After a rigorous application process, West Side United (WSU) has identified Herzl School of Excellence as its Cluster of Care grant recipient. Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy and Robert Nathaniel Dett Elementary School were named as the two finalists.
The Cluster of Care Community Hub is an initiative of West Side United under the leadership of executive director, Ayesha Jaco and senior director for strategy and operations, Tenisha Jones. The hub will provide students and their families with wraparound support such as mental and physical health services, a full-time social worker dedicated to scholars and families, and trauma-informed professional development for teachers and staff, all within the school building. A dedicated community organization, such as a hospital, typically runs and manages these hubs with substantial input from the community.
“A Cluster of Care Hub is needed at Herzl and the North Lawndale Community because first, it’s about equity. Herzl scholars, families and our community deserve access to affordable, high-quality care and support no matter our ZIP code,” said Tamara Davis, principal at Herzl School of Excellence. “Second, we need it.”
Approximately, 1,200 students are deemed medically non-compliant in North Lawndale. One in six North Lawndale residents lack health insurance, and there is a 13-year difference in the life expectancy rate in North Lawndale residents vs. Loop residents.
“A Cluster of Care hub here at Herzl affords an opportunity for Herzl and West Side United to make generational change here in North Lawndale,” Davis said.
“Health care career exposure, an employment pipeline and greater parent and community engagement all lead to the supreme goal of student proficiency, character leadership and civic duty,” she added.
As the Cluster of Care grantee, Herzl School of Excellence will receive an investment of $265,000 portioned out over two years, which will go toward hiring initial staff. In addition to these funds, the MacArthur Foundation has contributed to support the hub along with a group called One West Side.
The Cluster of Care Community Hub is one of the inaugural cohorts of One West Side, a partnership between The Chicago Blackhawks Foundation and A Better Chicago.
The partnership is a three-year initiative that will invest at least $2 million in Chicago West Side leaders in an effort to create greater opportunity for youth in underserved and under-resourced communities.
In late 2019, West Side United launched an RFP process through West Side partnerships, which included six information sessions over nearly three months. From that process they received applications from 23 West Side elementary schools. Over the spring and summer, WSU convened its Education Committee comprised of members representing WSU’s anchor hospitals, community advisory council, executive leadership committee and community partners to review and score applications, concluding with final principal interviews and school site visits in October 2020.
On the West Side, longstanding disinvestment has caused great educational inequities. To combat educational disparities on the West Side, WSU has dedicated initiatives that improve the quality of education in West Side communities. WSU has been working closely with hospitals and nonprofits like Kids First and Thrive Chicago to determine the scope and vision of WSU’s education strategy to design and launch community hubs in Chicago’s West Side.
“In our work with families on the West Side, we have heard them ask for the community hub model within their neighborhood schools for years,” said Daniel Anello, CEO of Kids First Chicago. “Community hubs represent a critical, one-stop shop for West Side families to access the services that they need around education, health care and jobs to recover from COVID and beyond.”
Now that a school site has been selected, WSU staff and health care partners will be working regularly with the principal to identify wraparound services that will be implemented moving forward. These planning sessions will consist of a cross-section of school and community stakeholders who will come together to develop the model for the school-based community hub in hopes of launching by spring 2021.
“In the midst of a global pandemic and civil unrest, we know that now, more than ever, Chicago is in need of quality public health and education,” said Jones from West Side United. “We look forward to working with Herzl, Dett, Saucedo and [other community] partners to provide both to the West Side of Chicago.”
About West Side United
West Side United seeks to improve neighborhood health by addressing inequality in healthcare, education, economic vitality and the physical environment using a cross-sector, place-based strategy. Partners include healthcare providers including AMITA Health, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Cook County Health, Rush University Medical Center, Sinai Health System and UI Health, community organizations, residents, the faith-based community, business, government and others working together to coordinate investments and share outcomes.