A Better Chicago to grant $7M targeting mental health for CPS students recovering from pandemic learning loss

Bessie Alcantara, Executive Director of Alternatives, Inc., stands inside Alternatives Uptown location, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Bessie Alcantara, executive director of Alternatives, Inc., stands inside the organization’s Uptown location on Monday. Alternatives is among eight organizations that will receive more than $7 million in grants from A Better Chicago. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

On Tuesday the local venture philanthropy fund A Better Chicago will announce grants to seven groups targeting COVID-19 learning deficits impacting Chicago Public Schools students.

A month into the third school year rocked by COVID-19, a local venture philanthropy fund Tuesday will announce more than $7 million in grants targeting the COVID-19 learning deficits impacting Chicago Public Schools students — by focusing on their mental health.

The unique grants arise from A Better Chicago’s Chicago Design Challenge, seeking innovations with potential to accelerate learning recovery and promote mental health among CPS students, as Chicago and the nation struggle with education amid COVID.

In a survey of 1,500 parents from all 77 Chicago communities, 44% reported their children experienced increased symptoms of mental or behavioral health disorders during the pandemic, and 18% reported an inability to access mental health services, according to a recent report by Lurie Children’s Hospital.

At the same time, studies show there were vast learning deficits triggered by remote learning.

Nationwide, students in first through sixth grades fell four months behind in reading by the end of last school year, a McKinsey and Company report found. And the U.S. Department of Education reported late elementary and early middle school students are roughly six to 10 weeks behind in reading aptitude expectations.

“The pandemic exacerbated systemic inequities that already existed in our city and country. This manifested in the education space as disparities in school funding for quality remote learning and safe return, as well as at-home access to high-speed internet and devices,” said Marshana Roberts Pace, director of investment at A Better Chicago.

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“The COVID pandemic has also resulted in detrimental social-emotional impacts on Chicago’s youth that could threaten their achievements later in life.”

The challenge, a collaboration with The University of Chicago Education Lab and The Chicago Public Education Fund, was framed against findings from last year’s Mapping COVID-19 Recovery Project.

Provided/A Better Chicago
Marshana Roberts Pace, director of investment, A Better Chicago.

That Field Foundation-led collaboration of 25 prominent Chicago philanthropic and civic entities for the first time unveiled where public, private and philanthropic sector investments had been going — or not going — in COVID-devastated BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities in Chicago and Cook County.

“Our efforts through the Mapping Project produced crucial data that helped us ensure we’re directing resources to populations and communities most in need,” Pace said of the seven winners of the multiyear grants, which were whittled from more than 110 proposals.

Grantees include Alternatives, Inc.; Chicago HOPES for Kids; Juvenile Protective Association; Leading Educators; Lion’s Pride Mentoring; VOCEL (Viewing Our Children as Emerging Leaders); and Roosevelt University. The groups are targeting students from early learners to high school, and …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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