"Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another." -Desmond Tutu
Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3)
The fifth cohort of the Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute launches in July 2022. Communities can apply as teams to receive coaching, consultation, and training over the course of a year from our CS3 coaches and trainers. Deepen your collective and individual knowledge on community systems, systems building, and systems change by participating in this free and unique opportunity! To apply and learn more, visit the Partner Plan Act website. You can also download the Application Description and Request for Supports.
The CS3 team is happy to sponsor the full cost of registration for three conferences occurring in the Fall:
- November 17-19, Race Forward is hosting its annual conference, Facing Race. This conference is being offered virtually and in-person. If you are interested in attending in-person, please note that we will not be able to support your travel costs, only your registration. If you are interested in attending, please complete this form.
- September 13-15, Stanford Social Innovation Review is hosting a virtual conference titled, Bridging the Divide. If you work at the community level and are interested in attending, please complete the form here.
- November 15-16, University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign is hosting its annual CQI Conference: Nurturing Your CQI Garden in person. Please note that we will not be able to support your travel costs, only your registration. If you are interested in attending, please complete this form.
Registration is not guaranteed and will be offered on a first come, first served basis. If you are interested in attending, please be sure to complete the form(s) by June 15, 2022.
Parent Perspective – Juan Rocha /p>
This month CS3 Trainer/Coach and parent advocate, Janet Vargas, spoke with Juan Rocha. Sr. Rocha participated in the Partner Plan Act conference where he was a panelist on the Parent Roundtable Discussion. This conversation was conducted in Spanish and translated into English by Janet.
- Can you give me a quick background on your parent engagement within the Early Childhood System?
Currently I work with the community as a Head Start Ambassador at Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI). I share information with the community. I go house-to-house, sharing information about Head Start. We continue to find families who do not have their children in an early childhood program. Today we found a family with a four-year-old who had never been in any program because the family didn’t know these were available. We gave the father material so that he can read to and teach his child. We explained how he can read to him, point out colors and animals, and shapes to him to help him develop his brain because at that age, children absorb everything.
In past years we found families with grandparents who always worked and never knew that these programs exist. Their children have challenges, and the grandparents end up raising their grandchildren. When we find the grandparents, they still don’t know about these programs. I also invite parents to leadership meetings and some have gone. I always try to engage the community.
- When and how did you first get involved?
Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) gave me the tools to be a good leader. The leadership trainings that COFI offered helped me learn that we’re life learners and that we can continue to develop as individuals. In this case the first thing I focused on was the Head Start program, because of how important the first years of life are for a child. At COFI, I learned how important it was to read to my children. I did it with my children in addition to them attending Head Start at El Valor in Pilsen. I took advantage of the opportunity to develop my sons’ brains. Now I get to share my experience with other parents so that they can do the same with their babies. This will never change.
- How did your parent engagement role evolve from volunteering in programs to more of a leadership and advocacy role?
Everything started when my boys were born. I lost my job and stayed home to take care of them. It was then that I started to see the need to work for them. When COFI recruited me, I realized there’s a lot of ways to grow and do more to change and take on more leadership. [COFI] helped me learn how things are and what I can do to ask for more resources or to access them because sometimes we don’t know that they are there. This is how my leadership and advocacy came about. There’s so much need. We will always be looking for ways to improve the system with leadership and advocacy. I am always trying to organize our community so that we have better resources for our children.
- What about COFI appealed to you?
Everything. When I took the leadership trainings, they always talked about organizing and communication, and how to get more resources. If we don’t have a resource and we need it in the schools, we need to organize. If we need a resource, we don’t need to leave the community school and go looking somewhere else. We can organize and go to school meetings. We can talk to the principal. When we parents organize ourselves, we can create a lot of changes; all for our children.
- What were some effective parent engagement strategies that worked well at COFI?
They give us all the resources. They eliminate all obstacles for participation. They provide childcare so you can be there 100 % present. They provide transportation support and food, including coffee.
Now when meetings are virtual, there’s someone there to help you if you have access problems. You can send a text and ask for help. There’s no reason to not attend [meetings].
I recently invited a man [to our meetings], and he said he didn’t know how to log in. He was having trouble dialing into the meeting, because one number was off, and we helped him and were all happy. [COFI] provides all the help needed so that you can join the meetings.
Another example is the other day at the new [COFI] office, there was no parking in the lot, but I had to be there for two meetings. COFI paid for my parking meter. There are no obstacles to participating!
- What difference has your engagement with COFI made for your community?
It’s made a big difference. Because in these 10 years I have been involved with COFI, I have met many families, some of them about 10 years ago now. They tell me, “Remember you gave me information when my child was a baby? Well, now they are in ‘so and so’ grade. It was because of you that we put our child in a program.” They recognize me and they remember me and the information I gave them.
- What difference has your engagement with COFI made for your family?
Yes, a very positive change! I learned how to look for centers in my community, for resources. This has had a positive impact. In our case, we didn’t qualify for a lot of programs or assistance, but I still received so many tools. And I learned how to read and read and read to my children.
- What do your boys think about your work?
They have seen this as positive. My eldest is very political, and analytical. He likes to plan and design. And the youngest loves math. I remember when he was little in his stroller, I always counted his fingers, and he’s always liked math, maybe that’s way. He would count on his own and open books and flip through them when I was reading myself. The example we give them is important.
When my boys were little, they were able to meet Governor Quinn, and my eldest joined him at the podium. They even featured him in the news, as the little boy who stole the show from the Governor. My son asked the Governor, “How did you get to be governor? Because I am going to be governor when I grow up.” They also [currently] have a great relationship with state representative Theresa Mah. They talk about community issues. We even attended her inauguration in Springfield when she was sworn in. A few days she was at my youngest son’s school.
- Is there anything else you want to share that I have not asked you about?
We all have to do more outside of what’s included in our job. We must get out and speak more with the community. I always tell COFI, to give us flyers about what’s COFI, what they do, I am always recruiting other parents. They always want to know how to connect with the work. We make the initial connection but there needs to be someone focused on following up on those connections we make.
ALOK: The Urgent Need for Compassion
Do you know who you are outside of who you have been told you should be? Acclaimed gender non-conforming writer, performer, and speaker, ALOK, shares their story, and the stories of those who came before them, with an urgency that invites us to step into our power and the power of interdependence. As the creator of the growing movement to degender fashion, ALOK is helping others move beyond the binary into full expression. In a conversation filled with wisdom, historical insight, and radical mercy, ALOK challenges us to value compassion over comprehension, to try harder for each other in the name of love and reminds us that learning is a sign of being alive.
Liberatory Design is a creative problem-solving approach and practice that centers equity and supports us to design for liberation. It is made up of mindsets and modes. Mindsets invoke stances and values to ground and focus our design practice, and modes provide process guidance for our design practice. You can learn more about Liberatory Design HERE and download free PDF of the Liberatory Design deck HERE.
Training and Events
We are working to secure our 2022 – 2023 training calendar. Visit the Partner Plan Act website for the latest training information.