Chicago Lights Logo

December 2011  



Hope and opportunity are central to the mission of Chicago Lights. During this season of hope, we're illustrating a few of the myriad ways Chicago Lights shines hope and opportunity for people in our city who face many challenges:


. . . a dedicated tutor helps her student reach his academic goals

. . . professional artists bring dance and drama to students in a      school that previously had no arts program

. . . a special project helps participants achieve economic stability

. . . incarcerated students express themselves through poetry


Your financial gifts help make this possible. A wonderful way to touch the lives of others, as well as honor someone you love in this season of gift-giving, is described in our first article on Light Up a Life.


I wish you a wondrous and joyful holiday season!

Chicago Lights Acting Executive Director 

Vicky Curtiss 
Executive Director
What's New This Month?
Light Up a Life
The Impact of One Tutor
Community Collaboration Graduates Continue to Succeed
CLASS Brings the Arts to Salazar
Free Write Students' Poems of Hope
Carnaval Is Coming!
Meet the Staff
Sunshine Project Update
Urban Farm Featured on NBC
Mark Your Calendar


Light Up a Life


Having difficulty finding the right gift for someone this holiday? This season, share a gift that gives twice. A donation through Light Up a Life helps those served by Chicago Lights and also honors a person special to you with a festive card noting the gift and program to which it was given. "You can support a program and accomplish a personal purpose," says Lisa Radetski, Director of Individual and Planned Giving.

Offering Food Bags
Light Up a Life gifts can be designated to a specific program or to our general operating fund, helping continue our outreach to people in need.


One long-time Light Up a Life donor has incorporated this annual fundraiser into her family's Christmas tradition. Each year as her family gathers for Christmas dinner, she gives her family members a card letting them know she's supported Chicago Lights Tutoring in their honor.  


Another donor is an elementary school teacher who wanted to teach her students about giving back. "She made gifts through Light Up a Life in honor of each of her students, and they all received a holiday card letting them know," says Lisa.


Light Up a Life is also a big boost to fill funding needs for Chicago Lights through the end of the year. Through these gifts, you will truly make a difference in the lives of those in need this season.

For this and the many other ways you support Chicago Lights, thank you!    

To make a gift

Click here to donate online or contact Kathryn Johnson at 312.640.2576.  


For information     

Visit our website or contact Kathryn Johnson at 312.640.2576. 


Many of you may have already received a special Light Up a Life mailing. If you'd like to be added to the mailing list to receive future print communications from Chicago Lights, please send your name and address to


Back to top--"What's New This Month?" 


The Impact of One Tutor


Alexandra Cunliffe knows a lot about school--which makes her a terrific tutor!


Currently she's working toward a doctorate in Medical Physics at the University of Chicago. "I'm in my twentieth year of school and am pretty much a professional student at this point," she explains.


Two years ago Alex sought to get involved as a volunteer tutor because "I wanted to help out in a way that would utilize my strengths," she says. She discovered that Chicago Lights Tutoring was near her home and soon signed up to tutor.

Alex Cunliffe and Sean Bradley
Sean (left) and Alex (right) at their weekly session.

Alex was then paired with Sean, now a high school junior. "From the start, I've been so impressed by how developed and organized Chicago Lights is--there are so many resources available to the students," she says. "I feel lucky to have found Chicago Lights!"


Chicago Lights is lucky to have Alex as well, as she is truly making a difference in Sean's life. "I really enjoy developing a relationship with a single student," says Alex. "It's great to see Sean every week, follow his progress in school, and hear about everything else going on in his life. During tutoring, Sean works hard and is really able to focus on his work. He does a great job integrating the help I try to provide."


Sean's mother Sherri couldn't be happier to have her son paired with Alex for tutoring: "This year Alex emailed us weeks before the program started and asked if we could meet to discuss this year's goals. I was blown away! She had an agenda complete with questions for us both about we wanted to accomplish this year." To read the full story, click here.


For more information or to volunteer, contact Meghan Stegemann (312.981.2560).


Community Collaboration

Graduates Continue to Succeed


Thanks to a special grant and a collaboration with Breaking Bread at the LaSalle Street Church, the Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center graduated its first class of five participants from the Community Collaboration project this past August.


Dan hands a diploma to a graduate of the Community Collaboration Project.
Dan handed out diplomas at a gathering honoring the graduates this past August.

