Monday, December 15, 2014

Megan and Enrique | A Tutor Story


When Enrique, a high school sophomore, first met Megan, she struck him immediately as someone who could offer him “a lot of help” with his schoolwork.
            He was right.
            Over the last three years, Megan and Enrique have used their weekly tutoring sessions to tackle a range of projects including bringing up Enrique’s algebra grades, improving his punctuation skills, and learning new vocabulary words. For a recent English project, Enrique was required to memorize and perform at least 14 lines of a Shakespearean sonnet. The idea of making eye contact while delivering his lines made Enrique nervous, so the pair drew pictures of peoples’ faces and hung them around their tutoring room. Delivering his lines to this “audience” over multiple tutoring sessions paid off: Enrique earned over 100% on the project.
            Megan, who works in Northwestern’s media relations department, says that she enjoys tutoring Enrique in part because of his pleasant personality and intelligence. She also credits Family Matters with providing an environment that supports tutoring pairs. “You don’t feel like you’re left to your own devices,” she explains.

            Beyond schoolwork, Megan also encourages Enrique to try out new activities at school. Last year, he participated in volleyball. This year, she has urged him to learn about his school’s drama program since he enjoyed performing the sonnet for his English class. “She takes her time with me,” Enrique says. “It’s a lot that she does for me.”
And though Megan is quick to deny it, Enrique insists he could not have gotten into his high school without her help. During his eighth grade year, he sat down with Megan and Keri, the evening tutoring coordinator, to discuss the high school he wanted to attend. He was attracted to Lake View for multiple reasons—they had a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, offered art classes, and of course, they didn’t require students to wear uniforms. As part of Enrique’s application, he had to write an essay about the neighborhood in which he grew up. Megan prompted Enrique to think about different details he could include in his essay and assisted him in organizing his thoughts into an outline. When he found out he was accepted into Lake View, Enrique “just felt so happy.”


            This year, the pair’s goal is to continue working on essays and writing thesis statements, a skill that will no doubt come in handy when Enrique eventually starts applying to colleges.  Although he doesn’t really like to think too much about the future, he says he might like to become an artist, or maybe a photographer. He also likes to sing and wants to travel the world. In the meantime, though, he’s focused on getting through the next few years of high school—and he's grateful to have Megan's help along the way.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Faces of Family Matters | Part 1


"Growing up, violence was a big thing in this community, and still is to this day. Walking home from school, in the park we saw crazy things, and we could come to Family Matters and talk about what we'd seen. One girl came to programing one day and shared that she had just seen a man pull out a belt and start beating his girlfriend in the park. That was the day we started talking about domestic violence. Every girl had something to share about something she'd seen or had heard or had happened in her family. We were so young and knew so much about rape, about domestic violence. Children shouldn't see that at a young age. Being a young teen in this area, you see and experience so many things.

I thank God every day for Family Matters - to have had somewhere to come to be safe."



"I love coming to Family Matters. I feel safe here. I learn about ways to solve
conflicts and I have fun. I wish I could come to Family Matters every day, even
on the weekends. I learn something new here every day. "



"Besides the smell of the house (good smells, like books) I remember feeling very safe and peaceful at the Family Matters house back on Ashland street. I remember just going in the attic and looking out through the small window and reading books. As a recent immigrant family, when we came to Family Matters, my parents were not aware of the school system, nor anything in this country, and Family Matters became a resource to them.aware of the school system, nor anything in this country, and Family Matters became a resource to them. They were not only helping me academically, but also supporting my family.

I volunteer at Family Matters because I think there's a need in our communities for these types of organizations that support our youth, who are our future leaders. If there is no guidance or enlightenment during our formation years we will become lost adults. I want to feel and be part of a better society."

