HAPPENING NOW /COMMUNITY UPDATE
Goal: Improve the lives of youth and families through expanded educational opportunities, arts and culture, higher education, job opportunities and safety.
Address overcrowding in our CPS elementary schools
Create an Education/Youth parent-led Belmont Cragin Coalition
Address safety concerns through youth leadership and gang intervention/prevention programs
Expand summer youth sports programming
Create a college readiness, vocational and entrepreneurial training program for high school youth
Improve the performance and perception of our neighborhood high schools, including enrollment and utilizing the community school model
Increase education and training programs and resources for parents, ESL, GED, workforce development
Belmont Cragin is home to nearly 26,000 residents under the age
of 19, more than one-third of our neighborhood’s population. Not only are these young people the leaders of tomorrow, for many of our families who are recent immigrants with limited or no English, the children serve as their translators and help navigate the culture and bureaucracies of their new world.
Our schools must have the resources and programs to prepare our students for college and career, and our young people should always feel safe and engaged, with many cultural, artistic, athletic and educational activities to help them grow.
Belmont Cragin has strong neighborhood elementary schools.
Belmont Cragin is home to quality public elementary schools, most ranked by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) at Level 1 or 1+, CPS’s highest ratings, an asset that helps attract new families to our community. Almost all of our neighborhood elementary schools enroll more students in their attendance areas than the average CPS school citywide, and parents are involved in the classrooms and make their voices heard about the direction of schools and education in our community.
As the population grows, though, so have concerns over adequate space and facilities to provide students with an environment conducive to learning. CPS has opened new schools over the last decade in the community, and yet parents and educators alike know there is a continued need for more capacity. Five local elementary schools are overcrowded, including Belmont Cragin Elementary, which is at nearly twice capacity. In total, more than 1,800 elementary school students in our community attend an overcrowded school.
Our high schools are vital to the community but in danger of falling behind.
Our local public high schools—Foreman, Steinmetz and Prosser—are community-focused institutions that are open to educate all students in the community, including many who face barriers such as living in poverty, limited English capabilities and undocumented status. Across the city, neighborhood high schools are losing local students—only a quarter of CPS high school students attend their neighborhood school. Our schools are fighting this same trend. In the 2015 – 16 school year, 36 percent of students living in Steinmetz’s attendance area went to the school, for example. For Foreman, the percent in the attendance area who attended the school was 30 percent. Both schools also had fewer students than the previous year.
Belmont Cragin’s neighborhood high schools are rated by CPS at Level 2, below average for student attainment. Factors contributing to falling enrollment numbers may include this relatively low academic achievement, construction of new charter schools in the neighborhood, and public safety concerns within and around the school buildings.
Youth in Belmont Cragin need more activities and opportunities to play and learn outside of school. We need more programs and a wider array of options for our kids, so they can stay safe, have fun and reach their full potential.
Our community’s many young people need programs and opportunities to thrive.
As Belmont Cragin has changed, the mix of youth living in the community has changed as well. We have more immigrants, more children living in poverty, more kids from a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures. While many local institutions such as Northwest Community Church and St. Peter’s Church are diligently working to provide youth programming, there are notable gaps in services.
We also need more safe spaces for youth outside of academic and other institutional settings. For example, our parks are underutilized resources, with limited hours, programming and staffing, a need for renovation and, in some cases, trouble with public safety and gangs.
Public safety is a growing problem for young people in Belmont Cragin.
Belmont Cragin has experienced an increase in criminal and gang activity, with much of that activity aimed at our youth. The neighborhood has too many disconnected youth who lack engagement in employment and school, which leaves them vulnerable to violence. Many students worry about their safety at school and traveling to and from home. As in much of the nation and the city, there is a need for a more positive and trusting relationship between community members, particularly but not only between youth and police.
We need to create more opportunities for lifelong success.
With a high number of immigrants and an increasing number of families living below the poverty line, Belmont Cragin is behind the citywide average for the educational attainment. We have an insu cient number of programs to serve hardworking residents who want to improve their opportunities. Although Belmont Cragin has the most English as a Second Language (ESL) students of any community in the City College system, there is no local employment agency or workforce program in our community.
Strategies and Projects / Education & Youth
Improve the lives of youth and families through expanded educational opportunities, arts and culture, higher education, job opportunities and safety.