Illinois Senator Dick Durbin Visits GWTP,
Senator Durbin met and thanked two local employers, Dave Bochniak of Chicago Booth Manufacturing and James Marks of Bird-X, Inc. for their support and participation in GWTP's Community-Business Job Training Partnership. “These programs work. By actively involving employers, who guide the curriculum to meet the needs of their marketplace, this is a true ‘job creation engine,’” noted Durbin.
Twenty-seventh ward alderman, Walter Burnett, echoed the Senator’s sentiments. “I have supported this organization for many years, going back their old [Fulton Street] location, because I know these programs are effective. I’ve seen many graduates hired by good local companies, which of course is a win-win for our whole community.”
GWTP’s track record is impressive. Throughout the deep recession, during which GWTP’s inner-city communities witnessed a 150% increase in unemployment, the agency kept hope alive, placing over 87% of vocational training graduates in local, living-wage earning jobs. “The credit goes to the community-business partnership model,” stresses GWTP Executive Director Bill Leavy. “We succeed by serving as the link between disadvantaged community residents who need jobs and local employers who require a skilled workforce.”
In addition to GWTP’s Woodworking and Solid Surface Manufacturing and Shipping and Receiving training programs, Senator Durbin and Alderman Burnett visited the West Town Academy (WTA), the agency’s alternative high school for Chicago Public School dropouts. “The dropout crisis and the unemployment crisis are interrelated,” noted WTA principal, Keisha Davis-Johnson. “Without earning at least a high school diploma, followed by post-secondary education or certified job training, one cannot hope to compete in today’s global economy.”
U.S. Department of Labor awards Greater West Town Project $1.5 Million for Young Adult Ex-Offender Services
June 25, 2012, Chicago - GWTP has received one of 21 federal grants awarded to community based organizations across the country to fund the GREAT (Gaining Re-integration through Education, Advocacy and Training) Opportunities program, which provides education, training and support services to youth and young adults returning from the juvenile justice system.
Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis, noted that the awards will “help vulnerable youth receive the training and support they need to gain valuable job skills and improve their long-term employment prospects.” Program participants will earn high school diplomas and industry-recognized credentials.
“We appreciate the Department of Labor’s program support, which will allow us to expand and strengthen education and employment services for ex-offender youth of our community”, noted GWTP’s Executive Director, Bill Leavy.
Community service learning and work experience, integrated with GWTP’s West Town Academy’s comprehensive alternative high school curriculum, are integral aspects of the GREAT Opportunities program. Key community partners Blocks Together, Humboldt Park Social Services (Center for Changing Lives), Growing Power, North Lawndale Employment Network, and Global Network Development Center help provide service learning and internship opportunities. These agencies, along with over 40 other supporting community service partners and the office of Cook County Juvenile Probation and Court Services, will provide coordinated recruitment and referrals and wrap-around support services for program participants.
“We are grateful for the broad support of our community agency partners and local employers for this grant application, and for their help in our agency’s work to meet the needs of our community’s many struggling, at-risk and underserved young people,” said Keisha Davis-Johnson, West Town Academy Principal.
For more information on the GREAT Opportunities Program, click here.
West Town Academy: Creating Educational and Economic Opportunity in the Face of the High School Dropout Crisis
In June 2012, Greater West Town’s West Town Academy celebrated the success of our 14th Graduating Class. Ninety-two young people – all former high school dropouts – received their High School Diplomas, the largest graduating class in the 14-year history of the Academy. 57% of our 2012 graduates are going on to community colleges, 24% are enrolled in 4-year universities, and 9% will be pursuing advanced career-related technical training. Others have already secured employment, or plan to join the U.S. Armed Forces.
The Class of 2012 exemplifies the success of our community-based and community-driven strategy to expand educational and economic opportunity for at-risk youth and the communities in which they live.
For decades, Chicago’s public schools have struggled to retain, educate and graduate young people of color, particularly African American and Latino males. The high school dropout crisis is complex, chronic and ongoing, and the consequences for individuals, families and communities are enormous. In GWTP’s focus service areas of the Near West Side, Humboldt Park, Garfield Park and Austin, less than half of our young people complete high school in 4 years. Less than half of our young people have the educational preparation needed to succeed in life. Chicago Public Schools’ high schools in these neighborhoods all suffer from four-year dropout rates of 50%-60%.
AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNITY RESPONSE: THE WEST TOWN ACADEMY
WTA enrolls former Chicago Public Schools drop-outs ages 17-21 and helps our at-risk young people get a fresh start in life by providing them with a second chance to earn a high school diploma. Since Greater West Town moved into its state-of-the-art Community Career Training & Economic Development Center at 500 N. Sacramento Blvd in the Fall of 2010, our capacity to serve high school dropouts in these disadvantaged communities has greatly expanded. The West Town Academy Class of 2011 was 67; in 2012, the graduating class has grown by leaps and bounds to a historic high of 92. WTA will eventually enroll 200 former high school dropouts per year.
Greater West Town Helps Lead Local, National Advocacy Efforts to Preserve Federal Job Training Funds
Massive Federal Job Training Cuts Turned Back – For NOW . . .
For more than 2 decades Greater West Town has been a leader in advocating for increased public investment in educational and economic opportunities for low-income youth and adults.
In the Spring of 2011, Greater West Town stepped up once again, to help lead the fight against a U. S. House of Representatives’ plan to “zero out” federal funding of the “Workforce Investment Act” (“WIA”). GWTP worked with fellow non-profit job training agencies, elected officials, community members, employer partners and participants in our programs to organize a “Community Speak-Out” against the cuts. Held on March 24th at our new Community Career Education & Community Development Center, the event was closely coordinated with the National Skills Coalition and dozens of other national groups that had designated March 24th as the “National Workforce Day of Action.” GWTP spearheaded the planning for the Speak-Out over several weeks, accompanied by a growing crescendo of advocacy by our students and alumni, community members, and local employers in our Business-Community Partnership. In the build-up to March 24th, all these stakeholders wrote letters and made phone calls to members of Congress, urging continued funding of WIA.
Community Partners, Erie House, JARC, OAI, Join the Fight . . .
“WIA is an essential investment in the communities we serve,” declared Bill Leavy, GWTP’s founder and Executive Director, to a crowd of more than 100 gathered at the Community Center that day. “The people we serve are the ones who are still hardest hit by this ongoing recession. Why would Congress take their opportunity and hope away? I don’t want to see one less person in our training and placement programs. We have to put people back to work!”
GWTP staff, participants and employer partners gave testimonies, as invited dignitaries U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s Chief of Staff Clarisol Duque and U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis listened intently, then spoke to the crowd about their unwavering support for WIA funding. Erie Neighborhood House, Jane Addams Resource Corporation, and OAI, Inc. joined GWTP for the Speak Out; their staff, employers, and WIA program participants added their success stories and calls for continued WIA funding to the testimony, to those of GWTP WIA participants. click here for success stories. Chicago media and the New York Times covered the story of grassroots support for WIA.
GWTP’s organizing and advocacy efforts, coordinated with our national coalition partners, successfully headed off massive job training funding cuts in the recent 2011 federal budget compromise. However the battle over the 2012 Federal Budget is already in high gear. Again, some Congressional leaders are targeting the most vulnerable, most in-need, and most disadvantaged Americans for further cuts. Greater West Town, our partners and allies, must be ready to again stand up for the most vulnerable among us, and work to open the doors of educational and economic opportunity for low-income families and communities.
African American Festival "More than just..."
At West Town Academy, students are encouraged to study, acknowledge and embrace different cultures. Every year in anticipation of African American History Month, Academy teachers and students collaborate to plan and hold an African American Festival. Not only is the festival a celebration of African American culture, it is an exploration of history, the arts, society, politics, and economics. Through this year’s home-room study projects, original music and dance performances, and student-designed interactive activities, students expanded their knowledge of the local, national and global contributions made by African Americans. They also discovered and expressed their own special talents as well. The theme of this year’s Festival was “More Than Just …” They learned that African American celebrities they studied were “more than just . . . “ , athletes, performers, and millionaire entrepreneurs; they were also social change activists, community leaders, innovators and trend setters in the arts, and philanthropists.
Students and their guests visited each homeroom to see presentations of what each homeroom team learned about African American history and culture. The students also planned and held an Academy assembly. This year’s guest speaker was Dr. Conrad Worrill, Director of Northeastern Illinois University’s “Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner-City Studies.” An author, activist, teacher, and scholar, Dr. Worrill explained the origins of African American studies and the African American History Month observance – first proposed by renowned African American historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson in Chicago in 1926! He also shared his own first-hand experiences in civil rights struggles in the U.S. Dr. Worrill stressed to students the importance of making wise choices in life, urging them to become “more than just” one facet of themselves, but rather to use all their gifts to contribute back to their community and to humanity as a whole. different cultures. Every year in anticipation of African American History Month, Academy teachers and students collaborate to plan and hold an African American Festival. Not only is the festival a celebration of African American culture, it is an exploration of history, the arts, society, politics, and economics. Through this year’s home-room study projects, original music and dance performances, and student-designed interactive activities, students expanded their knowledge of the local, national and global contributions made by African Americans. They also discovered and expressed their own special talents as well. The theme of this year’s Festival was “More Than Just …” They learned that African American celebrities they studied were “more than just . . . “ , athletes, performers, and millionaire entrepreneurs; they were also social change activists, community leaders, innovators and trend setters in the arts, and philanthropists.
