Humboldt Park Initiative

Community as a Campus (CAAC)

Great Cities Institute is assisting with the Humboldt Park “Community as a Campus” (CAAC) initiative, which was adopted by the Community Action Council of Humboldt Park Chicago in 2009 to address the proposed school closings and consolidations in the community by the Chicago Public Schools.

The CAAC plan “is a comprehensive education initiative, which seeks to create a community wide educational pipeline from Pre-K to16 that will be framed within the precepts of the International Baccalaureate (IB) academic standards and will be supplemented with community wrap around services.  The centerpiece of this initiative is the revitalization of the local high school Roberto Clemente Community Academy and the satellite feeder schools with the participation of community and institutional partners.” The initiative has garnered community wide support and the backing of both the Chicago Public School’s CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the CPS Board of Education. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has also given his support to the initiative.

“As a resource for school improvement, three education institutes, (Teacher/Administrator, Parent Popular and Youth Leadership) work collaboratively across the CAAC to improve educational offerings and outcomes, increase parent engagement and continuing education opportunities that will provide them with skills necessary for the 21st Century and provide youth opportunities to participate in civic leadership initiatives as well as a pipeline and pathways to educational success.”

The CAAC concept is an outgrowth of the more than forty years of organizing and planning undertaken by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and committed stakeholders of the Humboldt Park Community, i.e. West Town Leadership United, Aspira, Near North Neighborhood Network, Humboldt Park Empowerment Project, Casa Central and various faith-based organizations. The CAAC concept was created on the belief that viable communities exist within the fabric of their ecosystems.

Key to the success of The Humboldt Park “Community as a Campus” (CAAC) initiative is its relationship with institutional partners. The Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) embraces the opportunity to partner with the Humboldt Park community to “prepare 21st century citizens who will shape the future of the greater Humboldt Park community.” UIC Great Cities Institute serves as a vehicle for more widely connecting UIC with the Humboldt Park Community and is working to provide the following:

    • Coordinate efforts across UIC colleges and departments with the CAAC to form possible partnerships with initiatives such as the Med School and other health related institutional programs.
    • Community assessments and profiles on the Humboldt Park Area including longitudinal data on employment, housing, and other population characteristics
    • Data and best practices on policies and programs relevant to Humboldt Park area on such issues as education, health, workforce development, etc.
    • Framework for a youth entrepreneurship program that would enhance self employment as a means for increasing household wealth
    • Evaluation and strategic planning services
    • Symposia on topics and issues relevant to the Humboldt Park Community
    • Workshop and training opportunities for youth and adults, including topics for leadership, civic engagement, and technical skills development
    • Service learning opportunities for UIC students in Humboldt Park
    • Opportunities for Humboldt Park young adults to engage in participatory action research (PAR) activities by working alongside university researchers
    • Programming and activities that brings Humboldt Park residents to the UIC campus
    • Recruitment and advising towards enrollment of Humboldt Park students at UIC; pipeline for high school to college

Increasing Parent Participation in Defining Workforce Development and Continuing Education Needs

The Parent Popular Institute is one of three institutes within the CAAC initiative. As the base of the adult population in Humboldt Park, the goal is for parents to directly influence school policy, governance and the students at community schools. Through a set of initiatives at the community level, The Parent Popular Institute sees to it that parents take on roles of advocacy and leadership in the schools and in the lives of the youth. Supporting the Parent Popular Institute’s goals, GCI will work to increase parent engagement, enhance CAAC’s adult workforce development strategy, and build the capacity of parent leaders to engage civically.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, CGI will work alongside CAAC to help build the capacity of parents using participatory action research methods to better understand the workforce development and continuing education needs of adults within the Humboldt Park community.Parents will receive training on how to develop and conduct a survey on workforce development and educational needs, analyze the results and present its findings to community stakeholders.

Twenty parent participants will conduct the surveys at various school sites within the community. Once the survey and data collection process is complete, participants will work on analyzing the results and compiling a report for a final presentation event with community stakeholders, CAAC and representatives from Chicago Public Schools. GCI will assist in developing and facilitating each of the training workshops as well as data collection, entry and analysis. As a result of this project, parents will gain research skills, community-organizing experience and become more civically engaged in their community.

Sustainable Democracy Project at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School

Seniors at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School worked on a Sustainable Democracy project with support from GCI’s Multimedia Assistant & Educator, Margaret Catania. The Sustainable Democracy project uses community-based participatory research methods whereby students study issues affecting their community through inquiry and discussion.  Students also learn to problem solve by formulating solutions to address said issue.

During the 2014-2013 academic year, students reviewed articles and books that address the relationship of youth unemployment and a variety of other problems, including, but not limited to youth violence, youth drug use, youth obesity, and teen parenting.

In late November, the students identified possible solutions to address youth unemployment in Humboldt Park. Each student considered challenges to implementation of his or her solution as well as how likely his or her solution would support change.  Simultaneously, the students developed surveys to deepen their understanding of the impact of youth unemployment on their peers and refine their solutions.

In January 2014, students shared their individual solutions with each other and discussed how they could combine their solutions into one strategy to address workforce development. The students’ solution was to develop a three-pronged Wellness club model that could be implemented fully within five years at the high school:

    • Support students in researching and applying for jobs and in their development of basic job readiness skills.
    • Support students in their capacity to network. A long-term goal is to have built a great enough network for year three that the school would host a job fair for Albizu students.
    • Support students in developing small businesses. A five-year goal is to develop the student capacity for running successful businesses such that students can start a successful storefront business on Paseo Boricua (a local business district).

During the spring semester, the seniors at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School started the Wellness club to accomplish the three goals set out in their five-year plan.  They developed a workforce development and small business curriculum with assistance from GCI and other mentors. In April, the students presented their Sustainable Democracy project to their community and peers.