Friday, February 24, 2012

New Board Member Has Strong Community Ties

Editor's Note: This year marks the 45th anniversary of McKinley's College Prep program! To celebrate, we're featuring current student and alumni success stories on the blog and our ASM Alumni Club facebook page.  Previous success stories profiled 8th grader Nia Gipson and UIC student Ariell Buckingham. This week we're delighted to feature McKinley board member and College Prep alumna Carol Bell.

Carol Bell poses outside the Chicago Defender office.
Carol Bell, McKinley’s newest board member, is petite in stature, yet her presence looms large in the African-American community.

Bell’s first introduction to McKinley was through the late Silas Purnell who assisted her in finding a good college match, while she was a student at Corliss High School, through his work as director of the agency’s first College Preparation and Placement Program.  

Bell enrolled at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she earned a degree in accounting. She also earned a master’s certification in finance from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Professional Finance Program; and held a series of corporate positions before deciding to serve as the chief financial officer at the Chicago Defender newspaper. “I was looking for an opportunity outside of the Fortune 100 Corporate world to help my community specifically and to do good work for the greater good,” said Bell.

Bell, 46, recalls her biggest challenge since going to work with the Chicago Defender: finding a new home for one of the country’s oldest African-American newspaper in less than 30 days.

“We were housed in a 17,000-square foot space in the Baird Warner building,” she recalled of the paper’s location prior to the move. “We had gone from a historical landmark building recognized around the country to a downtown hi-rise with no presence, no signage where we were pretty much hidden away.”

Bell said she was attending President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 when she got a call from the Defender’s parent company stating that they were preparing to break the lease and the paper would need to find a new location for its staff of 32 people within 30 days.  “I sprang into action,” she said with a broad smile. “Here was an opportunity to bring the paper back to its roots and take things to a new level.”

Bell recalled that she was driving along Martin L. King Jr. Dr. in Bronzeville when a light bulb went off in her head: King Drive was along the Bud Billiken Parade route and Chicago Defender founder Robert Abbott’s historic home is located at 48th and King Dr. She spotted the boarded-up Metropolitan Funeral Home at 44th and King Dr. and called the property owner and real estate mogul, Elsie Higgenbottom, that evening.

After major renovations to the space and “considerable financial concessions” on the part of Higgenbottom, the Chicago Defender had a fitting home in historic Bronzeville, at 4445 S. King Dr. The 8,500 square foot space includes its original domed ceiling, an exhibition of black and white photos from the paper’s extensive archives and a bold, colorfully painted interior.

These days, Bell is focusing her financial wizardry on revitalizing the current economic climate at the paper, setting up strategy to grow the paper’s circulation and distribution and bringing the paper back to it’s “must read’ status it garnered back during the late 50’s and 60’s. “It is our responsibility to provide African Americans of all demographics and class status critical and vital information. We can not expect the majority media to report any significance on our concerns. We (Defender) must do so.”
 
A native Chicagoan, Bell was raised by a college-educated father who was a regional manager at Jewel Foods prior to retiring as well as co-owner of a neighborhood bakery, and a mother who earned a nursing degree once her two daughters were grown. Bell’s older sister lost her battle with cancer at the age of 40, leaving twin daughters who Bell stepped in and helped to raise and who are now college students themselves.

Bell sits on the board and advisory committees of several organizations and is able to maintain her myriad commitments by keeping her philosophy in mind: “I believe that we are supposed to reap the beauty and goodness in life and to serve others. For all the opportunities that I’ve been given, it’s incumbent upon me to make opportunities for others.”

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If you or someone you know is a McKinley College Prep alum, we invite you to join the ASM Alumni Club. Join today to reconnect with other alums, learn about today's program and find out about the latest McKinley events. To join call Kikanza Harris, Office of Development, at 312-385-2013 or visit our Facebook alumni group.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Savvy Entrepreneur and McKinley Alumna Shines at UIC

Editor's Note: This year marks the 45th anniversary of McKinley's College Prep program! To celebrate, we're featuring current student and alumni success stories on the blog and our ASM Alumni Club facebook page. You can find our inaugural success story, of 8th grader Nia Gipson, here. This week we're delighted to feature UIC student Ariell Buckingham.

Ariell Buckingham. Photo credit UIC.
It turns out we at Ada S. McKinley aren't the only ones eager to showcase the exceptional achievements of our College Prep Program alums. Ariell Buckingham, a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and a McKinley alumna,  was recently profiled in UIC News for the party planning business, Smile Entertainment, she started as a high school student at Gwendolyn Brooks High School in Chicago

In addition to starting her own business, the savvy entrepreneur also spent her teen years planning for college as an participant in our College Prep Program. Buckingham's younger sister, Cynthia Hughes, is also an alumna of the College Prep Program and currently attends Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL.

