Evanston Township High School is working to help parents and the community become more involved in the education process of the City’s youth by sharing resources and a welcoming space on school grounds where people can go to ask questions and obtain support.  

Alicia Hart, ETHS New Student Transition Coordinator and Robert Brown, Associate Principal, Academic Affairs, gave an update to the District 202 School Board at its Jan. 12 meeting about work happening in the school’s new Welcome Center.

“The ETHS Welcome Center serves as a resource for parents, families, school employees, and the community,” states the written report to the Board. “Through a variety of programming, the Welcome Center looks forward to offering uniquely designed workshops and programs that are crafted to meet parent needs and encourage parental involvement and leadership in the community at large.

The goal is to cultivate a learning community among parents, caregivers, educators and residents of the Evanston/Skokie community to increase support of ETHS students as valued members of the school community.”

Objectives

To accomplish this goal, ETHS will put energy into educating and empowering parents on how best to access services they need both in and out of the school setting. The Welcome Center will serve as a resource clearinghouse where parents can learn about local services that can assist their child. Materials from community organizations will be available and a lending library will have relevant books to check out. The school is currently working with the Family Action Network to schedule guest speakers and the Center plans to provide English as a Second Language workshops for adults. Media literacy will also be stressed to help parents navigate online supports like Naviance and the Home Access Center. The Welcome Center will continue to help new families with the enrollment process.

The hope in providing parent education is “that parents themselves can model life-long learning,” said Ms. Hart.

Reaching Out to Diverse Populations

Part of the discussion at the Board meeting focused on efforts to reach out to populations that could benefit from the resources offered by the Welcome Center. Bill Geiger, District 202 Board member, asked about the Center’s stated intention of being “culturally relevant.” Ms. Hart and Mr. Brown elaborated on how outreach will be “more intentional,” targeting new and growing populations within the school. For example, more and more grandparents are being listed as primary contacts for ETHS students. The Center plans to start a grandparents’ group to help them feel connected to the school.

Latino and Black service groups have already begun using the Center for meetings and outreach. The Center also intends to provide resources and support for LGBTQ families.  Dual language signage and Spanish-speaking volunteers are intentionally positioned in the Center to make sure all families who access the center can connect with someone who speaks their language. The idea is to make everyone feel welcome and connected at ETHS, said Ms. Hart.

The Center is located in E112, the room that housed the College and Career Center before it moved to the HUB, and has been open for only four months. During that time, ETHS parent groups such as ETHS Black Advocacy Network (E-BAN), Parent Ambassadors, Parents Engaged, Latino Advisory Committee have utilized the space. Community organizations including Northwestern University, Positive Presence, Cradle to Career and Black Male Summit Planning Committee have also met there. Several community events have been held in the Welcome Center: Parent Shadow Day, Bilingual Program Parent Night, Historically Black College and University Night, Freshman Transition Events and an ETHS Branding Event. There have also been individual visits from parents for enrollment assistance.

Accessing the Center

The Center is available for community group meetings and other activities before, during and after school hours as needed. Those interested in reserving space for events can contact the Welcome Center directly at extension 7008 (847-424-7008). Information on activities in the Welcome Center is available on ETHS’s website. It is not necessary to have an appointment to come in an access the Center, however. Guests who show up at the school are directed to the Center and connected with the appropriate staff. Spanish-speaking volunteers and staff are available.

“This is a place with room to grow,” said Ms. Hart. “There is a lot we can do.”