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Harvard Club Adopts a School

Chicago Chapter Members Help Out Local Public School

By June Shih

For some Harvard-Radcliffe alumni, volunteering in the community does not end after a few semesters on Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) committees.

In March 1988, three former members of the College's public service organization convinced the Harvard Club of Chicago to adopt a disadvantaged public high school under the Chicago Public School's Adopt-A-School Program.

For the past two and a half years, members of the Club have volunteered their time teaching, coaching, mentoring and tutoring students from Foreman High School, which is located in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago's Northwest side.

Program coordinator Robert T. Gannett '72, assisted by Emile S. Godfrey '72, former PBHA President Ellyn Kestnbaum Daniels '83 and former Club President Thomas S. James '52, developed a program to share the talents of area alums with the 1400 students and 90 teachers at Foreman.

Foreman is a diverse school, both racially and ethnically. Forty percent of the students are Black, 30 percent are Hispanic and 30 percent white. Many of the students are recent immigrants.

Volunteers from the Harvard Club have been tutoring Polish and Mexican immigrants in English, and helping students throughout the school strengthen their math skills.

In addition, the Harvard graduates have been running a series of programs to encourage students to think about life after high school.

The Club has held annual Career Days, bringing more than 50 Harvard and Radcliffe graduates to the school to meet with students and talk about their jobs. Most recently, human resource professionals and Harvard alums Judy A. Collins, Kathy and Mark J. Delfino led a six-day "Job Search and Skills" seminar with students in Foreman business classes.

"There's something going on every day," said Foreman Principal John J. Garvey. "The Harvard Club's involvement has made a big difference and has come at a perfect time."

Under the new Chicago School Reform plan which gives more authority to local schools, school officials are trying to improve Foreman's 40 percent dropout rate and depressed standardized test scores.

"The Harvard Club's program has become built into school improvement plan," said Foreman teacher and Harvard program coordinator Denise I. Seng.

"We've come to depend on [the Harvard Club's participation]," said Seng, pointing to the one-on-one tutoring program which the school could not otherwise provide.

"It's a tribute to the University...that its graduates, who are successful, can still reach out to young people," added Garvey.

But the Foreman school isn't the only one who benefits from the adoption. Teacher and literary textbook writer Donna Rosenberg, a graduate of the School of Education, said her involvement with Foreman High School has been "an incredible experience." Rosenberg, who is one of the most active participants in the adopt-a-school program, leads discussions on short stories with four classes a day per week with Susan Friedes '67.

"It has made me familiar with so many students from different parts of the world...I get goosebumps from it," she said.

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