Our Accomplishments Last Fiscal Year

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.

Onward Wins 2018 Acting Up Award!


Onward Neighborhood House Selected as 2018 “Acting Up” Award Recipient

We are pleased to announce that Onward Neighborhood House has been selected as a recipient of The Chicago Community Trust Acting Up awards. 

Onward will use this grant to hold our first ever Belmont Cragin Art Walk; designed to connect our families and members of the greater Belmont Cragin area to art, music, and businesses within the community. The event is scheduled for a Friday in October.

“We’re very excited to expand our popular Viernes Cultural // Cultural Friday event into the community,” Executive Director Mario García said.

On May 8, Chicagoland residents gathered across the city and suburbs for The Chicago Community Trust’s fifth annual On the Table – coming together in small groups for mealtime conversations to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing their communities and to share ideas on what they can do to make a difference. To encourage On the Table participants to move their ideas from discussion to action and support tangible activities that benefit neighborhoods, the Trust created the Acting Up awards.

On the Table provides a forum for residents to come together, make connections and come up with ideas to make our communities better,” said Daniel Ash, chief marketing officer, The Chicago Community Trust. “The Acting Up awards will help make some of these ideas a reality – we can’t wait to hear about the impact that these projects will have across the region.”

Working in partnership with Goodcity, the Trust gave away more than $150,000 to 37 projects this year – in an effort to help people to work together and take action for the public good. Over the past three years, Acting Up awards totaling more than $350,000 have been given to 167 diverse projects discussed during On the Table. View all the winning entries here.

Contact Nikki Way to learn how you can get involved in the Art Walk.

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About The Chicago Community Trust

The Chicago Community Trust, our region’s community foundation, partners with donors to leverage their philanthropy in ways that transform lives and communities. For the past century, we have connected the generosity of donors with community needs by making grants to nonprofit organizations working to improve metropolitan Chicago. Since our founding in 1915, the Trust has awarded over $2 billion in grant funding to more than 11,000 local nonprofit organizations – including more than $300 million in 2017. Our region is home to people passionate about their neighborhoods. People committed to making a difference. People divided by a legacy of segregation, separated by lines of class and races and opportunity – but there is much more that unites us than divides us. We pledge to bridge these divisions and to champion the common good, creating a place where no one is left behind.

Onward Partners with Rincon for Safety

At Onward House safety is one of our main focuses, both in the classroom and out. That’s why we partnered with another local organization, Rincon Family Services, to provide safety training to parents participating in our programs, who were in need of proper car safety equipment.

Parents met for a presentation on the fundamentals of car seats, and why they are so important to protecting children on the road.

It all starts with understanding the laws and regulations designed to keep children safe. Illinois law requires all passengers under 8 years old to use a car seat or booster seat, although — a child weighing more than 40 pounds may be transported in the back seat without a booster seat, secured with a seat belt only.

20180604_161419_HDR_Film2.jpgEven minor traffic collisions can be harmful to children’s development — both physically and to their cognitive development. Every parent on the road needs the proper safety equipment in the likelihood of an accident.

However, car or booster seats can be a major expense for any family. Since it is unsafe to use a secondhand car seat parents are forced to purchase this equipment first hand, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

In addition to holding a joint training session piloted by Onward and Rincon, participating parents were able to obtain a free car seat and or booster seat as an incentive for attending the training on car seat safety.

We’re proud to partner with Rincon to support parents in providing a safe environment for their children.


For more information on how to support Onward and our safety initiatives contact our Director of Development, Nikki Way at

Please note that Onward House cannot accept donated car or booster seats due to safety regulations.


2018 Spring Newsletter

The 2018 Onward Update Spring Newsletter is out, featuring our cover story about Kaylee — and how she became confident and successful in the classroom!

When Kaylee started in the School Age program at Onward Neighborhood House, she was having trouble in her 4th-grade classes.

Continue reading “2018 Spring Newsletter”