A Holistic Approach: Making a Difference through “Adopting”the Brighton Park Neighborhood

Three years into a commitment to the Brighton Park neighborhood on Chicago’s southwest side, Mesirow Financial is proud of its work in the community and the impact the organization has made.

In November, Mesirow Chairman and CEO Richard Price sat down with leadership from Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and United Way, along with four Parent Mentors.

“It was made very clear that our impact and ability to move the needle alongside United Way for the past three years has been a marriage of the funding and hands-on volunteerism,” said Price. “Just one approach or the other cannot have the same impact– we need to put in our time and our resources to maximize the benefits to the neighborhood.”

Funding

Mesirow Financial helps fund the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council's Parent Mentor program, which places neighborhood parents in classrooms.

In 2016, a total of 52 parents – up from 45 last school year – work in classrooms throughout Brighton Park, assisting teachers and students, and effectively bringing the average classroom ratio down from 30 students to one adult, to 10 students to one adult.

Volunteerism

Mesirow employees have contributed close to 2,900 hours of volunteerism in Brighton Park since 2013 – through school beautification projects, in-depth conversations with parent mentors, and twice-monthly mentoring kids from Brighton Park's Shields Middle School.

That’s more than 2.5 hours each day for the past three years.

Noteworthy Impact:

  • Kelly High School graduation rate has risen from almost 68% in 2013 to nearly 78% in 2016. With 1,074 previously struggling middle students now poised to successfully transition to high school.
  • Parent Mentor Program’s Impact on Students:
    • Demonstrated growth in math: 52-83% growth in the three middle schools with parent mentors
    • Demonstrated growth in reading: 48%-60% growth in the three middle schools with parent mentors
  • Parent Mentor Program’s Impact on Neighborhood Parents and the Community:
    • Improvement in their English
    • Increased communication about school and the community and increased attendance at school or community activities
    • 75% of Parent Mentors report attending class for themselves; many have gone back to school to receive degrees, and have become employed full-time in various capacities.

How we got Involved:

In 2012, Mesirow Financial saw the need to augment the firm’s giving by focusing on one topic in which it could move the needle by uniting employees behind a cause. Through conversations with business leaders, other corporations and civic leadership, the issue of public education rose to the top. The implementation strategy: to partner with one organization that could leverage the firm’s passion, effort and funding across a neighborhood to build up an entire community.

Partnered with United Way, Mesirow Financial was brought into the newly established Neighborhood Network plan, making regional impact through coordinated neighborhood solutions. United Way’s Neighborhood Network initiative partners with close to 200 best-in-class human service agencies to drive change in ten neighborhoods, addressing education, income, health and basic needs.

In United Way’s first partner neighborhood, Brighton Park, the goal is focused on public education: raise graduation rates at Kelly High School to 90 percent by 2020.

A Glimpse Into Brighton Park:

  • 50,000 residents
    • 85% Latino
    • More than 46% foreign-born; 37% limited English proficiency
  • Household income: $48,951; per-capita household income: $16,782
    • Nearly 38% less than the Chicago average and 40% less than the national average
  • 95% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches
  • Almost 35% of Brighton Park’s residents are uninsured
  • 76 serious violent incidents per year (homicides, shootings, etc.)

To follow Mesirow Financial’s continued commitment in the neighborhood, please visit our Community Relations page and be sure to follow us on social media.