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Am A Witness

I have been interning at Family Matters for the past 10 weeks. During my time here I have worked in administration and with the Teen Girls Program (TGP). I have witnessed the girls plan and execute workshops and projects, among many other things. The TGP Open Mic, the girls’ most recent initiative, allowed the girls to not only showcase their creativity and talent, but also presented them with the opportunity to direct and produce their own show. The teen girls were responsible for every aspect of the show ranging from decorations to refreshments to performances. I witnessed the girls navigate challenges during rehearsals as well as on opening night. 




At the TGP Open Mic event I witnessed community members come out and support the girls and the community they live in. I also witnessed a passerbyer drop in and take hold of the entire audience with her words and spirit. While the passerbyer and her performance were sensational, the act was also a testament to the Teen Girls Program, and the entire Family Matters, being a safe place for the participants as well as the larger community. So many times I have witnessed the girls do things that are so minuscule in their eyes, but for me as a newcomer, their impact is more obvious than ever. They created a space for people to share their deepest emotions through spoken word, singing, drumming, and any other medium of their choice. In doing so the girls ignored the limits of comfort zones and created a space where everyone felt both welcomed and comfortable.


Other golden moments of the night occurred every time the girls leaned on each for assistance. Instead of running to the program director or one of the interns, the girls went to each other when they had a question or looked for suggestions. They were solely self-sufficient. While the audience got to witness the girls’ hard work and creativity come to life, there was so much more going on. The night was certainly something to witness.  Although my days as an intern are few, it brings me comfort to know the teen girls program is constantly growing and the girls are molding themselves into the young women they want to be and know they can be with the support of the program director, the community and one another. 

Family Matters and the Teen Girls Program have had a lasting impact on me and I am so thankful I was given the chance to learn and grow with and from them. They are truly amazing inside and out, back and forth, up and down... generally all around. 

Raven Johnson 
Northwestern University

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Volcano Explosion!

Hi, my name is Axel. I’m nine years old. I have been coming to tutoring at Family Matters for two years. I come two times a week and I work on reading with my tutors. This summer, I came to Family Matters on Wednesdays and Fridays. My tutor and I made a volcano. We made this because we read about it in a book. The book was That Crazy Eddie and the Science Project of Doom by Judy Cox.  It’s a chapter book. I read the book at tutoring and at home.



The book is about two friends, Matt and Eddie. They heard in their school about a science project competition. (A competition is like a battle or a contest.) Matt wanted to win the contest because the prize was a fifty-dollar gift card. He wanted to buy himself a skateboard. Matt asked his best friend Eddie to be his partner.  Eddie said “yeah, sure” because Eddie’s dad was a scientist. Eddie had a lot of good ideas about science projects.

Eddie decided he and Matt were going to make a volcano that would erupt.  While they were working on the project, they got in a fight.  Matt had to stay home from school one day because his stomach felt weird. When he got back to school, other kids made fun of him. Matt found out that Eddie told the other kids Matt was sick. So, Matt was mad at Eddie. They only had one day before the contest, and their project wasn’t finished. 

That day, Matt’s little sister climbed on their roof because she wanted to play with their cat, Mittens, who was up there. Matt’s mom was gone. Matt was scared. Matt ran down the street to Eddie’s house and told Eddie.  He wanted Eddie to help him. Eddie helped Matt get his sister off the roof.  Eddie’s sister said that they should be friends and enter the contest. They decided to finish their project that night.

They did the contest, and they lost. They got third place. Matt didn’t win the money to buy the skateboard. Matt felt kind of sad. He also felt kind of happy because he decided that having his friend back was more important than getting the skateboard.

I liked this book because I liked reading about the volcano. And I liked that Matt and Eddie stayed friends and worked things out and they helped Matt’s sister get down from the roof. 

After the last chapter, there is a section called “How to Make a Volcano That Really Erupts.” My tutor and I read it together and we found out what tools we needed to make a volcano. I brought some things from my house, like a cardboard box, flour, and 2 dinosaurs (for decoration). 