The year-long project gave participants, who were guests of the Elam Davies Social Service Center and Breaking Bread, an opportunity to work toward life goals with the help of a case manager as well as one-to-one and group sessions. "The graduation certificate was proof of their commitment to making positive changes in their life," says EDSSC Program Development Manager Dan Hula.


"I think we found by the end of the [project] that while we are all at different points on our journeys, we are all walking in the same direction, and we are not as alone as we may have thought," explains one Community Collaboration graduate.


During the graduation ceremony Dan spoke about the accomplishments and qualities of each of the participants. Recently, he said the best news is that their progress has continued. To read the full story, click here.


If you'd like to help make the holiday brighter for an EDSSC guest, consider participating in the annual holiday gift bag project facilitated by Fourth Presbyterian Church. To participate, simply pick up a gift bag and shopping list for either a man or a woman during Coffee Hour on Sunday mornings at the church and return your decorated and filled bag to the reception desk by Sunday, December 11.

   Back to top--"What's New This Month"   


CLASS Brings the Arts to Salazar


Four hundred fifty students in kindergarten through eighth grade attend Salazar Bilingual Center, a dual-language school teaching both Spanish and English. Salazar's building has no auditorium and no gym, so younger students do physical education in their classrooms, and older students walk a block to Seward Park for gym class.


Until now the Salazar curriculum has also lacked an art component, but this year Chicago Lights Academic Success in Schools (CLASS) is offering dance and drama classes to Salazar students in grades two, seven, and eight to enrich their educational experience.


"The students are so excited to have these classes, and the staff and administration are grateful to have our services in their school," reports CLASS Director Diana Anton. "This is an important step for the program because we're taking our expertise and reaching out to even more students who might not otherwise have opportunities to experience fine arts education."


In addition to regularly scheduled classes, thirty selected seventh- and eighth-grade Salazar students are going to see Muntu Dance at the DuSable Museum on December 2. A workshop by a Cuban artist will also be offered to a small group of students before Christmas break.


Next semester, students from Salazar will showcase what they've learned from CLASS by performing for groups of other students or in an all-school assembly. Congratulations to CLASS on a successful expansion!


For more information about CLASS, contact Diana Anton (312.981.3561).


 Back to top--"What's New This Month" 


Free Write Students' Poems of Hope


Chicago Lights Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy provides opportunities for creative self-expression and improved literacy skills for students at the Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Please enjoy these two samples of their expressive writing:


One Day 

by Cortez


One day

my mom will be married to a real man

One day

she'll meet someone who truly loves her and understands

One day

my mom won't have to worry about anything at all


One day

blessings will drop from the sky like leaves do from trees in the fall

One day

my mom's prayers will be answered

and our family will be back together

When all this will happen, I truly can't say

all I know is that it is gonna happen

One day


I'm Almost There

by Deshawn


I'm almost there

one more step,

one more building, the next step will be the crib

laying in my own bed, looking up at my ceiling.

D.O.C. is where I'm about to be, 24 months, that's nothing to me.

I'm gonna knock that out in a heartbeat. Patience, that's all it takes,

can't mess with no lames

'cause all of them fake. Just keep things to myself

that's all its gonna take.

I can't mess up

no time for error, no time for mistakes.

Me coming home, I gotta do whatever it takes.

I'm almost there, I'm almost there, I keep getting this weird feeling

that I'm already there.


For more information about Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy, click here.


Carnaval Is Coming!


Save the date: Carnaval will be held Friday, March 2, 2012 at 5:30 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago.

 2012 logo 

Our signature fundraising event promises to be a lively celebration with a New Orleans twist. Guests will enjoy drinks, dinner, dessert, and dancing to the Ken Arlen Orchestra. Silent and live auctions featuring unique experiences, getaways, entertainment, and more will be part of the evening's entertainment, and Ron Magers, ABC 7-Chicago News Anchor, will be back to emcee the live auction.


Tickets will be available in January 2012 at, but you don't have to wait until next year to get involved! Our Silent Auction committee is already collecting donations of:

  •      sports, theater, and concert tickets
  •      wine, for the mystery wine drawing
  •      travel destinations and/or transportation
  •      money to be used toward our fabulous prizes

The Carnaval committee would love your assistance in making this event a success. This festive evening also benefits the Lorene Replogle Counseling Center and the Center for Life and Learning at Fourth Presbyterian Church. For more information or to make a donation, contact Kathryn Johnson (312.640.2576).


