Dimons give $1 million to SSA for urban school reform programs

    Dimons give $1 million to SSA for urban school reform programs

    The School of Social Service Administration has announced a $1 million gift from Judith and James Dimon, civic leaders and long-time advocates of urban school reform, to support the training of graduate students who plan to work in community schools and social workers who already are working in community school settings.

    “We are thrilled to support the crucial work that the School of Social Service Administration and its graduates do to improve the public school system,” said Judith Dimon, a member of the school’s Visiting Committee. “Chicago is the kind of city where urban school reform can succeed because we have support from the Chicago Public Schools and the city’s civic and educational leaders such as the University of Chicago.”

    Community schools within the Chicago Public Schools system engage professionals who bring together students, teachers, parents and other community resources for the express purpose of overcoming the barriers to learning that many urban children face. For example, community schools often offer programs and services during and after school to improve learning and strengthen families.

    SSA’s Community Schools Program was launched 18 months ago with a grant from Bank One/Chase. The Bank One/Chase Program for Leadership in Community Schools is designed to meet the growing need for professionals who can work effectively at the highest level of school administration to identify and secure resources for public school students. These resources include school not-for-profit partnerships; promotion of school-wide change through organizational methods; and data-driven decision-making regarding how behavioral, social and environmental factors that children, families and communities encounter can affect educational achievement.

    The gift was announced at a recent SSA Visiting Committee meeting, at which SSA graduates participated in a forum titled “Working at the Intersection of Social Work and Education.” Melissa Roderick, Associate Professor in SSA, the first cohort of Community School fellows, and SSA graduates talked about their experiences in the field.

    Paul Fagen (A.M.,’98, SSA), the class advisor at North Lawndale College Prep Charter High School, who has served as counselor for four consecutive years with the high school’s first graduating class, noted a graduation rate at 91 percent, compared with 47 percent for all CPS schools. Eighty-seven percent of the students in the North Lawndale graduating class will continue their education at two- or four-year colleges, Fagen added.

    President Randel applauded the work of the SSA graduates. “The connections our students make with children who often have limited support systems can be the difference between their staying on the right path or getting lost.”

    Judith Dimon is a recognized leader in New York City and Chicago for her dedication to promoting the community schools movement. James Dimon is a University Trustee. A portion of the Dimon gift also will support the President’s Fund at the University.

    SSA’s Community Schools program is an important part of the University’s many efforts to improve public education. The Dimon gift to SSA also contributes to the Chicago Initiative, the University’s $2 billion capital campaign, of which more than $1.25 billion has been raised to date.