It took three days to make the volcano. On the first day, we got an empty Pepsi bottle and put masking tape from the mouth of the bottle all the way down. Then we put newspaper into warm water and flour to put around the tape. We had to measure the exact amount of flour and water we needed.  Then we let it dry. The next tutoring session, we painted it.  



The next tutoring session, we used baking soda, vinegar, dishwashing liquid, and red food coloring to make it erupt. We used a funnel to pour everything in. After we poured everything in, we waited. Nothing happened. We tried again and nothing happened.

We decided maybe it didn’t work because the baking soda was expired. We walked across the street to the store and got more baking soda. Then we poured everything in again. Then nothing happened again. The next time, we poured in a lot more vinegar than the directions said, until it exploded. 



I loved it when it exploded! I liked making the volcano, too. Next time, I want to put more red food coloring in it so that it would be more red. 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Family Matters in Bloom

Have you stopped by Family Matters this summer? It's easy to spot us - we're the building with the gorgeous garden out front, thanks to long-time Family Matters volunteer Laurel Lawson and Teen Boys Program participant Elijah.



They've teamed up for a garden beautifying project, and we're loving the results! Elijah has been passionate about urban gardening for many years, and Laurel has been meeting with him several times a week to tend to Family Matters' front yard, which was torn up during some sewer work earlier this year. Through this mentorship, the pair have taken trips together to local gardens, shops and other attractions. The experience has been a rewarding one for both Elijah and Laurel. She says:
Elijah is a joy to know. I think I'm working with a young master gardener - Elijah knows his plants! He often teaches me, and on a field trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden he could identify almost every plant. Wow! He had informed me that it's not dirt but soil, to be scientifically proper, when I said I like digging in the dirt. Elijah loves to cultivate native plans and would like to develop a butterfly garden to attract monarchs, a very endangered butterfly. 




Laurel and Elijah work a few mornings per week. Many people who pass by will stop to comment about their progress and to chat for awhile. The Teen Boys have also helped out with heavy lifting of mulch and soil bags, and to haul away bags of weeds.



Thank you to Laurel and Elijah for your dedication to this project!

Do you have an area of interest that you'd like to share with our students? Please contact us for information on volunteering at Family Matters.




Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tutor Reflection: Zoe and Melissa

          

Zoe, a recent graduate of Francis Parker School in Chicago, wrote the following Senior Colloquium Story about her experience as a tutor at Family Matters. Thank you Zoe for volunteering your time and for sharing your reflection with us!

Zoe and Melissa during a tutoring session


            Family Matters, the organization through which I began tutoring this fall, always smells like popcorn.  The building which was likely once a condo on Marshfield in the North of Howard neighborhood is distinguishable from the outside only by the small green sign posted beneath the second floor windows; there are still small kitchens on every floor, which I walk through once each week to sign in before beginning my sessions with Melissa.  Everywhere, children are running.  Some hold books, others munch on the popcorn that is perfuming the building, and others still untie their shoes, placing them in small cubbies in a practice that is both practical, preventing Chicago schoolyard slush from wetting the floors, and further perpetuates the homey feeling throughout the building.  Keri, one of the directors, greets kids by name, asking about how their days were, asking after their families.

            On the day of my first tutoring session with Melissa, an eighth grade girl described as “on target” yet “wanting support,” Keri greeted me with the same warmth with which she greeted her students.  She and I had met the week before for a tutor orientation, and I was already familiar with her blond ponytail and friendly glasses.  She introduced me to Melissa, who had been coming to Family Matters herself for years, handed me Melissa’s binder, and led the both of us to a small room on the third floor that was to become “our space” for the next year. 

            Once alone, I began asking Melissa a series of questions suggested as “ice breakers” in the binder.  Though she was shy, discussion of our favorite foods (“ghetto fries” and Tim Tam cookies are Melissa’s favorites, which, though I promised her I would in October, I have yet to try) and favorite classes soon loosened conversation.  We quickly did away with the binder’s suggested conversation topics, opting to casually ask questions of each other about our families, our summers, our extracurricular interests, etc.  She asked me questions about high school, both social and academic.  That day, we did none of her homework.

