BAPA Staff Profile: Meet Gary Jenkins, Education and Safety Program Coordinator 

By Kristin Boza 

Last month, Gary Jenkins joined BAPA’s core team as the new Education and Safety Program Coordinator. In this role, Jenkins will be a resource for local schools and parents, as well as work with the 22nd District Police and 19th Ward Office to promote neighborhood safety initiatives. 

Jenkins has lived with his wife Sharon in the neighborhood for over 15 years and they have been married for nearly 19 years. Sharon is a South Side Chicago native but Jenkins is a New York City native, born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx 

His background as an investigator for CPS and the Inspector General’s office, as well as a community leader has primed him to take on this new role. He is entering his second term as president of the Vanderpoel Improvement Association (VIA), and has served as the CAPS Beat Facilitator for Beat 2213 for the last 10 years. Knowing the ins and outs of the public school system allows him to knowledgeably develop key relationships with local public and private school principals and LSC groups. 

“I have a vast institutional knowledge of CPS, particularly when it comes to how parents, businesses and the community work with CPS,” he said. “With almost 40 years of work experience, I’ve worked with many different people in different environments and learned valuable ways to communicate with a variety of people.” 

BAPA’s initiatives to engage younger families in the Beverly/Morgan Park communities is integral to ensuring steady community support. Jenkins says he is looking forward to working with this population when it comes to questions about area schools and personal safety. 

As he begins his tenure at BAPA, Jenkins will be building relationships to find out what types of support schools need and how BAPA can help. He will also work with the safety committee to ensure it is a viable and long-lasting resource for the community. 

“I’m looking forward to getting out in the neighborhood and introducing myself. My goals are simple: to get out there and do good things,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been working in this community since we moved here and BAPA is a natural fit for me to expand my reach.” 

The Way I See It

By Heather Wills, Chair, BAPA Education Committee

It is still a marvel to me on how my family and I had the excellent fortune to stumble upon the community of Beverly/Morgan Park eleven years ago. We had been living in a condominium on the North Side. We wanted to remain in the city, but transition into a house. Our big prerequisites were a robust, vibrant and diverse community, along with strong schools.

I had told my husband about working in Beverly/Morgan Park as a nanny one summer while home from college. It had been for a family that lived in the St. Cajetan parish, which meant absolutely nothing to me at the time, being a good protestant from the suburbs. We decided to take a drive down one spring evening and knew with certainty that we had found our neighborhood; the community where we would set down roots and raise our family.

When you think about strong neighborhoods, places featured in Chicago Magazine or areas where statistics are touted in the Chicago Tribune, schools are always an identifying factor. The whole community of schools is taken into consideration, not just the public, private or parochial schools. In order to keep all our community schools prospering, even the ones our children do not attend, we need to be deliberate in helping them succeed. One of BAPA Education Committee’s vital goals is to involve the community in meaningful partnerships with our local schools. This includes schools helping schools by making connections with one another, as well as the community becoming familiar with all their neighborhood schools.

I have been in the field of education for the past 16 years, and am sure that I am not alone in thinking that teaching is one of the most fulfilling occupations, also one of the most demanding. I once heard a devoted and respected teacher say that she spent her career knowing that she had daily failures in the classroom. If you question that, think about how you feel as a parent on any given day, or is that just me? The Education Committee will be working with local schools and The Villager to highlight some of our phenomenal teachers and programs. Our schools and teachers are doing some incredible work with students and it should be recognized.

Open and fluid communication between parents, schools, local elected officials and other community stakeholders is another important goal of the BAPA Education Committee. We are privileged to have numerous school choices for our children in the community. We may not always agree on policies and decisions, but we can work together in creating a climate and culture where everyone feels heard and valued.

There are so many things that I have grown to love about the Beverly/Morgan Park community. I am thankful that we found a neighborhood which values education, and understands the importance of working together. I hope that we will continue to grow in our efforts and stand alongside schools to help them maximize the academic achievement and social competence of all students in a safe, nurturing and developmentally rich environment.