On May 10, 2016 the Chicago Community Trust held its third On the Table, an annual forum designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships and create a unifying experience across the region. Barkada Circle® hosted a dinner where participants talked about the current state of education for urban youth. This continued the conversation we started in May 2015 when we hosted our first On the Table in Evanston, Illinois.
Co-hosting was Valerie Groth, founder and executive director of Ryan Banks Academy, a nonprofit initiative building Chicago’s first boarding school for inner city youth. Named after one of Valerie’s former students who was gunned down in 2012 at the age of 12, Ryan Banks Academy’s mission is to provide Chicago’s at-risk students with an exceptional education as well as a supportive, safe, and loving living environment. Valerie is a former school social worker and had a compelling story to share.
Our discussion revolved around the question:
“What missing conversations could make quality education a reality for kids in Chicago’s urban neighborhoods with high crime rates?”
The group generated ideas and more questions to be addressed at future gatherings:
- Schools today are working in silos? What can we do to change that?
- How can we impact children differently if they stay in the same community? What happens if we take them out of there to change their surroundings?
- Kids need an environment where they can focus on being a student. How can we use the model of a boarding school to achieve positive outcomes?
- How can we leverage crowdsourcing to fund specific projects for education in underserved communities?
- Why doesn’t equity funding work?
- We need to change the structure for how we pay for education.
- In the first year of On the Table, the concept of Sister Neighborhoods was formed–an initiative that instigates cultural exchange and creates hospitality and openness across communities. Can this be applied as a model to elevate the state of education for neighborhoods that are struggling?
- We need a new curriculum that values social & emotional wellness.
- Learning must be experiential. How do we design programs around the students’ real experiences so they can learn directly from adversity and build their resilience?
- We need to take students away from a system that puts them in debt before they enter the workforce. What else is viable outside of college?
Who were at the table? Val and I are grateful to all of our guests who gave so generously of their time to engage in this essential conversation.
Martin Atkins is a musician best known for his work in groups including Public Image, Ltd, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Pigface, and Killing Joke. He currently teaches music and social media at Columbia College. Martin is also an honorary board member of the Chicago-based nonprofit organization Rock For Kids.
For nearly 20 years, Patty Cooper has had the time of her life coaching and facilitating groups across the country with The Second City of Chicago and as a corporate trainer for LVMH, the largest luxury group in the world. She is a recent graduate of the Newfield Network, a transformational coaching program that focuses on why we do the things we do, how to find new paths of learning and being able to do things that were once thought impossible. She is currently publishing her first children’s book and novel.
Meggie Cramer is an award-winning writer and storyteller who has worked with Oscar®-nominated directing team Carl Deal and Tia Lessin on documentary projects since 2008; including Trouble the Water and their most recent film, Citizen Koch. She has worked for multi-national film and television companies Showtime Australia and HBO on shows including Satisfaction, Mildred Pierce, Game of Thrones, and Cinema Verite. Meggie spent time at Tribeca Productions and @radical.media, overseeing series and commercial productions airing around the world. She has collaborated with nonprofits and social impact productions to broaden their influence across social media platforms, connect like-minded activists to a common goal, and write grants to support community projects in which she believes.
Felicia Davis is the Executive Director of the Public Building Commission of Chicago. She previously served as the first Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement. Davis also served as the First Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Emanuel from May 2011 to June 2012. Before returning to public service, Davis served as the Vice President of Administration at Kendall College. Prior to Kendall College, she served the Chicago Police Department (CPD), with distinction for 10 years. During her tenure at CPD, she worked in many roles, completing her law enforcement career as a Detective in the Department’s Violent Crimes section, where she also oversaw the Community Policing Strategies.
Mesmin Destin is an Assistant Professor of Education and Social Psychology at Northwestern University. He grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, completed his bachelor’s degree at Northwestern, and completed his Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Michigan before returning to Northwestern as a faculty member about six years ago. Mesmin directs a lab group where they conduct experiments aimed at identifying factors that improve academic motivation and outcomes for students from low socioeconomic status back-grounds from middle school through college. His spouse is a Chicago Public Schools high school teacher and they enjoy living in Andersonville.
Lanetta Haynes Turner currently serves as the Cook County Justice Advisory Council Executive Director. Prior to this role, Lanetta served as Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cook County. She has served as a co-chair of the County’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Advisory Board and on various juvenile justice-related organizations.
Michael Kosko is the Career and Technical Education Coordinator and Science Co-Chair at Al Raby School for Community and Environment in Chicago Public Schools. He completed his graduate work and earned his teacher leadership certification at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. His master’s project focused on how digital feedback on student writing affected their performance and engagement during the writing process. When he is not teaching environmental science to his freshman students, you can find him coaching new teachers or working in the school’s new hydroponics lab. Outside of school, you can find Michael at the gym, in his garden, or checking out new restaurants with his husband, Mesmin.
David Magill is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Lab School in Chicago. Before coming to Chicago, David worked as a superintendent in Pennsylvania. He currently works as an educational consultant at the Academy for Global Citizenship. David has also served as a member of the Newberry Library Advisory Board in Chicago, the program consultant at Princeton Day School in New York, and a member of the Board of Trustees at Community Development Corporation in Pennsylvania.
Brad Paulsen is the Senior Vice President at Wight & Company. In addition, Brad also serves as the Practice Leader for Wight’s PK-12 Education Practice. Brad is a member of the American Institute of Architects and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International. He has authored articles on school planning, been cited by numerous national publications on issues relevant to school facility planning and design, and has spoken at several educational conferences in recent years.
Dometi Pongo is the morning news anchor for talk station WVON 1690AM where he also writes and produces radio features and special programming. His community work as a speaker and analyst have been featured in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, The Huffington Post, and several location publications. He is also a program director at Illinois Media School.
Maricar L. Ramos is Senior Manager for Workforce and Partnership Development in Chicago Public Schools. She spear-heads and manages partnerships between the school district (CPS) and other public sector entities such as the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (CCWP) in order to increase workforce development and youth employment opportunities for all Chicago public school students. Maricar manages a team of partnership development liaisons who create, grow, and maintain external partnerships with corporations and other business entities in order to provide job shadows, site visits, guest speakers, and work internships for over 17,000 students enrolled in CPS Career and Technical Education programs.
Valerie Groth is the founder of Ryan Banks Academy, a nonprofit dedicated to building the first residential school for underserved youth in Chicago. She worked for many years as a social worker in Chicago Public Schools, providing individual and group counseling to students and their families. Valerie has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Masters degree in Social Work, and a second Master’s degree in Educational Administration. Valerie was recently invited to join the Clinton Global Initiative for her work with Ryan Banks Academy. Additionally, she was awarded the honor of being chosen to be featured in the I Am Chicago campaign. The campaign will spend the next two years profiling six dynamic individuals who embody the power and innovation of Chicago.
Pon Angara is Director of Barkada Circle®, a team of artists mentoring nonprofits on how to tell more compelling stories about their missions. Pon helps their leaders use the power of storytelling to spark bold and innovative ideas that will bring their organizations to the next level. He has delivered keynotes and workshops on storytelling at several association conferences and foundation seminars. When he’s not working with stories, Pon searches for his next great foodie find! He’s always ready to take you to the best Filipino restaurants in Chicago.