Meet the Staff


Chicago Lights is pleased to introduce Sharon Pines, the new AssociateSharon Pines Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations, who joined our staff this past October.


"My background is rooted in social justice advocacy work, which I did in a variety of contexts for about a dozen years," says Sharon. "I then launched into a second career focused on development and communications, mostly with social service organizations. I have degrees in English literature, library science, adult education, and law, all of which I've used in my rather meandering career as an advocate on behalf of those most disempowered in our society," she explains.


After working most recently as a development consultant and ESL teacher, Sharon decided it was time for a change. "I wanted to go back to work full-time for a nonprofit whose mission really engaged me," she says. "Chicago Lights' most certainly did!" 


Sharon was born in New England and grew up in Montreal, but considers Chicago her "adopted home." She loves to run with the Evanston Running Club, is an avid reader and NPR addict, and she enjoys Chicago theater, museums, and film. Sharon has a daughter who is a freshman at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


Once a year Sharon packs her backpack and heads out on an adventure: "to travel fairly close to the ground in a far-off country in the developing world whose culture and history I find fascinating," she explains. These journeys have taken her to Belize, Guatemala, Peru, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand, and on a huge circuit around southern Africa. "From the road, I write about my adventures and the intersection of my political ideas and my personal encounters in these much-exploited areas of the world," she says.


Back home, Sharon says her goals for Chicago Lights are to "help diversify the funding base by ramping up our efforts in the corporate world of Chicago and to try to fund some of the wonderful and innovative ideas our excellent Program Directors have on their wish lists."


For a full staff list, click here

Sunshine Project Update

Tutoring provides students with hope and opportunity through educational engagement.

We are excited to share with you the results of the Sunshine Project facilitated by the Chicago Sun-Times Community Trust:


In part because of your voting participation, Chicago Lights Tutoring was awarded $10,000 from the trust!  


Our program was among 15 organizations awarded grants in the youth education category of this contest, which took place this past September and October. We are very grateful to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust for selecting our program to receive funds that will advance our outreach.


Many thanks to our staff, students, volunteers, and larger supporter community for rallying together to vote and comment on behalf of Chicago Lights Tutoring. We were touched by your thoughtful reflections, such as:


"For 47 years, Chicago Lights Tutoring has been changing lives in substantive and powerful ways--for students and tutors alike. My six years as a tutor and three years as a member of the Chicago Lights Board have convinced me that this is an extraordinary program that grows richer and stronger each year. Shine on!" -- Alison Thomas


"Chicago Lights Tutoring is a place where one of the best kids I know is learning and growing every year." -- Ryann Meyer


"Chicago Lights truly is a light in the city, not only for the students they tutor, but also the students' families, friends, and classmates. Those who tutor are also enriched. Children with potential who might otherwise be lost are given time, caring guidance, and an opportunity to open doors to brighter futures." -- Sandra Gourley


Your outpouring of support means much to us! Congratulations to Chicago Lights Tutoring staff, students, families, and volunteers.



Urban Farm Featured on NBC


Did you see it on TV? The Chicago Lights Urban Farm was featured on NBC Chicago as part of their "Go Green" emphasis a few weeks ago! To see the video, visit the Urban Farm You Tube Channel by clicking here. Also on that channel, you'll find a clip we created entitled, "Movers and Shakers." 

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Upcoming Events



CLASS Showcases

December 13 

Jenner Academy of Arts

December 15 

Manierre School



No Tutoring

(Winter Break)

December 19-January 8



Light Up a Life


December 31



Tutoring Resumes

January 9 



Carnaval 2012

March 2



Child at the community garden

Our Mission

Chicago Lights

provides hope and opportunity to our city's children, youth, and adults who face the challenges of poverty.

Through supportive relationships and diverse programs,

we empower people to thrive academically, secure economic stability, lead healthy lives, and build community.


To learn more, view the

2010 Annual Report


Tutor and Tutee Writing

The Outreach Programs of Chicago Lights



Summer Day 


Elam Davies Social Service Center 


Center for  

Whole Health 


Chicago Lights Academic Success in Schools 



Urban Farm 

in collaboration with

Growing Power 


Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy  

at Nancy B. Jefferson

Alternative School


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Chicago Lights Board of Directors President -- Ed Coke


Newsletter Editor -- Erin Dalpini

 Newsletter Writer -- Jessica Royer Ocken


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