Today’s post is from Chicago Cares Education Program Coordinator, Martha Renken

Chicago’s south side Englewood neighborhood has seen its fair share of abandonment. The area has lost nearly 20,000 residents in the last decade according to the Chicago Tribune, and vacant homes and lots abound. On top of dwindling residents, Englewood is consistently in the media, showcasing the kind of stories that create negative perceptions of this community for the rest of the city. While the media depicts the neighborhood as a dangerous place filled with empty lots and boarded up homes, most Chicagoans never get to see what I have seen; the many positive interactions and fully-engaged learning happening on a regular basis in Englewood schools.

At Henderson, Sherwood, and Guggenheim Elementary Schools, assistant principals arrive early on Saturday mornings to open the doors to students and Chicago Cares volunteers. School staff at these Englewood schools understand the importance of providing a place for students to participate in enriching, educational, and safe activities, and they welcome the support of volunteers.

Henderson Elementary has been hosting Chicago Cares education programs since 1996 and boasts one of the highest student attendance rates of all Chicago Cares’ partner schools. Students often arrive early to programs at Henderson, and many parents show their support by lending a hand as volunteers. Sherwood and Guggenheim are more recent Chicago Cares partners, with Guggenheim hosting their first programs just this past spring. At all three of these schools, volunteers are making an important impact on students’ learning.

Chicago Cares volunteers have the opportunity to impact Englewood students’ attitudes about their community and about learning. Saturday programs create a positive environment where learning is fun and residents from outside the Englewood community are excited to visit Englewood to give students more individualized attention. The positive interactions students have with volunteers at these programs demonstrate to the students that someone wants to invest in their community, in their school, and in their education.

Englewood projects are largely accessible by the Red Line for those taking public transportation and the Dan Ryan for those driving. If you are interested in carpooling to a program, contact the program’s team coordinator to find out if the option is available. Be part of the recognition of the Englewood neighborhood and show students that their community cares by signing up for a project at Guggenheim, Sherwood, or Henderson Elementary.