It turns out the big idea is…start small. Really small. Like your own backyard. Or, in AbbVie’s case, in North Chicago, Ill., home of the company’s global headquarters. That’s where AbbVie has joined forces with North Chicago Community Partners (NCCP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that students’ needs, both in and outside the classroom, can be met for educational success.
Addressing an urgent need
NCCP’s innovative partnership approach shows how enormous strides are possible when a group of dedicated public and private groups — each invested in helping a community’s school district thrive — come together to provide a better future to underprivileged students.
In North Chicago, the educational challenges are daunting. The Illinois state board of education took control of the school district in 2012, after the district struggled for many years to meet the diverse academic needs of its students. The district, ranked among the bottom 10% in the state, also faces debilitating funding problems. In early 2015, nearly 1 in 4 North Chicago residents were living in poverty, and unemployment was as high as 9.7%; meanwhile the area’s property tax base is shrinking.
Lack of basic resources can be a major barrier to academic success. Just ask 9-year-old Estrella Perez, a nearsighted public elementary student without access to prescription eyeglasses. As a result, she could barely read her textbooks, much less the teacher’s notes at the front of the classroom. Unfortunately, her situation was all too common in her underfunded school district.
But North Chicago Community Partners does not let kids like Estrella fall through the cracks. Over the last three years, NCCP’s strategic partnership with North Chicago Community Unit School District has been remarkably successful. Thanks to resources provided by NCCP, vision and hearing resources are now widely available. With access to new school-based food pantries, students from needy families are less hungry. And due to NCCP’s active community outreach, parents have become more engaged with their children’s academic pursuits.
At the same time, the district’s high school graduation rate has risen dramatically— from 58% three years ago to 70% in 2015—while attendance, which was as low as 69% in 2012, has now increased to 90% at each school.