            Of course, our sessions following were more serious.  I kept in touch with Keri about Melissa’s progress via a GoogleDoc, and Melissa and I worked weekly on her reading assignments, on geometry and algebra, and on vocabulary.  I shared with her games I had played in my eighth grade English class to learn vocabulary, running across the room with a fly swatter to whack the word on a window that corresponded with the definition read by our teacher.  We struggled together over math problems, and I tried in vain to describe what exactly a derivative was when asked what I was doing in my math classes now.  We read through Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbirda book I hadn’t read since I was 12, and pieced together motifs that came up throughout the book.  (I also gained, while working through To Kill a Mockingbird, a greater appreciation for my English teachers and their ability to filter through spoilers; when I accidentally referenced too early Scout’s meeting Boo Radley, Melissa’s confused expression indicated that I had to quickly backtrack.)

            Alongside helping Melissa with her schoolwork, I also helped her write her application essays to Chicago high schools.  This was particularly poignant work for me, as I myself was working on writing application essays to colleges.  The both of us worked to condense our complete selves into several printed pages, discerning the most insightful ways to answer vague prompts like “Tell us about an aspect of your identity” and “What matters to you and why?” 

            Now that I have enrolled in college and Melissa has been admitted to Senn’s rigorous International Baccalaureate program, our mutual focus has turned to our impending graduations.  We have discussed, in many of our recent sessions, how we feel about leaving the schools and communities in which we have grown up.  We’ve talked about our excitement, about making new friends, about reinventing ourselves, and about having the opportunities to take classes and get involved in extracurriculars that we’ve never even heard of.  We’ve also talked about the fears we have, worries that coursework will be too hard, or worries that we won’t be able to keep in touch with old friends or won’t make lasting new ones.  Both Melissa and I have attended the same schools with the same few people since we were four years old, and both of us feel nervous about leaving the communities we have become so deeply entrenched in.  And yet, as I will remind Melissa today, May 14, at our final tutoring session, I know that the both of us will succeed over the next four years. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Special Tutoring Project


Guest Post by Jennifer Gaspers, Monday Evening Tutor

Family Matters had a great opportunity, thanks to fellow Monday night tutor, Jenn Kloc. Her company, Jellyvision*, holds a silent auction every year and chooses a non-profit to donate the proceeds to. This year Family Matters was chosen! Jenn invited Family Matters students to create some items (art pieces, jewelry, etc.) to sell at the auction on May 16th. 

My tutee, Ivette, and I wanted to participate. Learning how to brainstorm, Ivette created a list of things she might like to make. Once we formulated a list, we narrowed it down, eliminating things that would be cost prohibitive. We decided to make jewelry - bracelets with matching earrings - out of colored rubber bands using a loop loom. Ivette had received a loom and colored rubber bands for Christmas, and  she assured me it was easy to learn to use; she would teach me how to do it.  And I offered to bring the earring hooks and show her how to attach the hooks with a jewelry tool.

For the next three tutoring sessions, we set aside time for making bracelets and earrings, creating four different styles. We paired four earring and bracelet sets together, and packaged them in colorful, handmade origami boxes for presentation at the auction. Finally, we had to decide how much the minimum bid ought to be. We estimated the cost of the rubber bands together with the time it took to make each set, and settled on $15/set as a minimum bid. 

Working on the jewelry



It was so much fun to create a project with Ivette that was completely directed by her creativity and comfort level!  She learned how long it took to make a jewelry set, how to brainstorm her creative abilities, and how to price items based on time and costs. And what did I learn? I learned how to loop loom using rubber bands from Ivette. This experience also reminded me that I can learn something new at any age, from anyone.

The finished product!


*Family Matters is so grateful to be the recipient of this year's proceeds from Jellyvision's auction. Thank you, Jellyvision!