Increasing Family and Community Partnerships

A Visit from Stedman Graham

Last month, we welcomed Stedman Graham and Angelica Sturm to tour our KIPP Ascend Primary campus. Stedman and Angelica visited three of our third-grade classrooms, engaged with our teachers and school leadership and toured our (traveling) “Self(ie) Love” installation.

Stedman shared his day with members of our executive team and board members to discuss the foundation of his Identity Leadership Development program and curriculum. He delivers his identity message throughout the country and globally to corporations, professional associations, government and civic organizations, colleges and universities, and community groups’ senior leadership.

Our visit centered on the goals of the Identity Leadership Program, our Whole Child Initiative goals, and how KIPP Chicago’s parents, teachers, students and community members can benefit from the program. We are excited to explore the multiple facets of Identity Leadership with Stedman and pilot the content and curriculum to our community next quarter.

Stedman Graham is the chairman and CEO of S. Graham & Associates, a Chicago-based management and marketing consulting firm specializing in corporate and educational markets. Graham has authored ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers, You Can Make It Happen: A Nine-Step Plan for Success and Teens Can Make It Happen: Nine Steps to Success. Build Your Own Life Brand! which explores the concept of personal and professional branding. Here is a podcast episode featuring Stedman’s Identity Leadership discussion.

Angelica Sturm, Founder of Sturm Realty, specializes in portfolio advisory services, build-to-suit, brokerage, consulting, and representation for the real estate needs of corporate clients. Angelica is Chairman of Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, Former Chairman and Founding Board Member of Luster Learning Institute; Calm Classroom.

KIPP Parent Feature: Janise Alston and Bessie Conners

We concluded 13 weeks of virtual workshops in June, ending with a legal series with Winston & Strawn. As we continue to evolve our family workshop offerings, we are surveying families to gauge their interests and needs. We are excited to feature two KIPP parents who attended each one of the virtual workshops. Their presence and participation were a delight as they added humor, curiosity, and fun to the space.

Janice Alston
Janise Alston

Tell us about yourself and your connection to KIPP Chicago.

My oldest daughter, Holly Alston, was a founding KIPPster from the Bloom campus under Ms. Sale (I love her so much!). By the way, Holly graduated high school with honors and now attends Columbia College downtown Chicago.

What do you do for work and what are your interests? How did one or more of the workshops help you?

I’m in social services as a clinical facilitator for youth in foster care who experience disrupted placement or need additional support services for them or their caregiver. I meet with youth, ages 12- 21, hospitals, lawyers, caseworkers, school staff, their caregivers, probation officers, mentors, and anyone else involved with the youth.

I enjoy most things that don’t require me to problem solve or process dire circumstances! I love to laugh, so sometimes I make lame jokes, so beware.

The workshops that I’ve applied to my career from last year were: Womanhood/motherhood because it was so encouraging. Those women on the panel were absolutely powerful! The legal sessions were helpful as I support youth in detention. The Pride mental health was informative and I completed the cooking sessions with my youngest daughter, Ava Alston, who is now a 7th grader at KIPP Bloom College Prep.


Bessie Conners
Bessie Conners

Tell us about yourself and your connection to KIPP Chicago.

My name is Bessie Conners, and I’m a proud parent of KIPP Chicago. My children, who are 10 and 7, attend KIPP Academy and KIPP Ascend.

I am currently attending Culinary Arts classes at Michael Barlow Center, learning knife skills and making food from scratch. I also graduated from there in 2016. They help people who were once incarcerated get back on their feet. And I am an online student at Purdue University Global and will earn my Bachelors of Science in Organizational Management in June or July of 2025.

What do you do for work and what are your interests? How did one or more of the workshops help you?

What I enjoyed/learned from KIPP Chicago is how to cope after having a mental health disorder due to the loss of my sister, grandma, and mother. KIPP Chicago gave me a reason to keep my head up. I had a chance to talk to people from Rush Hospital about my mental health. I also got a chance to speak to Winston & Strawn about learning my rights. I also learned how to cook/eat more healthily with their cooking series, and I got a chance to discuss the LGBTQ+ community, which helped me not trespass against others. And I could never ever forget about Fifth Third Bank teaching me about Financial Literacy and how to keep me and my household growing.

OneSight Eye Exams and WNBA Chicago Sky

This summer, in partnership with OneSight, we hosted a free vision clinic at KIPP Bloom for the Englewood community. Our goal was to provide 150 Bloom families with free vision screening and glasses on site. We exceeded that goal by serving 194 residents! We watched three generations of families receive the vision care they needed but weren’t able to easily access.

“I’ve been getting emails from the school for about a month telling me they were going to have an event here,” said Deanna Berry, who was at Bloom with her son and daughter. “I was so thankful I didn’t have to call and make an appointment at a doctor’s office to get both of my kids’ glasses.”

OneSight demonstrated both expertise and heart as they provided this service to families. They treated our space and our families with respect and genuine care. From carrying residents across the street in chairs to singing happy birthday to children, they went above and beyond to care for our students and families. In addition, they graciously cleaned every spot their 60+ volunteers occupied and asked for feedback on our partnership and performance over the two-day clinic.

Oakley and WNBA’s Chicago Sky’s Diamond DeShields sponsored the event. On site, Diamond ran basketball drills with students, signed autographs and toured the vision clinic. In addition, Chicago Sky provided complimentary tickets to the Saturday game, including transportation to and from the event.

Rheaply Partnership

Supporting the Whole Child also means supporting the environment we inhabit. We are identifying solutions that allow our organization to minimize our waste and carbon footprint. One of the ways we are minimizing our environmental impact is by identifying opportunities to reuse and repurpose items no longer in use.

Rheaply is a Chicago-based company designed to empower people to save money and the environment. The foundation is built on the pillars of “the circular economy”, which is a new economic system in which we design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. Rheaply uses their digital platform to facilitate the exchange of goods when needed and catalyze the new connections to ensure nothing goes to landfills.

As KIPP Ascend Primary and KIPP Academy Chicago filled classrooms with updated desks and chairs, Rheaply utilized their platform to recirculate and reuse all 500+ pieces of furniture to local Chicago organizations and schools such as: the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, Richardson Middle School, Hearst Elementary School, Sidney Sawyer Elementary School, the Alternative School Network, Dirksen Elementary School and the Chicago Public School System. Because of this partnership, we were able to recirculate approximately $76,000 worth of goods in our community and divert over four tons of waste from the landfill.

Enrollment Interest Forms are now available for the 2022-2023 school year! Sign up below for your spot on the list for seats for next school year!