Bringing in the Big Brothers Big Sisters nonprofit agency to nurture Skokie students has paid off, Maureen Murphy, director of Skokie's Human Services Department, told village trustees at the board meeting Monday.
Students in the program have made gains in attendance rates, academic success and students' self confidence.
The program completed its first year at Skokie-Morton Grove School District 69 in June, and the next step is to expand and solidify it in the district, she said. After that, the program could expand to include District 68 as well.
District 69 was well-suited for the program, Murphy said, because of its demographics: 54 percent of students come from low-income families, 52 percent speak a language other than English at home, and 56 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago has about 50 site-based mentoring programs, and the Skokie program compares favorably.
Academically, 83 percent of the mentees improved or maintained their grades, compared to 59 percent in Chicagoland. Sixty-nine percent improved in at least one subject, and 86 percent had a school attendance rate of 90 percent or higher, which Jeremy Foster, senior vice president of development for BBBS of Metro Chicago said is one of the highest rates in Chicagoland. Also, parents or guardians reported 100 percent of students improved in self-confidence.
Though 20 students started with the program last school year, some did not complete the year. Murphy said she would like to see at least 20 fully engaged students as the new school year kicks off.
"This is a really critical program for Skokie, and your results are outstanding," said Trustee Randall Roberts, and asked how the village could help.
"Not that we can give you everything. But for quality of life for our citizens and public safety, it’s great."
He added it was a little embarrassing that only 20 percent of the volunteers in the D69 program were from Skokie.
Foster responded it would be great if the village could put out the word asking for more volunteers.
Roberts also asked whether an adult who didn't have enough time to attend the twice-monthly mentoring sessions could still contribute.
Foster said the program is set up with a one-to-one mentor-mentee model, but that time-pressed adults could still contribute by coming to speak at one of the meetings, noting that Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen had done so.
"The research shows it works best with a one to one relationship," Foster said, and one of his colleagues added consistency was also important.