Buckingham, who has won multiple business accolades during her tenure at UIC, was one of four students selected to participate in an entrepreneurship panel at the Global Competitiveness Forum, which was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from January 21-24. To find out more about her story, we encourage you to read her full profile in UIC News. 

Congratulations, Ariell, for all that you've accomplished and the bright future yet ahead of you. We're proud and honored to count you as a College Prep alum!
  
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If you or someone you know is a McKinley College Prep alum, we invite you to join the ASM Alumni Club. Join today to reconnect with other alums, learn about today's program and find out about the latest McKinley events. To join call Kikanza Harris, Office of Development, at 312-385-2013 or visit our Facebook alumni group.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Time for Recovery and Celebration: Children of Alcoholics Week

Image from nacoa.org.
This week (Feb. 12-18) is Children of Alcoholics (COA) Week, an event designed to raise awareness about the problems faced by children in alcoholic family environments. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 4 children is affected by or exposed to a family alcohol problem. The effects on these children are often severe, ranging from physical illness, behavioral and emotional problems, lower education performance to a vulnerability to alcoholism or other addictions later in life. The issue of addressing their problems is a delicate one, for a variety of reasons, both financial and emotional.

Each year during National Children of Alcoholics Week, The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) celebrates the ongoing recovery of thousands of children of alcoholics--and provides resources to help those still suffering to cope with a parent's alcohol dependency.  The NACOA Website is loaded with helpful tools to help both individuals and community organizations alike participate in COA week, all of which you can find here.

In honor of COA week, Nick News has also developed a powerful new video on the subject, Under the Influence: Kids of Alcoholics, which will air nationally tonight (Feb. 15). Check out the clip below!


Nick News: "Under the Influence: Kids of Alcoholics: Coping"
Get More: Nick News Episodes,Nick News,Nick News Games

Friday, February 10, 2012

Helping Students Like Nia Gipson Prepare for Lifelong Success

Editor's Note: This year marks the 45th anniversary of McKinley's College Prep program! To celebrate, we'll be featuring current student and alumni success stories on the blog and our ASM Alumni Club facebook page. Up first is 8th grader Nia Gipson!

8th grader Nia Gipson calls McKinley's College Prep
program "the best refresher for kids in middle school."
At Ada S. McKinley, we believe that every student, regardless of economic background, is capable of tremendous achievements, given the right academic support and guidance. That is why our Early Intervention College Preparation and Placement Program provides intensive tutoring services to help more than 300 low-income, middle-school students build the skills they need to prepare for and successfully obtain college educations.

Each year we see our students make great gains in their overall academic performance—nearly 90 percent of our students improve their performance in reading and mathematics by one grade level and 97 percent advance to the next grade level. Not only do these students have greater access to selective colleges, they also have developed academic proficiencies and learning skills that raise their likelihood of success in postsecondary education.

Perhaps no student more embodies this record of achievement and promise of future success than 8th grader Nia Gipson. She has participated in the Early Intervention Program since seventh grade and is one of the very best students in her class at Drake Elementary School. She credits the Early Intervention Program with helping her get there. “They helped me tremendously, so I could get to the top of my class,” Gipson recalled. In addition to participating in afterschool tutoring, Gipson also attended the Early Intervention Program’s Summer Learning Academy this past summer. Gipson said that the Summer Learning Academy helped her gain skills in reading, math and art and describes the program as “the best refresher for kids in middle school.”

Tutor Chequela Beauchamp, who regularly works with Gipson in afterschool tutoring and taught her in the Summer Learning Academy, can’t help but be struck by Gipson’s huge enthusiasm for learning. “She has been very eager to learn many new things. She… has never given up on anything.” An always active and engaged student, Gipson for her part says she can’t even pick a favorite subject because she “likes them all.”

Today Gipson is already thinking about college. She “definitely plans” to major in political science and hopes to be a lawyer or writer. Although she’s narrowed down her college choices to Harvard, Stanford, Yale and Howard, she is also facing an important decision about what high school to attend next year.

Thanks to her exemplary academic record, she received a four-year scholarship from the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund to attend a Chicago high school of her choice. She is currently deciding between St. Ignatius College Preparatory School, Jones College Preparatory High School, Northside College Preparatory High School, Providence St. Mel High School, and Walter Payton College Preparatory High School.

Ada S. McKinley is honored to help students like Gipson and her classmates get the assistance they need to forge extraordinary futures. Using the critical academic skills they learn today, our students move on to pursue later success in high school and college, building strong careers and embarking on productive, flourishing lives. Together their achievements work to create opportunities for not only themselves, but their families, communities, and city, building a better Chicago for all of us.

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If you or someone you know is a McKinley College Prep alum, we invite you to join the ASM Alumni Club. Join today to reconnect with other alums, learn about today's program and find out about the latest McKinley events. To join call Kikanza Harris, Office of Development, at 312-385-2013 or visit our Facebook alumni group.