Friday, March 8, 2013


Change & Success are possible with Choice. Parents of students attending Holy Family School at 3415 W. Arthington St., rally with teachers and administrators in favor of citizen choice in selecting schools.

Holy Family School, 3415 West Arthington Street, recently hosted a celebration of National School Choice Week. The faith-based kindergarten through eighth grade school on Chicago’s West Side was founded to give parents in low-income neighborhoods an alternative to underperforming public schools. HFS was originally located in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood, but has since expanded in size and programming and has relocated to Homan Square.
At the gathering, where about 325 parents, students, and staff joined in the celebration, several parents spoke about the choice they made in sending their children to a school of choice rather than a school to which they would otherwise be assigned. Marguerite Martin spoke about the way her daughter, a recent alum, has thrived. She stated, “Aiyana, who is now a freshman at the Chicago Academy For The Arts, benefited tremendously from the choice our family made. Aiyana – really our whole family – is proud and excited that she has moved forward to a challenging high school with a great work ethic and the skills needed to compete with students from all over Chicago. We wish all families had the option to choose the school they want.”
Fanisha Davis, a 1995 Holy Family alum who is now a financial manager at Hospira, addressed the assembly on how she has benefited from the choice her mother made in sending her to HFS. From Holy Family, Mrs. Davis went to Culver Academy, a boarding school and then to Loyola and DePaul for an MBA.
Holy Family’s Board of Directors operates on the belief that every parent should have the right to send their children to whatever school they choose, regardless of family income or area of residence, and that the per-student allocation from taxes should follow the student to that school. Too many children – particularly children living in low-income neighborhoods – are stuck in chronically under-performing schools.
Dr. Susan Work, President and CEO of Holy Family Ministries – the group that operates the school – and the Board of Directors are ardent supporters of the Choice movement. The school has grown considerably since its founding in 1985 by Pastor Charles Infelt and his small but visionary Lutheran congregation in the Cabrini-Green public housing community. However, its mission has consistently remained to provide a safe haven where children and adults learn, grow spiritually, find hope, and broaden life skills. The school and pre-school, with a current enrollment of 265 students from the West Side of Chicago and programming to serve pre-schoolers’ childcare needs, and after-school enrichment, has an excellent track record of placing graduates at top-performing high schools around the city and in some cases in top-notch boarding schools.


Orators Zyon & Zyire Nichols with their proud parents, Demetrius & Tracye Nichols, Sumner School Principal W. Delores Robinson, and Reverend Woodard Williams, Pastor of #2 New Mount Sinai M.B. Church. (Photo by Isaac Jones)

Zyon and Zyire are making a name for themselves as young men to be heard – and people are listening! They have impressed Mayor Rahm Emanuel and caught the attention of Governor Pat Quinn. Reverend Jesse Jackson, himself a renowned orator, has taken notice of the two brothers.
Both of the boys are students at Charles Sumner Elementary School, 4320 West Fifth Avenue. Zyon is 8 years old and in 3rd grade. Zyire, 6, is in 1st grade. According to their Principal, W. Delores Robinson, “They are both extremely gifted young men and we are very proud of them.”
On December 29, 2012, Zyon and Zyire competed in the annual PUSH Excel Oratorical Competition. With the help of their parents, Demetrius and Tracye Nichols, the boys selected excerpts from a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the subject of poverty. They both won the competition and went on to perform at the city’s Dr. King Day Breakfast where they met the governor and mayor. This is the second year Zyon participated in the PUSH Excel Oratorical Competition. 
Several weeks ago, at a public meeting concerning school closings, Zyon delivered an impassioned defense of his school and told why Charles Sumner deserves to remain open. Principal Robinson says she has no doubt the fact that Sumner was removed from the final list of schools at risk of closing is due to the convincing appeal made at the hearing by Zyon Nichols.
The brothers are active members of #2 New Mount Sinai M.B. Church, 310 North Laramie Avenue. Their Pastor, Reverend Woodard Williams, predicts a bright future for both of the boys. He says they are often called upon to recite the Church Covenant.
Zyon’s teacher, Georgia Anne Moore, said the two brothers are so impressive she wanted their talents to be recognized by a wider audience. Teachers Nickcole Pierre and Susan Kang echo her sentiments.


Habilitative Systems, Inc., one of America’s largest private social service agencies, recently hosted a tour of Ph.D. social work students from Ethiopia. The tour was a joint venture of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dominican University, and the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. The tour provided an opportunity for students to observe professional practices in America and share information on client service methodologies in Africa.


Acting Dir. of Mental Health Services Theodora Binion endorses Rep. Ford’s proposal for a Mental Health Crisis Drop-in Center for Austin, but discusses the funding restrictions prohibiting state agencies from currently meeting citizen needs. (Photo by Brad)

In response to the epidemics of violence, drug abuse family instability due to home foreclosures, and other urban pressures on Chicago’s West Side citizens, State Representative La Shawn K. Ford called together agency leaders, hospital executives, and other community stakeholders with representatives of state Departments of Human Services, Mental Health Services, and Children & Family Services to consider potential opportunities for sharing services and working together more effectively to solve potentially explosive mental health problems.
Specifically, Rep. Ford, who has been appointed to the House Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, is proposing establishing a Mental Health Crisis Drop-in Center in Austin where individuals can receive assistance and referrals to avoid tragedies from occurring. His proposal was positively received but many participating agencies and state department heads cited budget constraints as a factor working against implementation of Ford’s proposal.
Ford says he is not deterred or discouraged, saying he believes sufficient resources can be assembled to launch a pilot project.
Persons and agencies interested in participating in developing the Mental Health Crisis Drop-in Center are encouraged to call Rep. Ford’s Constituent Service Office at 773/378-5902 or 708/445-3673.