Study Investigates Factors Behind Chicago School Closure Decisions

Lawndale News highlights a recent report from Rachel Weber, UIC professor of urban planning and policy, that examines factors behind decisions to close Chicago schools. The full report is available here.

Building utilization and student performance were predictors of Chicago Public Schools closures, but so was the race of students in each school, according to a new article published in the journal Urban Affairs Reviews. Led by Rachel Weber, professor of urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the researchers examined school closure decisions in Chicago from 2003 to 2013 under former Mayor Richard M. Daley and current Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Full Story from Lawndale News »

UTC Event: A Rapid Pace for Chicago’s Suburbs

DATE – Thursday November 15, 2018

TIME – 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

SUBJECT – “A Rapid Pace for Chicago’s Suburbs.”

SPEAKER — Charlotte Obodzinski, Pace Supervisor of the Rapid Transit Program

VENUE – Great Cities Institute Conference Room, Suite 400, CUPPA Hall, 412 S. Peoria St., Chicago

DETAILS — Proposed Pace Pulse Express Bus Service Along I-90 Corridor Topic at UTC Fall Seminar Series Presentation November 15

In 2019, Pace plans to debut Pulse, a new bus rapid transit network that’s designed to provide service along heavily traveled corridors in suburban Chicago. The first Pulse route is slated for Milwaukee Avenue, with 23 others to follow.  On Thursday November 15, Charlotte Obodzinski, Pace Supervisor of the Rapid Transit Program, will share further insight during the second Fall 2018 Seminar Series presentation hosted by the Urban Transportation Center.

All are invited and pizza will be served.


Natives in Chicago

These lands, currently named Chicago, have always been home to Indigenous Peoples.

Native people continue to live, work, and raise families here despite many challenges. Local leaders continue to work to provide services and programs that contribute to cultural and communal thriving.

Join us and hear first voice narratives on growing up, working, and living in Chicago. We will explore how national, local, and tribal policies impact urban Native people and the ways in which institutions can positively engage and contribute to urban Native communities.

This event is convened by the UIC Native American Support Program and Great Cities Institute.

If the above RSVP form is not working, please email to RSVP.

Printable Flyer PDF

Janeen Comenote lives in Seattle WA and is an enrolled member of the Quinault Indian Nation. Comenote is the founding Executive Director of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC). The NUIFC is a national coalition representing 28 urban Indian centers in 22 cities and more than two million Native Americans living away from their traditional land base. The NUIFC remains one of only a few national organizations dedicated to “Making the Invisible Visible” and providing a platform and voice for this underrepresented population in America.

Janeen is a graduate of Leadership Tomorrow, a regional leadership program, is a 1999 alumni of the prestigious American’s for Indian Opportunity Ambassador program and was chosen and highlighted in O (Oprah) magazine for her participation in Women Rule; 80 Women Who Could Change America.  She is a recipient of the Potlatch Fund Fran James Cultural Preservation award and the prestigious Eco Trust Indigenous Leadership award for her work with urban Indians. She has presented urban Indian issues at the White House, United Nations and as a keynote speaker at numerous conferences.

Additionally, she has been a Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Seattle and is currently a board member for Praxis and sits on the External Diversity and Inclusion Council for Charter Communications. She worked for 16 years at the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation in child welfare, juvenile justice, poverty reduction and as a development officer.

Jasmine Gurneau is a Manager for Native American and Indigenous Initiatives in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Northwestern University. Jasmine leads the development and implementation of university-wide initiatives related to the inclusion of Native American and Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Her role includes facilitating stakeholder engagement, serving as a thought leader on campus, and building and sustaining partnerships with tribal communities.

Previously, Jasmine served as the Assistant Director- Native American Content Expert for Multicultural Student Affairs and Undergraduate Admission. In this capacity, she led efforts to indigenize student spaces in various ways including programming, advocacy efforts, and representation in student spaces.

From Chicago, Illinois, Jasmine earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from DePaul University and a Master of Arts in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

Heather Miller is an enrolled member of the Wyandotte Nation from Oklahoma and has a passion for seeing Native American organizations succeed.  She began her professional career working for Hopa Mountain in Montana where she helped Native Nonprofit organizations develop their capacity.  She then worked in Seattle with a Potlatch Fund, Native American Foundation where she continued to provide capacity building trainings to Native organizations as well as teach non-Native Foundations how to work appropriately with Indian Country.  She has worked to develop programs, lead organizations and direct grants of various sizes.  Her passion for developing capacity led her to start a consulting business where she helped Native nonprofits grow their own abilities to be successful.

She holds a Bachelors of Philosophy from Miami University in Ohio and a Masters of Native American Studies from Montana State University.  Heather is also a graduate of the Leadership, Apprentice, Economic and Development program through First Nations Development Fund and a graduate of the Cascade Executive Program through the University of Washington.  She recently moved to Chicago and is happy to have joined the American Indian Center team.  In her free time Heather loves cooking with her partner Ryan and taking their puppy dog Winnie Cooper on walks as they explore the city.

