25 July 2014
  • Bethel New Life Awarded Kellogg Grant for Family College

  • Two-Year Grant for Pilot Program

    Bethel New Life has played a key role in community development on the West Side of Chicago for over three decades. “Thirty-five years of investment has taught us that we must first reduce concentrated poverty in order to move the West Side forward. Doing this requires targeted and sustained investment in education and employment,” said Dr. Lori Vallelunga, President and CEO of Bethel New Life. “As a community and on an individual level, we must create opportunities for residents to move out of poverty and stay out of poverty.”

    In August, Bethel will launch Family College, a pilot program with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Family College will provide education for children and job skills training for adults. The program will also help to evaluate whether a two-generation model is more efficient at moving families out of poverty than traditional approaches.

    “We focus on programs that have long-lasting impact for individuals and our communities,” said Vallelunga. “Currently, this means a resolute focus on economic development and improved education. Bethel has effective programs that help children improve their reading skills and provide adults training that leads to long-term careers in good paying jobs. Family College will help us evaluate how best to scale access to the education and training needed for West Side residents to lift themselves out of poverty.”

    W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, MI awarded Bethel a $750,000 grant to pilot and evaluate the impact of a two-generational strategy to help West Side Chicago families move out of poverty. The pilot program will run May 2014 – June 2016 and will support ninety West Side families. Family College will be used as a tool to help guide strategies to reduce concentrated poverty. The pilot results will help shape programmatic and policy investments and contribute to the national discussion around two-generation strategies.

    We are appealing to local churches, schools, and
    out of school time educators to help us find families.

    Two-Generation Approach, Family College

    Two-generation programs are a promising practice to address generational poverty. The programs provide children with early education intervention vital to academic success. In addition, parents receive support to facilitate the economic mobility essential for the family to escape poverty. Family College participants will access opportunities through education and training, economic support, and social capital. Parents and children will have access to opportunities in education and training; while economic support will focus on asset building and housing counseling for adults. Participants will enhance their social capital through intentional social network building, leadership development, family social interaction enhancement, problem-solving and other personal development activities.

    Continue the Bethel Strategy

    While some two-generation programs focus on incentives for parents, Bethel New Life plans to continue its approach of providing opportunities for individuals and families ready to help themselves. “Our access to opportunity model has produced great results,” said Elayne Nickolaou, Director of Education at Bethel New Life. “Families that participate in our Brain Train programs see their children improve their reading and learn to read on grade level. Our workforce development programs produce people with high demand NIMS credentials in advanced manufacturing and impressive completion and certification rates of 100%. The cohorts from our utilities constructions program (CONSTRUCT) were so impressive that companies showed up to the graduation ready to hire the graduates. We have solid programs with great outcomes. Family College will give additional self-motivated West Side residents access to these programs and access to a real opportunity to exit poverty.”

    Happy Afro-American family using a laptop in the living-room

    Ready to Recruit 30 Families

    Family College is free to participants. Bethel is seeking to enroll thirty families in Family
    College in the first year, and sixty families the following year. The families must have at least one child in grades kindergarten to third.

    “We are appealing to local churches, schools, and out of school time educators to help us find families,” said Dr. Vallelunga. “We want people who are ready to invest in a better
    education for their kids, a secure career for themselves; and who are open to networking with families that want the same thing. We know those families exist. They sign their kids up for Brain Train and join our Work Force Development programs. Here is a chance for a family to take collective steps toward personal improvement.”

    Sharing the Benefits

    Other out of school time education programs can benefit from the strategies used in Family College by joining the Out of School Time Education Consortium (OSTEC), a networking and support group for educators.

    “Our 35 years of experience has contributed to our current success in education and
    economic development. We want to share our methods and strategies with others because we know it will take many partnerships and a lot of collaborations to move the West Side out of entrenched poverty,” said Dr. Vallelunga. “Family College is a great opportunity for families to invest in themselves and improve their circumstances. We know there are other groups who want to offer similar opportunities, and the consortium is a vehicle for all West Side educators to learn from each other and improve programs.”

    Family College Program Flyer

    About Bethel New Life

    Bethel New Life is a 501c3 non-profit organization based in Chicago formed by a small Lutheran church on the West Side of Chicago in response to the devastation and disinvestment that followed the civil rights riots of the late 1960s. Bethel’s mission is to realize God’s vision of a restored society by creating opportunities for individuals and families to invest in themselves and by promoting policies and systems that help communities thrive.

    Bethel New Life operates as a new breed of community investment organization on Chicago’s West Side which includes Chicago’s Austin, West and East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and North Lawndale communities. We invest in people who are ready to invest in themselves and we impact the systems and policies that dampen the human spirit and prevent communities from thriving.

    For more information about Bethel New Life, visit bethelnewlife.org. To learn read Bethel’s strategy to transform the West Side, West Side Forward>, visit westsideforward.org. Contact ENickolaou@BethelNewLife.org (773) 473-7870 x 139 for information on the Out of School Time Education Consortium.

    About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

    The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

    The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.