“If a student enters our ALOP program at Proviso East, it means they’re struggling with something. Academics. Family issues. Making bad decisions. Sometimes all of those at the same time. A lot of these kids are dealing with more issues than the average adult ever does.
But by forming authentic relationships with kids, we can teach them the skills to handle the things that are weighing on them. We can be the caring adults in their lives—the people who are there before school, after school and throughout the school day to support them.
When a student first joins the program, we’re focused completely on that kid and on their needs being met. We have a large caseload of about 35 students per advocate, and we let each student kind of naturally find their way to the advocate that they connect with the most. As a team of advocates, we are all different: we have different racial backgrounds, different genders, different skills. So we each have unique ways of connecting with students. But we often form unexpected connections, and it’s not necessarily with the kids who look exactly like us.
Some of us feel like working at a school was our destiny. Now that we’re advocates, we can’t see ourselves doing anything else. We love that our days never look the same. Some days we are doing SEL [social and emotional learning] work all day. Other times it’s handling a specific crisis from the moment we arrive until we leave.
We love to see little changes in the kids that we serve. Kids who were short on credits are back on track to graduating. Students who used to ditch class suddenly become successful. That success doesn’t necessarily come easily, so we celebrate every single thing. We condition the kids to expect acknowledgement, to expect a celebration when they do something great. And so now when they’ve accomplished something, they actually ask for a celebration, like, ‘Excuse me? Didn’t you see how I did on my test last week?’
Those celebrations also help the kids build a culture with each other. They make friends that they never would have otherwise. They become each other’s family. Just like family, sometimes they get on each other’s nerves. But they’re always there to help each other. Really, the whole ALOP program at Proviso East is like one big family. It’s like we are a home inside the school.
At the end of the day, we build relationships with kids. That’s our job at its simplest. We flow so well together and work so well together. It’s so easy to go to work when you know you have a strong team.”