Originally published: May 17th, 2021
In this issue of the CAPE Network Forum Newsletter, we are excited to celebrate the newest after-school partnership between CAPE and West Chicago School District 33. What began as an idea from CAPE teaching artist and resident of West Chicago, Anni Holm, has now blossomed into a robust inquiry-based arts integrated after-school program serving over 350 students and community members across four schools.
From early conversations beginning in the summer of 2020, to the navigation of complex federal and state grant management systems, to the kick-off of programming in January of 2021, this program is testament to the power of partnership in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CAPE is grateful to Anni Holm for making the initial connection, District 33 leadership’s openness to expanding their after-school program, and Hannah Martin, CAPE’s West Chicago Program Coordinator, who is doing incredible work behind-the-scenes to make the whole program function. CAPE is also grateful for the incredible creativity and energies of all the West Chicago teachers, staffers, and the many new CAPE artists who have made this all possible and greatly expanded CAPE’s Network of Artist/Researchers.
Below you will find the perspectives of Joie Frankovich, District 33’s Coordinator of Partnerships, Yaritza, a fifth grade student at Currier Elementary, and documentation of in-process work from many of the online classes transpiring in West Chicago.
— Joseph Spilberg
Interview with Joie Frankovich, District 33’s Coordinator of Partnerships
Tell us the story of your relationship to CAPE and how this partnership came to fruition.
I’m the Coordinator of Partnerships with District 33. The district has had a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant for eons, and for the last 10 years of that grant, we worked with a somewhat local partner, and they were always our applicant on it. With COVID-19, they felt that the program was no longer aligned with their mission and chose to step away from the grant. That left us needing to find a new co-applicant.
We reached out to a lot of different organizations and just tried to put feelers out there because it’s a fairly hefty grant. I mean, there’s a lot of red tape and a lot of requirements, and an organization needs to have capacity to do it. We actually had a lot of organizations turn us down because we were in the middle of a pandemic, and all these organizations are just doing their best to stay afloat, the same that the school district was.
Anni Holm, who I know is a CAPE teaching artist and a District 33 parent and staff member, had always raved about CAPE as an organization and the kind of the model that CAPE uses. She had sent a connecting email to Joseph and me just saying let’s see if there’s anything that can come from it.
So I reached out to Joseph. I just said, “You mentioned you’re looking to expand your reach. You’re looking to be in more suburbs. You’ve worked with 21st CCLC grants. Are you interested in being our co-applicant and seeing if we can figure something out?” And Joseph said yes immediately.
I think ISBE approved of the grant on January 18th. So in six months, we created a budget, and we put a program together. Then the program started running February 1st!
What does collaboration look like for District 33?
I think the relationship between District 33 and CAPE has already started with an intention to be collaborative from the very beginning. I remember when Joseph and I were first talking, one of the big things that I was focused on was the fact that the district still wants to work with other partners. How do we blend other organizations and people into this program?
It’s just kind of this constant throwing ideas out there and saying, What makes sense? How can we work together? We’ve been working with a lot of our local partners to the park district, the library, some help from some of our local health partners, and finding ways to embed really collaborative family opportunities on top of the traditional kind of classroom stuff that’s going to happen in the afternoon, spring, and summer programming. And it’s been absolutely wonderful.
For the future, I just envision this continuing to expand and really grow, because we only really started in February with Joseph. I have been referring to this semester as our pilot, like, let’s just go for it. Let’s see how it goes. Let’s learn lessons. And then for next year, we can really think about how we build this out even more, make it more robust.
And for us, when we talk about collaboration, a lot of times what we talk about is that often, whether it’s education, nonprofit organizations, people are asked to do so much more than what they should have to do. And a lot of times it’s beyond the scope of their position. Teachers are being asked to be counselors.
For us, these collaborations are really about bringing in everyone’s expertise and passions. Really work together so we can just do the things we’re good at and let others do the things they’re good at so that together we’re really working towards those goals. CAPE has this beautiful model, inquiry based arts integration. So CAPE tells us how that looks, because you have that expertise. District 33 has some other expertise. How do we work together to create something really beautiful for students? I mean it’s all about the students and families in the end. So how do we work together to create something that’s really special for them? It’s been just incredible how open and ready everyone’s been to just say, OK, let’s figure this out. Let’s be creative. Let’s bounce ideas back and forth. And we just make it work. And it’s pretty awesome to have a partner who’s just has a bent towards wanting to operate that way.
Family Night is where the community’s families come together and share out what they’ve been learning in CAPE programs. CAPE has hosted a few Family Night events over the spring semester. How does Family Night serve the district?
Students don’t exist in isolation. They are a family unit in some way, shape, or form. It looks different for everyone, but you’re a part of something larger. If you want to support students, our belief is you need to be supporting the guardians or the adults or whoever else is in that home with reaching their goals and removing barriers for those folks.
We do a lot of activities and events where we try and bring families together to do shared learning or just have shared experiences together. For example, we offer ESL classes for parents and guardians. And in the evenings we know that often child care could be a hindrance for them to be able to attend. We also offer a child development program for the children of parents and ESL class where the children are doing their own learning.
The other big thing we really focus on is this idea of doing things with families and communities, not doing them to families and communities, and really providing opportunity for families to say, this is what I want this to look like, or this is how I think you should be. And not just assuming we know better because we’re, I don’t know, an organization or professionals or whatever.
So the Family Nights that we’ve had so far, it was amazing. I mean, I think I shed tears a couple of times. So cool to see and particularly knowing everything’s been virtual for us this whole time. Yeah, I still see the impact that’s happened in the relationships that have been built has just been phenomenal. It really gives an opportunity for parents to be able to kind of get that insider view of the program, and also a chance for students to just show off, show their parents what they did, and ask, How cool is this? And I really enjoyed being able to see the teaching artists and our district staff show off, too, because they were doing a lot of the sharing. It’s just so incredible.
I think down the road, what would be amazing is that when we have these events in person, hopefully in the near future, that they also are really embedded in the community, too. So people have an opportunity to really learn more about West Chicago and the community that they live in and contribute to. So it’s really supporting a broader community engagement too, not just that inner family engagement.
Student interview with Yaritza, a fifth grader at Currier Elementary School
Why did you join CAPE after school?
Because I like after school programs and theater. It’s fun learning more stuff after school.
How is this after school like class and environment different than what you do during the school day?
It’s different from the school day because I get to move around a lot more and play more and have more fun than just sitting there and writing notes.
Can you describe to me what kinds of things you’ve been doing in this class (Life Out Loud!)?
We play fun games. And we have time to spend quality time with other kids, and draw everyday. We do theater games and create stories and fun scenes. And we write some of our ideas down.
What is something that you hope to do with the class before the school year is over?
One thing that I like to do with the class before the class is over is do the puppet shows we’ve started. And learn more games.
If you were to tell someone of the kids at your school, a reason to join CAPE after school programs or this after school program, what would you say?
I like doing after school programs because it gives you more time to spend time with other kids and not be on the on your screen, and to create things on your own with artists.
At Gary Elementary School, students show off their trolls before the mischievous creatures run away, led by artists Anni Holm and Buddy Plumlee and teacher Jacqueline Neidhardt.
Students at Leman Middle School share their Alebrijes and masks inspired by traditional Mexican art, led by artist Sarita Garcia and teacher Carlos Osorio.
For the parent class at Leman Middle School, parents practice drawing still lifes using objects that represent their identity, led by artist Jessica Mueller and counselors Graciela Moreno, Lori Koch, and Melinda Ayala.