Alums take SSA training back to schools
By Greg Holden
Photo by Lloyd DeGrane
What I did during my internship at NLCP and my ability to record it on paper was exceptional training for my current work at Jones. It was really a great match”
Andy Brake and John Fanning are building for the future. When they arrive for work each day at Jones College Prep, the School of Social Service Administration graduates help students transitioning from one phase of their education to the next.
In many ways, what Brake and Fanning learned in the internships required of all SSA students in each of their two years has prepared them for their new responsibilities.
“Assessing a school’s needs is a valuable skill I learned at SSA,” Brake says. “SSA faculty do a really good job of emphasizing ways in which research can inform practice.”
Last year, Brake was one of four interns at Jones, located in downtown Chicago. He was involved with students in a number of ways, including co-teaching weekly sessions of Freshman Academy, a yearlong course designed to provide academic and social supports for freshmen. He also met weekly with the school’s counseling department to discuss students’ social and emotional issues and to develop strategies to provide support. This fall, he also had an SSA intern working with him.
“One of the things I have learned is to take a critical look at what educational issues are being talked about at a district level and apply those issues to the Jones community,” Brake said.
Many high school educators in the Chicago Public Schools are developing support for freshmen transitioning to high school, Brake says. Research at the Consortium of Chicago School Research has shown students’ absences and core course failures in their first year can be indicators of on-track graduation.
Brake and a freshman counselor at Jones are running a peer leadership and mentorship program in which seniors help mentor incoming freshmen. “We hope these combined efforts will improve the on-track rate of our students,” Brake said.
Fanning says that his internship at North Lawndale College Prep, a charter school where SSA interns and alumni have been working for several years, prepared him for his job at Jones. “What I did during my internship at NLCP and my ability to record it on paper was exceptional training for my current work at Jones. It was really a great match,” he says.
Former Jones principal Donald Fraynd, who worked with Fanning and Brake last year, concurs: “John had an incredible array of and interesting combination of skills. It was clear to us in the interview process that he was smart and committed enough to handle any sort of situation we could throw at him. His preparation at SSA appeared to be holistic, unlike the very narrow preparation of traditional school counselors.”
SSA’s interns have produced a noticeable change in attitude on the part of Jones’ students, Fraynd adds. “The SSA interns understand wider sociological issues, and they are also ‘systems people.’ The interns have worked in student groups with kids who need extra support. They have created strong relationships with kids who truly change their attitudes toward school.”
To help maintain the diversity and quality of Jones, Fanning has led a group of interns who will work in the school’s Targeted Recruitment and Support Program (TRSP). “It’s very much tied to Jones’ social justice mission that college preparatory, selective enrollment education is available for low-income families,” he says. “We go out to five low-income neighborhoods and do recruitment for Jones. Thousands of students could qualify for Jones, but they don’t apply because they don’t think they can, or they think they should stay close to home.”
Fanning also proudly describes the work of interns who have made great strides in creating opportunities for students at Jones. One exceptional intern helped students apply for scholarships to college. “Before the program, our students received over $6 million in scholarships, and this year, it nearly doubled to $11 million.”
Jeanne Marsh, Dean of SSA, says that at any give time, SSA students are working with as many as 420 governmental agencies or nonprofit social service agencies throughout the city.
“This reflects SSA’s belief that you need not just research knowledge, but practical experience, to have a high-quality education,” Marsh says. “It also demonstrates the University’s commitment to the city and to being a resource for the city.”