Kennith Scott, MPA is the Executive Director of the AIHSC.  Under Kennith R. Scott’s leadership, the AIHSC has grown and new programs developed.  He has a wealth of experience in working with the target population. He has more than 25 years of experience in government contractual management. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Alcoholism Sciences from Governors State University and a Masters in Public Administration from City University of New York. In addition he was a National Urban Fellow—Special Assistant to the President of the Health and Hospital Corporation of New York City.

His experience includes Hospital Deputy Administrator for Choctaw Nation Hospital, a 52-bed general medical and surgical rural hospital in Oklahoma managing 12 physicians and two high volume ambulatory care clinics. He also worked as a Health Systems Administrator for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska managing the tribe’s start-up clinic including developing clinical manuals and procedures and establishing internal committees ensuring professional monitoring of service delivery and standards compliance among other duties.

For nearly thirty years he has worked in the healthcare industry.  He has held several managerial and clinical positions in community health centers and a hospital.  In spite of his hectic schedule, he still makes time to serve on several healthcare advocacy committees in the city. It is Mr. Scott’s advocacy within the healthcare field that truly distinguishes him from other providers due to her ability to develop and implement human service health programs that improve the quality of life for many of Chicago’s forgotten citizens, to include AI/AN.

Cynthia Soto is enrolled Sicangu Lakota, and Puerto Rican. She was born and raised in Chicago, and grew up in Bucktown (before gentrification.), and attended the local elementary and high schools.  Cynthia is the Director of the Native American Support Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her B.A. in Elementary Education and a M.A. in Education-Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a first generation college student and graduate of UIC, she is well acquainted with the challenges facing students and the opportunities available to them on campus, in their communities and on a national level.

Cynthia has worked in community and educational programs and committees supporting culturally based initiatives from early childhood education programs to higher education. As a single mom of a young daughter, it is important for her to give back to the community she loves.  It is her passion to support, enhance, and contribute to building a healthy community for children, youth, and families.

Anthony Tamez challenges misconceptions about urban Native youth. As co-president of Chi-Nations Youth Council in Chicago and a 2018 Champion for Change for the Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute, Anthony leads Native youth in medicine walks to harvest ancestral plants, participates in demonstrations like the Standing Rock movement, helps young people with regalia making and more. Anthony is also passionate about advocating for the elimination of race-based mascots that promote stereotypes, and works against the ongoing erasure of indigenous people in what is now known as “Chicago”.


An American Suburb, 2018: Stories and photos from Dolton, lllinois

Photo: WBEZ and Better Government Association

Jack Rocha, a community development planner with UIC’s Great Cities Institute, is quoted in a WBEZ/Better Government Association project story examining Dolton, Illinois, and the impact of deindustrialization. Rocha addresses job trends following the closing of steel sites on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

In Dolton alone, there had been brick making, metal parts, steel, aluminum and container factories — all now gone. Right across the border in Riverdale was the Acme Steel plant that employed well more than 1,000 at its zenith. The plant remains under different ownership, but the workforce is a fraction the size.

Jack Rocha, a community development planner at the University of Illinois-Chicago, said the South Works closure accelerated what had already been a stampede for the exits in places like Dolton. “If people had the means, they went and they followed the jobs where they went,” said Rocha, who works with the university’s Great Cities Institute.

Full story from WBEZ »


Report release: Youth Citizenship in Action

We are delighted to release Youth Citizenship in Action, an evaluation report on the Participatory Budgeting in Schools pilot program. Public schools in the United States play a critical role in preparing students to become citizens and to participate in civic life. A healthy democracy needs informed, active citizens. In other words, it requires citizens with a sense of agency.

In this newest report from the Great Cities Institute, we share results from three Chicago Public Schools that took part in participatory budgeting processes as part of their civic classes in the spring semester of 2018. After the process was over, more than 80% of students who responded to evaluation questionnaire said that they felt like they had the power to influence their communities or school, that people working together can solve community problems better than people working alone, and that they had a better understanding of the needs at their community and school.

The Participatory Budgeting in Schools pilot program—rolled out by PB Chicago, an initiative of UIC’s Great Cities Institute in collaboration with Our City Our Voice, together with Chicago Public Schools—revealed these and other overwhelmingly positive results. The report shares extensive results from interviews with teachers in all of the participating schools, responses from student questionnaires, and recommendations for how to improve implementation of PB in Schools in future years.

We have long been proponents of building a healthy and robust democracy, particularly now. As participating CPS schools prepare to implement PB in Schools during the 2018–19 school year, this report and its results and recommendations can serve as an important tool for bolstering the program in the classroom and helping to give the skills, experience and knowledge needed to create informed and active citizens of the future. As one teacher said, “The civics goals are about students participating, actually getting up, not just letting things happen, but them being movers and shakers. And that is all the PB process is about, it’s about the students participating not the adults telling them what to do but the students generating their ideas. That is what the goal is for the curriculum, for students to participate in their civics.”

Read the full report here.

