicago Police Department is a vital partner for WeGo Together and has worked with us since our start in 2005. Chief of Police Michael Uplegger sits on our Steering Committee and always provides support and feedback for our programs. The District 33 School Resource Officer, Officer Fuller is an asset to District 33 schools. Officer Fuller is an excellent role model for District 33 students and regularly builds positive relationships through education on fire and lock down safety protocols. Officer Fuller and the Department also support District 33's emergency preparedness efforts.

The Police Department has done a tremendous job strengthening their relationship with the youth and families of the West

Chicago community and we could not be happier to have them as a partner in the coalition. The West Chicago Police

Department has run an after school program at Pioneer School and are also actively involved with our Family Wellness

Nights and officers from the department walk with different schools during District 33's Annual Wellness Walk every spring.

You can check out the West Chicago Police Department's webpage
 here. Be sure to like them on Facebook too!


The West Chicago Fire Protection District is dedicated to providing compassionate and skillful service to all. The Fire District focuses on organizational trust, personal integrity, and the responsibility to maintain professionalism and pride.
The West Chicago Fire District has been a long time partner with WeGo Together for Kids. Lieutenant Michael Buenrostro sits on the Emergency Preparedness workgroup and provides insight for the best practices regarding school fire and severe weather drills and other emergency preparedness opportunities. 
In talking with Lt. Mike Buenrostro, he described the Fire District's dedication to West Chicago. The Fire District not only provides emergency response services, but also acts as a pillar for safety education and awareness. Lt. Buenrostro expressed the Fire District's commitment to building relationships with children, families, and school staff. When the Fire District conducts severe weather and fire safety drills in the school buildings, they provide feedback about the drill to incident command team members. Fire District team members regularly spend time in the school buildings, offering opportunities for school staff to ask questions and grow their emergency preparedness knowledge.
The Fire District also works closely with District 33. Every year the Fire District provides CPR/AED and First Aid training and re-certification to District staff and community partners. In a previous  school year, the Fire District donated warming blankets to District 33 school buildings in the case of an evacuation during cold months. Additionally, Fire District team members have also provided education in classrooms to students regarding school and home safety. Recently, Fire District team members participated in a Family Wellness Event, providing tips on how families can have a safe summer at home and in the pool.
For more information about how the West Chicago Fire Protection District family can help your family, check out their website!
February 2018
Community Schools -The whole family approach
In order for students to achieve academically, nonacademic barriers to learning must be addressed. Many students come to school with challenges that are beyond an educator's scope of daily tasks- which can cause distraction in the classroom and to student learning. Physical and behavioral health problems, food and housing insecurities, and other nonacademic barriers must be addressed to facilitate quality learning. Community Schools is one of WeGo Together's collective impact strategies that promotes strong partnerships between schools, families and the community. Community schools work to remove non-academic barriers through access and linkage to resources. Community schools promote positive youth and family development and foster family health.
Our community schools model embraces a two generational approach through providing supports to families, rather than only students or only parents. We operate with a philosophy that when parents feel confident and competent in their own lives, it transfers to their relationship with their child and their abilities to assist them in learning. To this end, WeGo Together provides a variety of programming for students and families including parent literacy classes, parenting education, parent leadership opportunities, family mental health services, after school clubs, and family nutrition and physical activities. Ultimately, community schools connects the community, strengthens families, and supports student achievement.
For more information about the WeGo Together Community Schools, check out our google site.
January 2018

Practical Parent Education (PPE)

The WeGo Together Community School is excited to announce the offering of a parenting program called Practical Parent Education (PPE). PPE shares a common goal - to help families raise healthy, happy children in today's complex society thus supporting American's greatest asset - its families! 

PPE strives to:

Help eliminate the achievement gap. PPE encourages

  •  Empower parents to take a more active role in their child's development

    WeGo Together Community School Family Liaisons are facilitating these workshops available to ALL District 33 parents. Workshops are held weekly, in English and Spanish, across the West Chicago community.

    For more information about the program, contact Alex Cowal at [email protected] or 630-677-4361.



     December 2017
    WeGo Together for Kids is excited to join People's Resource Center in welcoming Erika Olsen as our new Community Market Coordinator
    Welcome, Erika!
    We are excited to announce Erika Olsen is the new Off-Site Food Pantry Coordinator for the WeGo Together Community Market, a school-based food pantry located at Leman Middle School in West Chicago!  She started 11/27/2017.normal'> normal'>Erika and her husband, Andy, live in West Chicago with their two young children.  When the family has down-time, they like impromptu dance parties, building Lego creations, and eating pancakes with chocolate chips.  Erika grew up in Presque Isle, Maine, on the Canadian border near New Brunswick.  Next time you see Erika, ask her about the moose that wandered into town when she was young... it's quite a story!  
    Erika is really excited to get settled at her new job.  She shares:  I'm excited to start at the WeGo Together Community Market because I love working together with my neighbors to invest in our community, and food is such a practical and meaningful way to help families.  I've worked with a lot of volunteer teams throughout my career and am honored to serve alongside the excellent team at the WeGo Together Community Market.
    Announcement provided by People's Resource Center

     November 2017

     Emergency Preparedness

     District 33’s Readiness and Emergency Management Plan emphasizes that the safety of students, staff and visitors is of the utmost importance.  Therefore, safety is the responsibility of everyone and must be consistently integrated into our attitudes and daily routines. In order to support this, WeGo Together for Kids and District 33 work in close partnership with the West Chicago Police Department and West Chicago Fire, Winfield Fire Protection Districts , and DuPage County Sherriff’s Department, providing emergency preparedness sessions on evacuation, lock down, and severe weather to all District 33 building staff prior to the school year starting. Throughout the year our first responders assist the school in practicing drills to assure year round readiness

    We want students and staff to be prepared during the school day, and we are encouraging everyone to create safety plans for their own homes.   Therefore, this year ,WeGo Together along with the West Chicago Police Department, West Chicago Fire Protection District, City of West Chicago, District 33, and District 94 will align social media efforts to promote West Chicago’s preparedness for emergencies. You can check out some of the posts by searching for the hashtag #wegoBprepared! 

    October 2017

    District 33 has utilized a community school philosophy for many years.

    A Community School is a set of partnerships between:

    • school
    • families
    • community

    that promotes:

    • Student achievement
    • Positive conditions
    • Well-being of families and communities.

    While the student is at the center of the Community School, we also recognize that children grow up in families and that these families are an integral part of the community. The aim of the Community School is to provide the support and services needed in order to remove barriers that interfere with learning, support a strong family and healthy community.

    The implementation of a community school as a place-based model means buildings are equipped with:

    • Shared Community School Coordinator,
    • Community mental health clinician,
    • Family liaisons.

    Other resources such as fitness and nutrition classes and ESL classes are also accessible to families attending these schools.

    District 33's goal is to have these resources available in every school over the next several years.

    For more information and resources please contact Marjory Lewe-Brady at [email protected] or 630-293-6000 ext. 225.

    District 33’s Readiness and Emergency Management Plan emphasizes that the safety of students, staff and visitors is of the utmost importance.  Therefore, safety is the responsibility of everyone and must be consistently integrated into our attitudes and daily routines. In order to support this, WeGo Together for Kids and District 33 work in close partnership with the West Chicago Police Department and West Chicago Fire, Winfield Fire Protection Districts , and DuPage County Sherriff’s Department, providing emergency preparedness sessions on evacuation, lock down, and severe weather to all District 33 building staff prior to the school year starting. Throughout the year our first responders assist the school in practicing drills to assure year round readiness


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