Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)
2558 W 63rd St, Chicago, IL 60629
SWOP’s mission is to build a broad-based organization of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith institutions, local schools and other institutions in Southwest Chicago, which will enable families to exercise common values, determine their own future and connect with each other to improve life in their neighborhoods. To this end, leaders of SWOP have dedicated themselves to building relationships across racial, ethnic, generational and faith differences and to bringing the common concerns of their institutions into the public life of the community as they develop the capacity to act collectively and “stand for the whole.”
In the past year SWOP held formal organizing and leadership development sessions in Spanish and English for more than 90 adult leaders. 80 youth in the Morrill Elementary School Teen Reach program and 15 youth from Gage Park High School received leadership development training during programming hours over the school year. SWOP held 5-day leadership development trainings for 128 Parent mentors in 11 SWOP schools in fall 2015. SWOP began an Immigrant Community Navigator program focused on DACA/DAPA outreach and assistance that currently has 14 trained Navigators. SWOP partnered with TRP to design our training and additional staff from CLINIC, and NPNA presented in the trainings.
SWOP’s VOYCE student organizing initiative at Gage Park High School (GPHS) were active participants in a major legislative victory for the second year in a row, helping pass SB 100, which limits the use of out of school suspension for disciplinary purposes. The VOYCE student leaders also formed two issue teams at the school; “Youth Saving Homes,” working to connect GPHS families with housing-related assistance, and “Dreamers in Action,” working to assist undocumented immigrant students in applying for DACA and engaging in other immigration related actions.
A team of 25 parent and 30 student leaders from our local schools worked to develop SWOP’s Neighborhood School Campaign in response to the rapid growth of charter school applications in Chicago Lawn. This team organized an action to discuss the impact of charters on neighborhood schools that involved more than 220 residents. The campaign was successful in organizing a recommendation from the Neighborhood Advisory Council to oppose the 2015 Nobel Charter School proposal, which was eventually overruled by the School Board.
Following up on an idea of student leaders at Gage Park High School (GPHS), SWOP worked with school administration to create a new core team of parents from GPHS and its feeder schools who are interested in strengthening the school. The Gage Park High School Advisory Council currently has 25 active SWOP leaders who have created working committees to address community engagement, assess school programming and its effectiveness and address parent involvement, community perception and safety issues in and around the school. The advisory council, working with parents, students, teacher and administration held a GPHS open house in May to highlight the quality of our local neighborhood high school. More than 250 parent and students from local feeder schools attended and participated in workshops on housing, immigration and opportunities for students and families at GPHS. As a result of the workshop and other efforts by the team, freshman enrollment at Gage Park High School has doubled compared to this time last year.
Beginning in June 2015, SWOP partnered with Erie Neighborhood House on 5 citizenship workshops reaching out to 431 LPRs and completing 85 applications for citizenship. In addition, SWOP held 13 DACA informational events in our local institutions with a total of 188 participants. SWOP directed interested applicants to legal assistance at Instituto Del Progresso Latino the Resurrection Project or National Immigrant Justice Center for DACA application review and completion. Successful DACA applications, while only a temporary measure, help many of our young residents to take full advantage of post-high school educational and work opportunities. SWOP hired Adriana Velasquez in Sept 2015 as a Parent Mentor organizer after she successfully completed her DACA application.
SWOP, partnering with Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago Department of Public Health worked to help more than 450 Chicago Public School families apply for All Kids insurance for their children. To address the structural barrier to healthcare for undocumented immigrants, SWOP became a charter member of the Healthy Illinois Campaign, launched in Sept 2015, to fight to increase access to healthcare for undocumented immigrants. The coalition is currently exploring policy recommendations including the development of a state exchange for those not eligible for the Affordable Care Act. SWOP also is one of the key participants in the Healthy Cook County Communities, working with allies to identify ways that Cook County can effectively utilize local networks for outreach and education, and target undocumented populations who are in need of primary, preventive and basic health care services.
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