Despite significant change and instability, COVID-19 did not slowed down our programming in 2020. The social conditions around COVID-19 have made our work more important than ever before. The BIPOC families that we serve continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Our programs, which focus on supporting children and youth’s mental health and wellbeing, are essential to combat the increased stress and instability these young people are facing. Read on to learn how Bright Promises responded to this increased need in 2020.
SEL@Home: Social Emotional Learning at Home engages children’s first and most important teachers – their parents/caregivers, to create safe, positive home environments and support children’s healthy social and emotional development. Focusing on social emotional learning (SEL) during this time of crisis is helping children and parents regain a sense of calm, improve parent-child relationships, and increase safety and stability in the home. In addition, the process of developing social and emotional skills helps promote school readiness, academic success, positive coping skills, and appropriate cognitive development.
Despite the increased challenges created by COVID-19, 100% of our partners were able to pivot their programs to continue to safely serve families during the pandemic and SEL@Home programs took place at 288 sites across Metropolitan Chicago. Bright Promises worked with our partners to adapt SEL programs to reach families virtually, helping organizations to create on-line tools/programming rooted in SEL to address the stresses of COVID-19 and providing additional services to help parents alleviate their children's fears and maintain positive home environments during the ongoing crisis.
2020 SEL@Home Program Partners:
Bright Promises Early Childhood Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP) provides support to early childhood education agencies to implement sustainable quality improvements that directly benefit low-income children between the ages of birth to five.
The conditions around COVID-19 have made access to high-quality early childhood education more important than ever before, especially for the families we serve who continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The stress and instability caused by the pandemic places these young children at significantly higher risk of falling behind in their academic, social, and emotional development. These detrimental impacts can be mitigated through participation in high-quality early childhood education programs.
During 2020, Bright Promises also gave emergency grants to early childhood centers serving low-income families to meet increased costs caused by the pandemic, ensuring these centers were able to remain open and operating so first responders and other essential workers would have a safe place for their children.
2020 EQUIP Program Partners:
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bright Promises has supported the immediate needs of low-income children and families through the Bright Promises COVID-19 Response Fund. Bright Promises response efforts have been focused on four main areas of pressing, unmet need:
Four rounds of emergency grants were made during 2020 to support organizations serving low-income families across Metropolitan Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. These grants have addressed the urgent needs of low-income children and families, while also providing a lifeline to the agencies serving these families, ensuring that the infrastructure necessary for recovery remains intact.
Since launching the SEL@Home initiative, Bright Promises and our partners have gained extensive knowledge and expertise in implementing effective social emotional learning (SEL) programs in diverse communities. Through the SEL@Home Collaborative Action Project, Bright Promises is creating opportunities for our program partners to teach and train other organizations how to incorporate evaluated and proven-effective SEL practices into their programs for children and families. Beginning in 2020, Bright Promises launched a 2-year project to actively expand and disseminate SEL principles so that more agencies can provide these services, and more children and families can benefit. This new project is in addition to ongoing SEL@Home programming that Bright Promises is supporting at more than 200 sites across Chicagoland.
“Our goal is to form a true coalition so that we can work together to actively disseminate best practices to other agencies,” Lauren Krieg, Bright Promises Senior Program Office explained, “Together, we are exploring ways to collaborate, share information and materials, and figure out how to educate other organizations about why intentional SEL education is so important for parents and caregivers.”
Bright Promises employs a unique and innovative model to address the most pressing issues impacting low-income Metropolitan Chicago children that are currently under-recognized and under-funded in Illinois. Every four years, Bright Promises convenes Focus Panels of experts to select a single issue that negatively impacts children in Illinois that is not well-addressed or understood.
In 2020, Bright Promises convened two separate panels of professionals with expertise in multiple disciplines having to do with children and youth. The expert panels were comprised of leaders in the fields of early childhood education, children’s mental health, policy and advocacy, homelessness, childhood trauma, violence prevention, pediatric medicine, immigrant and refugee services, and disability services. Through a process of guided discussion, brainstorming and voting, the panel honed in on a single issue. The second panel was comprised of experts with experience and knowledge within the issue identified by the first panel. Using the recommendations of these experts and through further research, Bright Promises selected strategies to address the root of the issue with the goal of supporting programs that create lasting, sustainable changes in practice that will benefit children for the rest of their lives.
The public announcement of Bright Promises latest Focused Funding issue will take place in March, 2021. We wish to thank all the experts who offered their knowledge and passion to this process. Click here for a full list of experts who participated on the 2020 Focus Funding panels.
Each year, Bright Promises Foundation takes time to recognize individuals who go above and beyond to create opportunities for Chicago children and youth. The 2020 Awards honored Debbie Frisch, foster mother and Founder of HelloBaby; Nancy Aardema, community organizer and outgoing Executive Director of Logan Square Neighborhood Association; and Jahmal Cole, activist and Founder/CEO of My Block, My Hood, My City.
Debbie Frisch has served under-resourced families with young children for 20+ years as a nonprofit volunteer, board director, board officer and as foster mother to 56 children. In 2017 she opened HelloBaby, the first free-standing, fee-free drop-in play space for ages birth to 3 years and their caregivers. With 15,000+ visits, HelloBaby is a change agent in the Woodlawn community, providing a welcoming, safe space that promotes development of social, emotional, language, math and motor skills.
Lifetime Achievement Award - Nancy Aardema
With over 35 years experience as a community organizer, Nancy Aardema is widely recognized as an expert in the field. She has served as the Executive Director of Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) for 33 years, building the community school movement, reshaping education organizing, and creating mutual support networks for thousands of families. At LSNA, Nancy helped establish the Parent Mentor Program, the Community Schools model, and the Grow Your Own Teachers Program, connecting it all to a holistic organizing plan for housing, immigration, wellness, and economic development.
Elevating Youth Voices Award – Jahmal Cole
Jahmal Cole is a champion of social justice. His mission is to build a more interconnected Chicago on the pillars of service and education. As the founder and CEO of My Block My Hood My City, Jahmal is the creator of an exposure-based education program for underprivileged youth and a network of volunteer initiatives that serve Chicago communities year-round. Cole is also the author of The Torch of Decency: Rekindling the Spirit of Community Organizations, Exposure Is Key: Solving Violence By Exposing Teens to Opportunities, and It’s Not Regular.
All donors are listed alphabetically. Each and every gift that we receive, of every size, is an investment in a bright future for Chicago's children and makes a difference in the lives of children in need. We thank all of our donors for their generous support.
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Gaylord Gieseke, President
Marilyn Eisenberg, Vice President & Fundraising and Marketing Committee Chair
Ed Davies, Secretary & Program and Advocacy Committee Chair
Jay Rosenbloom, Treasurer & Finance Committee Chair
Shari Runner, Board Development Committee Chair
Nannette Zander, Awards Committee Chair
Marjorie Craig Benton
Judith Walker Kendrick
Iris Krieg, Executive Director
Lauren Krieg, Senior Program Officer
Shilpa Bavikatte, EQUIP Program Officer
Katherine (Dreher) Korey, Director of Development & Marketing
Nettie Snowden, Finance Manager
Betty Jo Joy, Grants Manager
Donna Kilpatrick, Office Manager