As millions of families face economic uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic, one Chicago woman is providing a safe space for youth to continue learning while their parents go to work.
Jennifer Maddox, founder of the after school non-profit, Future Ties, has been working since 2011 to provide educational enrichment to youth on the South Side of Chicago. The organization’s mission has been even more relevant during the pandemic and economic fallout.
“A lot of people lost their jobs and now they’re gradually starting to go back to work,” Maddox told CNN, who recognized her as a CNN Hero in 2017. “Many of the parents we are supporting, they are actually leaving the home to go to work and can’t afford to stay at home to supervise their kids while they’re on remote learning,” Maddox explained.
Since September 2020, Maddox has used her facility in the Parkway Gardens Homes, as a hub for e-learning where students can come to log into school, and receive academic help while their parents work.
“We were able to step in, like being a surrogate parent,” Maddox said. “We were there on-site for them so the kids didn’t have to travel far. They were familiar with us. It was a win-win for everybody.”
Maddox’s organization serves more than 100 kids, providing access to reliable internet access and computers for remote learning. The group has also been doing outreach to meet the needs of the community as the nation and world navigates the impact of the pandemic.
“We’re making sure that the services we provide are those wrap-around services that the family needs,” Maddox said. “Because we can’t make sure that your children are okay and you’re not okay. We have to make sure everybody in the house is on the same level playing field.”
Throughout the pandemic, Maddox and her team have assisted families in applying for jobs, filing for unemployment, and also “providing hope and encouragement” to youth who Maddox says especially struggled during the pandemic. “Sometimes they just may need a listening ear. We want to make sure that they know that we are here for them,” she said.
“If it’s anything that we can do to help them navigate through the challenges and struggles they are experiencing, we want them to reach out to us, to come talk to us, to let us know what hurts them and how we can help support them. We want to try to heal that hurt so they are not wounded when they continue to grow and move forward.”
To learn more about the organization, click here.
Photos: Getty Images