Oh When GYO Goes Marching In…$3.5 Will Be That Number
On Tuesday, March 8th, 2011, Grow Your Own (GYO) teacher candidates from all over the state of Illinois gathered on the first floor rotunda in our state Capitol building to celebrate the Grow Your Own Teachers program, thank legislators for ongoing support of the program, and rally to ensure adequate funding for next fiscal year. Several key legislators stopped by to share words in support of GYO. Everyone joyfully joined in on a GYO version of the chorus of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” a New Orleans jazz classic and Mardi Gras favorite, in light of the rally taking place on Mardi Gras. The energizing refrain went like this: “Oh when GYO goes marching in, when GYO goes marching in/$3.5 will be that number, when GYO goes marching in!”
The Grow Your Own Teachers initiative supports paraprofessionals, parents, and community members in low-income communities to become highly effective teachers through innovative partnerships of community organizations, higher education institutions, and school districts. ONE is part of one of the 16 partnerships statewide, among 7 others that are housed within different communities across Chicago. GYO teacher candidates live in the neighborhoods where they will teach and stay, thus saving their school districts the estimated $50,000 it takes to recruit, hire, induct, and mentor each new teacher.
These details were just some of many discussed throughout the morning and early afternoon during GYO Day in Springfield. GYO teachers-to-be met with legislators from their districts before and after the main rally on the rotunda in order to ask that they pledge to co-sponsor either our House Bill 3200 or our Senate Bill 2224. Representing the North side/ONE cohort of teacher candidates in GYO were Justin West, who is currently attending Northeastern Illinois University, and C.J. Williams, who is currently enrolled at Truman College. Both are active community leaders in Uptown and Rogers Park and highly qualified, aspiring teachers. At the rally, a few GYO teacher candidates provided testimony about the program and what it has meant to them. Among those was C.J. He spoke beautifully about his success in heading back to school and his sense of GYO’s guidance and help with him feeling comfortable pursuing his dream, which is to teach students similar to the youth he works with at Alternatives, Inc. through a program he helped to found known as Connect Force. For Justin, this trip to Springfield was not his first, as he has belonged to the ONE cohort since 2009. However, Justin mentioned that he learns more with each visit. Here is his reaction to the trip:
“Springfield is an important stop of the year. It is about letting the legislators know that it is great to diagnose the various diseases attacking the school system but it is far more wonderful to take decisive steps to apply the perfect cure. I have signed up to be part of the solution by adhering to GYO, as GYO is about empowering the community to take care of itself. It is allowing energetic young men and women to use the language of their community to reach and connect to their future. It is not a waste of resources as some people may think. It is a wise investment.
I have personally talked to a legislator whom I have seen for the past three years but who still was asking me basic facts about GYO. It is therefore super important to make the trip and be loud enough to continue to remind our Lawmakers that we are still focused, as well as to make the newly elected ones understand that GYO is the way to go. Funding it is the wisest thing they could do for their communities.
I was very pleased to have made the trip to Springfield!”