Statement from President and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund, Josh Hale.
Since 1986, the mission of Big Shoulders Fund has been to provide quality values-based educational opportunities to Chicago’s children, preparing them for life-long success and, thereby, strengthening our City as a whole. Over 80 percent of Big Shoulders Fund students represent minorities and nearly 70 percent live in low-income households and, most important, they always take on challenges and consistently beat the odds.
Big Shoulders Fund schools have a 94 percent high school graduation rate, from which 85 percent of students go on to enroll in college and alumni graduate at twice the national rate. These students keep me hopeful and show me that the future is bright.
Big Shoulders Fund’s new partnership with City Colleges of Chicago, with the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chancellor of City Colleges at Chicago Juan Salgado, is helping high-achieving and low-income students from 12 of our Big Shoulders Fund high schools see their hard-work come to fruition through the STAR Scholarship. I am thrilled that we are joining a partnership that is so clearly for the greater good of deserving children of our beloved City.
The pastor of St. John Berchmans in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood knew his school could expect financial help when John and Kathy Schreiber signed on as Patrons through Big Shoulders Fund. But early on, it became clear the Schreiber family would bring much more to the relationship, especially one Saturday when John appeared with several of the couple’s eight adult children to paint the school.
“All of the children have supported the work we’re doing here,” said Father Wayne Watts, pastor of the church. “I pick up my phone and I say I need X, and I can pretty much believe X will be delivered by the Schreibers—whether that be their time, their treasure, or their advice.”
With his long record of success in commercial real estate, John Schreiber has offered business advice and served as a sounding board to help Father Watts make strategic decisions about how to turn around the school. While the family didn’t finish all the painting work that first Saturday, one son later sent a crew to finish it up. Another daughter organized her alumni group to clean the school. One son helped with marketing; another became a mentor to a struggling student. Daughter Heather Sannes became head of St. John Berchmans’ school board, which also counted sons Michael and Nicholas Schreiber as members at one time or another.
In 2005, a year before the Schreibers became Patrons, St. John Berchmans made headlines—and not in a good way. It landed on the short list of schools slated for closure. Parishioners at the time rallied and convinced the Archdiocese to give the school a second chance. Father Watts and his newly hired principal, Peggy Roketenetz, knew they needed to hit the reset button to combat the negative buzz. But with a shoestring budget, they had few resources to improve the school grounds or add programming that would attract young families.
“The Schreibers came in and we did all of those things,” Father Watts said. After making physical improvements to the building and grounds, the family funded a part-time marketing person, who helped to change the school’s image. St. John Berchmans also was able to hire a full-time art teacher and a gym teacher.
“We couldn’t have dreamed of hiring an art teacher or putting new technology in the school,” remarked Roketenetz, whom Father Watts plucked from the congregation to help lead the school turnaround. “They allowed us to really enrich our academic and physical environment to attract new families and build who we were—and are.”
Enrollment nearly doubled, from 137 students to about 260. Though their official patron term is now over, the Schreibers maintain a close connection with the school and with Father Watts, who officiates at family weddings.
After seeing the impact they were able to make at St. John Berchmans, the Schreibers asked to extend the Big Shoulders Fund Patrons Program to a school closer to their home in Lake County, Most Blessed Trinity in Waukegan. Heather is now chairing the board there.
For John Schreiber, the reward for these efforts comes when he hears success stories like that of one scholar from Most Blessed Trinity, who then went on to Loyola Academy, which the family also supports. She seized the opportunities given her, emerging as a leader on both campuses. She earned a full scholarship to Saint Louis University. “She’s going to be a success at SLU like she was at Loyola, and like she was at Most Blessed Trinity. That’s hugely satisfying,” John said. “You open the first door, and there’s a chance to open a second, and a chance to open a third, which is awesome when you think of where the children came from.”
Daughter Heather agreed: “Big Shoulders Fund is helping open those doors.”
Studying to become a teacher? Learn how the Teacher Development Program can help you finish your degree and support you in your first years in the classroom!
The Big Shoulders Fund Teacher Development Program (Big Shoulders TDP) recruits, prepares, and develops quality teachers to serve in Big Shoulders Fund schools. Big Shoulders TDP teachers are committed to three pillars that drive their work:community, excellence, and leadership.
The Big Shoulders TDP is a multi-year professional development program that offers a variety of supports specific to the candidate. In partnership with local universities – DePaul Universityand Loyola University at Chicago– Big Shoulders TDP provides tuition assistance, tutoring and clinical placement opportunities, and guidance on job selection. After graduation, a candidate will receive up to three years of customized coaching and professional development.
Currently, the Big Shoulders TDP supports pre-service teachers – two years from degree-completion – interested in pursuing anIllinois Professional Educator License and its associated endorsements, and in-service teachers in their first through third years in the classroom. The Big Shoulders TDP is actively recruiting pre-service teachers to participate, giving preference to those interested in focusing on STEM education.
Check out these two fantastic extension opportunities for former Brush Creek students to apply for: an Action Research Mini-Grant and a Junior Counselor Position. Applications for both are due March 18, 2016.
Action Research Mini-Grant Any current elementary student, who has attended Brush Creek in past years, is eligible to apply for an Action Research Mini-Grant. Students may receive up to $500 to design, launch, and implement an action research project that sustains the learning Brush Creek Ranch Science Enrichment experience. Projects that have received funding in the past include a school-wide recycling initiative, a coordinated neighborhood clean-up, and after-school science clubs.
Interested students must to the following:
Identify a Teacher Mentor to advise and oversee the project.
Junior Counselor Position (current 10th, 11th, and 12th graders preferred)
Former Brush Creek Ranch students who will be rising high school Juniors, Seniors, and graduates in the summer of 2016 (currently in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade) are eligible to apply for the Jr. Counselor Position, who will accompany students and chaperones during the one-week trip to Staddle Camp at Brush Creek Ranch. Rising sophomores may apply, but upper classmen will be given preference. Jr. Counselors will be responsible aiding the implementation of daily programming and support students as they complete various activities. All Jr. Counselors will be trained in CPR and First Aid prior to their trip. This application process is competitive with a limited number of Jr. Counselor positions available.
Interested students must:
Be a former BCR scholar who is currently in grades: 10th, 11th, or 12th
Be highly motivated, engaged, and exhibit leadership abilities.
Be available to spend a week at Staddle Camp during Summer, 2016.
“We simply wouldn’t be here without Big Shoulders,” said Denise Spells, principal at St. Ethelreda School on Chicago’s South Side. This is a constant refrain from principals at Big Shoulders Fund schools.
St. Ethelreda and six other schools faced challenging financial and operating conditions in serving their communities. In response, Big Shoulders Fund agreed to temporarily take on the majority financial responsibility for these schools during a three-year period, along with helping the schools to address key operating issues. Big Shoulders increased its commitment from seven to ten schools starting in the 2015-16 school year, and is working with these schools to improve in both the short and long-term.
See how the Covered Schools Initiative is transforming these schools.