Our organization could not function without the enthusiasm, and ultimately, endorsement, of our school’s principal. Our counselors, coordinators, and staff work alongside school administrations to ensure our programs work at their most effective. Without their support, the trust and advocacy between student, school, and staff is lost. Gilberto Piedrahita, principal at Jordan Community School in Rogers Park, is a passionate champion of Youth Guidance’s programs — in his school are CAP Resource Coordinators and BAM Counselors working with his students and families, of which 90% are low-income. (Pictured in the header: the principal, center, posing with Zumba instructors as part of one of Back-to-School Bash’s activities.)
Host of their local community event, Back-to-School Bash, and the Chicago Bears BAM kick-off, the school is thriving. Historically, the administration of Jordan often changed year after year. Once on board in 2015, Piedrahita said “one of [his] main goals was to change the culture of the school.” The constant changes produced “a lack of consistency, lack of cohesiveness, and lack of leadership in the building.” Without the staff feeling connected, the students suffer.
He cites Youth Guidance as being an active partner in bringing this goal to a working reality. “I worked really close with YG, trying to have every single component they would bring to my school, aiming to reach the same goal: which is giving to our students the right, positive learning environment for them to be successful at school and a great experience in school,” he said. He worked tirelessly to get everyone on board, to ensure that everyone’s goal was, and still is, the same: “Every decision must be beneficial for our students.”
He effused his support for BAM, noticing the immediate impact Jordan’s counselor, William McAdams, had on his students. “[We had] the best BAM counselors ever! The kind of rapport and kind of relationship that he established with the students is amazing. Every single member of BAM…they see in Mr. McAdams a real role model, which was fantastic,” he said. CAP, and through the organization of Resource Coordinator Arturo Medina, has also had tangible, profound effects on Jordan’s students. Programs ranging from mentoring, homework help, music, robotics, to cooking courses for students and their families, the enrichment activities are plentiful. Research has proven that children in quality afterschool programs are more likely to come to school and stay in school, more likely to hand in their work and get better grades, as well as be less likely to join gangs or be victims or perpetrators of violence.
The students are not the sole deciding factor in the school’s success. “With the school’s community, you need to treat every single stakeholder like a part of your family. They’re your partners. If you want to be successful as a school leader, they need to be successful as well,” he said. Treating parents, staff, and students with dignity and respect is crucial.
“That is the way I treat them – just the same way I want to be treated.”