Some West Town Academy students unveiled the debut of a music video they created, while others read original poetry, and another team performed dances. The Academy also welcomed a special guest performer -- 7-year old singer Trinity Bonafé – who demonstrated that she is “more than just” a seven year old. All of the home-room projects, performances and activities emphasized the importance of understanding our heritage and background, while growing to become “more than just” a member of one group into a contributing member of a broader community. Academy Principal Keisha Davis-Johnson ended the program with a salute to the students for their hard work and self expression in creating the Festival, and their success in demonstrating the positive power that young people can have. Every year in October, the Academy students and staff also plan and hold another major cultural celebration, the Latin American Heritage Festival.
Community Dedication & Open House Draws Over 400 to Greater West Town's "COMMUNITY CAREER TRAINING & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CENTER" -
The Dream Becomes a Reality!
Student “ambassadors” from West Town Academy welcomed and signed in guests, while the SON DEL VIENTO Folkloric Ensemble greeted them with dazzling vocal and dance performances in the Academy’s new Multi-Purpose Room. Quickly the crowd swelled to more than 400 people! Among those guests: Local employers with longstanding Community-Business partnerships with GWTP’s Adult Placement and Industrial Skills Training programs; local and state officials; community residents; colleagues from other community service agencies; current GWTP Program Participants; and alumni from all the programs, eager to see GWTP’s new “home.”
GWTP Board Member Rev. Gerald Hicks gave the Dedication of the new Center at a handsome podium designed and built by Woodworking program participants, and spoke of the mission, purpose, and future of the agency – to serve and empower local residents by providing expanding educational and economic opportunities to all who take part in Greater West Town’s programs.
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December 21, 2010
Greater West Town Project releases Overview of Chicago Public School Latest Graduation Rate Data;
" Some progress . . . . . . but a long, long way to go." Bill Leavy, Executive Director
Chicago’s Dropout Crisis
Hard facts about our high schools’ continuing problems
Updated December 21, 2010
Chicago Public Schools Four Year Graduation Rate; 2003-2010 by Race (click here)
Chicago Public Schools Four Year Graduation Rate; 2003-2010 by Gender (click here)
Chicago Public Schools Four Year Graduation Rate; 2000-2010 by Race and Gender (click here)
State Wide One Year Dropout Rate; 2003 - 2010 (click here)
(Percent of all Illinois High School students dropping out each year)
Look here for more details and analysis of Chicago's Dropout Crisis in coming weeks.
A Vision realized . . . New Community Training Center Completed! . . . Expanded Operations Begun!
In October 2010, Greater West Town Project completed construction and moved expanded operations into its new home in the community at 500 N. Sacramento Blvd. GWTP transformed an unused, outmoded 55,000 sq.ft. factory into a modern, state-of-the-art, energy efficient facility. The Center has been recognized nationally as a model community development initiative linking the education and training of disadvantaged area residents with economic development efforts and workforce needs of local businesses.
The Center houses the West Town Academy Alternative High School where out-of-school youth return to earn their diplomas and prepare for careers, the Woodworking and Shipping and Receiving job training programs in partnership with local industry, and the Business Incubator that will provide affordable “green” space for start-up companies committed to local hiring.
The new Center will enable Greater West Town Project o significantly expand educational and economic opportunity to Chicago residents from struggling disadvantaged communities, nearly doubling the number of community residents GWTP can serve.
Get the details about the educational and economic benefits that the new Center will generate for the community: Link to Community Career Training and Economic Development Center.
How is the New Community Center funded? READ MORE
October 30, 2009
US Treasury Secretary Geithner Visits GWTP
Hails Programs and Development Plans as National Model.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recognized GWTP’s training programs and development plans as national models for community economic development while announcing a major increase in Federal funds for investment and low income communities across the country. Secretary Geithner visited GWTP’s training center along with state, federal and local officials on Friday, October 30th to promote the Obama administration’s expansion of the New Market’s Tax Credit Program that Greater West Town has used to help finance its Community Career Education & Economic Development Center, which is currently under construction at 500 N. Sacramento. READ MORE