1. Refreshed our Mission & Vision to Celebrate 125 years of Service. Onward House received pro bono support from Prosper Strategies to refresh its mission, vision, and messaging in celebration of its growing adult education program and historic 125 years of service.
“We open doors to improve lives and uplift communities through educational, economic and support services.”
2. Expanded the Adult Education Program. Educational opportunities for adults is in high demand, we’re nearly at capacity for our 5 classroom areas. At the end of FY18, we operate 16 class offerings including GED Spanish & English, ESL levels 2 – 5, Citizenship test prep, basic computer, eCommerce, photoshop, and the new entrepreneurship program. We have gone from serving 120 adults in 2014 to 350 adults in 2015, and 843 adults in 2016, we anticipate our numbers to significantly increase again this year.
The demand for these services in the area continues to increase. According to Wilbur Wright Community College, Onward House is the largest “off-campus” provider of ESL and GED classes. The Belmont Cragin neighborhood is the third largest neighborhood, of the 78 neighborhoods in Chicago, whose population speaks English less than very well at just over 43%. In Belmont Cragin, over 34% of the population has less than a high school diploma.
3. Successfully earned and retained high-quality accreditations. In 2018 Onward was were assessed and reaccredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the ExcelleRate Illinois Gold Circle of Quality designation for our Early Childhood Education Program. The NAEYC accreditation is a national standard earned by less than 10 percent of all early childhood education programs. The ExcelleRate Illinois is the state’s highest award of excellence for early learning providers in the State of Illinois who make quality a priority. Onward also gained the Gold Seal of Transparency from Guide Star.
4. Continued to Partner with Educational Institutions for Training. Loyola University students must have a certain number of contact hours with children with diagnosed disabilities and those with English as their second language. Onward House has a large population of both. Loyola students observe the children in a classroom setting, join the children on their trips to the local park and analyzed their observations in a private space at Onward House. Additionally, Loyola students also provide additional support to teachers and children in the classrooms while also getting invaluable hands-on experience.
5. Launched the Lab at Onward. In June 2018, we began our first cohort of 30 students eager to get the tools and knowledge to start their business or improve an existing business. Our curriculum gives students have the opportunity to create and fully develop their own product or service through the proven process of ideation, market research, and business plan development. We have tailored the curriculum to the needs of our target population by ensuring that it supports non-traditional learners, and aids in the development of professional “soft skills” including networking, and/or presentation, pitch and interview skills. Volunteers assist the class as volunteer coaches, mentors, business experts, and real entrepreneurs from our very own community.
6. Added Cultural Programming for Families. On certain Fridays, the Marshall Center transforms into a space for cultural celebration. Local emerging artists are invited to display up to 15 pieces of art, musicians provide live Latin American music, and food from a local restaurant is shared with attendees. Our quarterly Viernes Culturales // Cultural Fridays event allows families can gather together free of charge in their own community.
7. Improved our teacher training systems: Professionally, teachers need solid, consistent direction and feedback, together with a network of supportive peers to be effective in the classroom. Many of the children at Onward House come from socio-economic backgrounds that contribute to social-emotional factors that pose challenges to their learning. Helping teachers increase their interactions with individual students contributed to a greater educational experience of each child, and leave them more prepared for kindergarten.
8. Strengthened our Family Support Worker Team: We added a Family Support Coordinator to bring all Family Support Workers under one department. This adds a layer of consistency to our support team and allows them to more effectively deliver support services to families.