We Raise Donors Support Breakthroughs in Chicago’s East Garfield Park
Yolanda Porter can tell you many stories about the Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program (NBSAP), a program of Breakthrough Urban Ministries (Chicago, Ill.). “I’ve seen the impact this program has had on students, and I’ve seen the impact it’s had on my own children,” she says.
Porter is lead teacher at NBSAP, which is housed within the Breakthrough Ministries FamilyPlex in East Garfield Park, one of Chicago’s most economically distressed and underserved neighborhoods. The goal of NBSAP: improve children’s academic performance through literacy enrichment, high school preparation, and science, math, and technology tutoring. Breakthrough received a two-year We Raise Foundation grant in 2017 to expand its program and add more classrooms.
“We started running programs for youth in the community in 2000 in a space above our women’s center,” notes Alexandra Cesario, Director of Development. “The dream for FamilyPlex began after conversations with local youth and families about what it would look like to have a community center that could accommodate the need for education services in the neighborhood.”
Since opening its doors in 2015, the number of children enrolled in NBSAP increased to 150; by the time the NBSAP is at capacity, it will accommodate 240 children. Even with the expansion, there is a waiting list of about 100 students.
Then there’s the story of a little boy named James, who Porter refused to give up on.
“Just this year James came into my classroom from one of the local schools,” Porter says. “He was having a lot of trouble here, he was having a lot of trouble at school, and Mom was having a lot of trouble trying figure out her next step to get him services, because she felt he needed them.”
Porter partnered with James and his mother, attending meeting after meeting. She helped them navigate the red tape and jargon typical of education systems, went with them to doctor appointments, and fought for James to stay in the program.
“There were days that he just slept, just laid his head down, because he was not in a position to participate with the rest of the kids.” Finally, on the last day of school, James was given a 504 plan, a behavioral plan that establishes accommodations for the student and sets goals for moving forward.
“Because we worked with mom and stood by her and were that support for her, it happened. I didn’t go in as the expert – I asked her what she needed me to do and I did it,” Porter says. “He’ll be in the classroom in the fall, with his peers, learning, where he should be and there will be things in place for him so that he can be successful.”
That’s what Breakthrough does. They partner with parents and schools to get the best results and the specific care a child needs. And for children who experience daily the trauma of a disadvantaged, violent neighborhood, those needs can be great.
“Our vision as an organization is to see East Garfield Park become a safe, stable, and engaged community,” Cesario says. “We strongly believe that the people who are closest to the problems are the best people to solve them.”
Porter knows what happens when people support the programs at Breakthrough with their time, talents, and financial resources. She talks about her daughter, who was enrolled in NBSAP but also needed a channel to focus her anger and energy. When Porter’s daughter was in 4th grade an individual donated softball equipment to Breakthrough. “Then a volunteer decided to give her something else to do besides fight and put a softball in her hands,” Porter says. “She’s in high school now and has not stopped playing softball yet.”
“I would say 90% of our students have a story like that,” Porter says. “There’s something that someone gave them or put in their hands here at Breakthrough that changed their outlook.”
Thanks to your financial and prayerful support, the NBSAP and Breakthrough Ministries are helping transform the East Garfield Park community and the lives of the children in it. “The money that donors provide is actually confirming our mission and making it possible where success becomes the norm here,” Porter says. Thank you!