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A FAMILY-FIRST APPROACH TO EDUCATION

As told by Fran Pike, West40 ALOP advocate


“A lot of organizations talk about treating people like family. But at West40, it’s true. The idea of family is at the center of almost everything we do.


My West40 experience started in 2007 when I heard about an administrative assistant position at the Safe Schools. I had worked in youth services before, so I applied and I was called in for an interview. Right away, I fell in love with Mrs. Tiemann, the principal, and I knew I needed to be there at that school. I knew Mrs. Tiemann would be a mentor in my life. But the interview wasn’t just about meeting the administrators. I was also interviewed by students themselves. The kids came up with interview questions and quizzed me as a group.


I guess the kids wanted me to join their Safe School family, because I was hired to work in Mrs. Tiemann’s office. When a kid would get into trouble and get called into the office, I’d end up talking to them first. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I was helping each kid ‘process’ the situation. I’d ask, ‘What’s going on? What happened? Why do you think you reacted that way?’ They’d start talking and telling me everything, and figuring out the ‘why’ behind their behavior. I was able to make connections with students and we’d talk about how they could learn from the situation. They’d figure out an approach for next time, like, ‘If I’m having a bad day, maybe I’ll go talk to the social worker before I go to class.’


Another thing I learned from Mrs. Tiemann is how to have passion for finding solutions. She works so hard to help kids and to help their parents. It’s powerful to be around people like that, because it makes you become more like them. Mrs. Tiemann molded all of us in those days, and worked so hard for her staff members too. She even pushed me to go back to school and work on getting a degree.


After earning a degree, I became an advocate in the West40 ALOP program, acting as a support system for kids at their home schools. I started at Proviso East and now I’m at Morton West. My goal with students is to make them feel comfortable so they can tell me anything. I can relate to them. I tell them, ‘I’m here for you, I want to help you.’ Because a lot of the things that have happened to these kids also have happened to me in my own life. I’ve overcome them. I’ve become a more powerful person. West40 appreciates that about me and not every organization would.


West40 pours love and support into kids. We have family nights where we feed students and their parents and siblings. We give them books, clothing, whatever they need. And when I’m talking to a student’s family, it’s like they’re my family too.We’re here in this life to help people, and working at West40 has taught me how to help them more effectively. I think what’s really interesting is that kids I knew at the Safe Schools middle school have now grown up and come back to become West40 advocates. West40 is all on the same page. And we all stick together.”


“THE IDEA OF FAMILY IS AT THE CENTER OF ALMOST EVERYTHING WE DO.” - Fran Pike

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