Youth Citizenship in Action

Thea Crum
Katherine Faydash

In the spring semester of 2018, high school students at three Chicago Public Schools took part in a participatory budgeting process as part of their civics class. The result? After the process was over, more than 80% of evaluation survey respondents said that they felt like they had the power to influence their communities or school, that people working together can solve community problems better than people working alone, and that they had a better understanding of needs in their community and school. Moreover, because of these students’ participation and voting, schools will be able to establish a safe space for students, set up a school spirit store, pay for bathroom repairs, and beautify a cafeteria. The Participatory Budgeting in Schools pilot program—rolled out by PB Chicago, an initiative of UIC’s Great Cities Institute in collaboration with Our City Our Voice, together with Chicago Public Schools—revealed these and other overwhelmingly positive results.

This evaluation report, Citizens of the Future, prepared by the Great Cities Institute, is based on various data from each participating CPS school in the 2017–18 school year—Al Raby High School, in the East Garfield Park community area; Hyde Park Academy, in Woodlawn; and Steinmetz College Prep, in Belmont Cragin—as well as interviews with teachers who led the process in their classroom, and questionnaires filled out by students in those classrooms. The primary goals of the evaluation were to document the implementation costs and social and educational benefits of the pilot; to determine what students learned as a result of their participation; and to provide results so that CPS, PB Chicago, and other stakeholders can recommend changes to further improve the program as implemented in schools.

Full Text (PDF) »

RTCA: Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance

As part of the Real Time Chicago speaker series, National Park Service Community Planner Michael Mencarini will discuss the mission and work of the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.  His presentation will detail how the National Park Service plays an important role in rural and urban communities across the country, and how current projects have utilized urban planning processes and techniques to promote outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation.

Michael Mencarini joined the National Park Service in April, 2016 as a Community Planner in the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program. RTCA is a community partnership focused program that provides technical assistance to local governments or community organizations that are planning outdoor recreation or natural resource conservation projects. Through a partnership agreement with the University of Illinois at Chicago, his position is hosted by the Great Cities Institute.

Before joining the National Park Service he was a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he was assigned as a regional office liaison to state agencies and tribal governments across the Midwest. Prior federal experience also includes positions working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Chicago Federal Executive Board.

As a Community Planner with the Midwest Regional Office RTCA Program, he works on strategic planning and community outreach initiatives across three states


Same city, different opportunities: Study maps life outcomes for children

These maps show the average household income for adults in the study who were raised in various census tracts across Cook County. Income for whites studied was significantly higher than for African-Americans.

Matt Wilson, a senior research specialist at UIC’s Great Cities Institute, are among the featured experts cited by the Chicago Tribune in its local breakdown of the Opportunity Atlas, an interactive map of various outcomes — from income levels to rates of incarceration and teen pregnancy – for people born between 1978 and 1983 and details their chances of upward mobility by the neighborhoods of their youth. Wilson notes that the data reflects the deeply entrenched, generation-to-generation poverty that hasn’t changed for decades in certain parts of Chicago.

To UIC researcher Matt Wilson, the data reflect a sad reality: deeply entrenched poverty in certain parts of the city.

Mapping the data shows many neighborhoods where families had little money decades ago and produced kids who make little money as adults. And even though many of the kids have moved away, these neighborhoods continue to house families that make little money. Wilson said these areas illustrate the long-lasting, generation-to-generation nature of poverty.

“What’s discouraging is that, if you grew up in these neighborhoods, we know what your life trajectory was. But we still know in 2016, a lot of these issues are still the same,” said Wilson, a senior research specialist at UIC’s Great Cities Institute.

Full Story from Chicago Tribune »

RTCA: Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance

Video from the October 16, 2018 event with Michael Mencarini of the National Park Service.

CMAP releases new On To 2050 Regional Plan

Panelists Dan Cronin, Toni Preckwinkle, Melissa Washington, Raul Raymundo, Laurence Msall, and Leanna Redden discuss the new plan with ABC7 anchor Judy Hsu.

On the morning of Wednesday, October 10, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) board voted to adopt a new regional plan for Chicagoland. At an event attended by over 1,000 of the region’s political leaders and planners, the executive director of CMAP, Joseph C. Szabo, presented the three principles of the new plan: Inclusive Growth, Resilience, and Prioritized Investment.

These three principles are applied to each of the issue areas the plan addresses: Community, Prosperity, Environment, Governance, and Mobility. The issue with the most forward discussion at the plan launch was transportation. Speakers stressed the importance of supporting transit and expanding it to underserved communities to provide access to jobs and leverage the growth of the region’s economy. Another big topic was resilience to natural disasters as climate change makes storm events more severe and exacerbates flooding in certain areas of the region.

Overall, the change in tone was noticeable regarding social matters compared to the Go To 2040 plan. The 2050 plan itself, and speakers at Wednesday’s event, stressed the importance of inclusivity in the region and ensuring an economy, education system, and transportation that will build up and benefit those communities that have been left behind in the past.

The On To 2050 plan, though wide in its scope, should prove to be an effective tool for guiding the development of our region for the coming decades.

To view the full plan, visit CMAP’s website at: