By Tina Jenkins Bell
BAPA School Liaison
My mom had a saying when we faced seemingly impossible odds: “We will make a way out of no way.” Her words resonate with me when I think about how our schools and community done what was needed to “make a way out of” a pandemic, isolation, new ways of living, new ways of thinking, and new ways of learning— all for our children.
This feeling was very apparent during Teacher’s Appreciation and Spirit Weeks in May when Mary Jo Viero and I visited our neighborhood schools to promote their strengths as educators and learning communities, and to hang out with the preschoolers and kindergarteners whose energy and enthusiasm I’m still sailing on today.
In preparation for our Spirit Week visits, I worked with a committee to gather items for a teacher’s swag bag. Brittany Wiley, BAPA’s Business Liaison, alerted community businesses of the opportunity to support educators. We garnered discounts, coupons or gifts for the swag bags from Live and Believe Nutrition, Turkey Chicago, City Grange, Horse Thief Hollow, Barre It All Fitness, Franconello, Target (Oak Lawn) Zing Health Care, Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois/Blue Door Neighborhood Center Morgan Park, Mary Kay Director and Consultant Joyce LeFlore and Sherry Sims, Healthcare Representative Penny Tillman, and BAPA.
Once we had the items, a bigger job awaited us, and that was. A crew of volunteers showed up at BAPA early on a Sunday to pack and organize by school a total of 600 swag bags. It deserves noting that one was a teacher, one was a former principal, three were teens, and four lived in neighboring communities. Among this crew were Lydia Barnes, Earl and Evan Bell, Jaylon Cox, Roberta Fields, Joyce LeFlore, Henry and Christian O’Neal, Evie Poole, Sherry Sims, Sydney Sharpley, Beverly Alexander Tillison, and Christine Wyatt. An added thank you to Dr. John Loehr for helping to track down appreciation gifts and to Regina O’Connor for helping me deliver free Love Where You Learn t-shirts to the principals at each of the schools.
I felt a bit like Santa Claus as Mary Jo and I carried large sacks filled with teacher’s appreciation bags for principals to disburse. Mary Jo and I were present to say thank you to some of the teachers in person. But more so, we captured an indelible esprit de corps in the testimonies from each principal, teacher, student, and other staff that rang as harmonious notes in the same song, the theme being strong, student-centered academics, acceptance, familial community, and student fulfillment. Pride and dedication emanated from every principal, teacher, security guard, custodian, and support staff; they all worked together to “train up a child in the way he should go. And even when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov22:6).
Thank you to each school that opened its doors and let Mary Jo and I see, firsthand, your brilliance, perseverance, ingenuity, resilience, and hope. We look forward to celebrating routinely by continuing to offer support, resources, and willingness to collaborate.
We Have a Teen Corps Graduate!
About a year ago, BAPA started the Teen Volunteer Corps. I was blessed to work with these teens. One of our Teen Corps members, Jaylon Cox, graduates St. Rita High School this year and will be attending the University of Illinois in the fall. Jaylon has been a constant presence at Teen Corps meetings, tours, volunteer events, and workshops. He created the Teen Corps logo and is a graphic designer, fashion designer, and finance enthusiast. Jaylon, we wish you well and expect great things.
If your teen is graduating, please send me a photo along with the name of their school and their next steps, be it college, military, or otherwise.
MPA Class of 2021 Wins Scholarship Dollars
Morgan Park Academy graduating seniors have much to celebrate, too. The Class of 2021 collectively earned $4.4 million in scholarships and gained admission to some of the nation’s top colleges and universities, including: University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Michigan, University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University, Howard University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College.
Another Student Accomplishment
Beverly/Morgan Park resident and De LaSalle Institute student Malachi Neely recently took 1st place in the Law Day Youth Civics Contest, 9-12 grade category. The award was presented by the Federation Bar Association, Chicago Chapter.
Students Benefit from Programs
19thWard Mutual Aid and BAPA recently offered a successful film class. Participants learned the ins and outs of storyboarding, character-building, costuming, directing, and shooting film. Tim Noonan, who facilitated the class, plans to upload classes, so that participants and other youth can elect to complete short movies and enter them into a back-to-school film festival this fall. For more details, contact Noonan, aid19Ward@gmail.com.
BAPA’s Teen Volunteer Corps sponsored a job readiness workshop, facilitated by employment psychologist Megan Connolly. Participants learned how to network, write elevator pitches, and reframe their job experiences for future benefits. BAPA will have the workshop available at bapa.org.
Not Goodbye, See You Soon
The school year is ending with two dynamic principals retiring and moving on to new chapters in their lives, Elaine Gaffney of St. Barnabas School and Veronica Cash of St. Walter School. These women ushered their schools through a maze of challenges presented by COVID and sparked prevailing, growing learning communities.