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Work Samples

Elgin community aligns behind U46 students

A number of community leaders attended an introductory meeting of a group whose aim is to coordinate resources to ensure students in Elgin School District U46 and their families have what they need to succeed.

Alignment Collaborative for Education follows a model pioneered in Nashville, Tenn., and Rockford.

"Alignment is not an organization that provides services nor is it a program," Raquel McCormick, ACE executive director, said Thursday. "It's actually a toolset. It's a system designed to support our public school district's strategic plan for student success by aligning our resources."

She said the models are relevant because "both of these communities have the same similar challenges that we face here in Elgin and broader than Elgin. Working with the school district is key.

"This really gives us an opportunity to build on existing efforts," she said. "Many nonprofits work with the schools on individual partnerships and no overall coordination amongst all of them. The broader communities that we have ... there's many resources, but there's not that one-source pipeline that will link us all together."

McCormick noted that many businesses are looking for skilled workers, but fail to find them.

"They need to help us understand what that looks like, and this is why many businesses are a part of this work," she said. "It's really saying, 'Here is our need. How can you help us get there?'"

McCormick noted that while ACE is targeting academics, their work looks at the whole child.

"If you look at United Way, if you look at U46, if you look at the Elgin area, as well as Judson University, everyone has really prioritized education as the number one goal on how do we work together," McCormick said.

Melissa Owens, who chairs a U46 citizens advisory council, said she's excited about what ACE can do.

"[There are] so many resources out there and we're serving such an enormous population that it's getting those resources to the right parent or to the right family or directing the family to the right resources," she said. "It's that overall collaboration to make sure that everyone is getting the services they need."

Dawn Munson, professor of early childhood education at Elgin Community College, said collaboration is a sound idea.

"Like (McCormick) said (progress) is generational," she said. "It's going to be a process, but I do feel that everyone is working through that process, and that we are making strides that will affect the community in the future."

Munson added that it's great to see informed leaders come together with the goal of making the community stronger.

"We want to become a community of choice, that's the vision for us," McCormick said. "We want for businesses, families, investors and visitors to have this vision of speaking this language of communities. It's saying our skilled and education workforce will attract and support the cutting-edge world of business and industry. Our high-quality schools and healthy, vibrant communities will attract new families to the area, creating demand for new housing and overall economic growth for our area."

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