Each Thanksgiving season I try to take a moment to pause and really reflect on what I’m grateful for. This year, what stands out in my mind are the many educators, students, families, and schools I’ve had the privilege to work with who have made it a priority to embrace kindness.

Even with so much already on their plates, the educators who participate in Teach Kindness make time for their students to learn about empathy, emotions, mindfulness, and other fundamental life skills because they know it will serve students well both now and in the future.

I hear from educators constantly about how Teach Kindness and a focus on social and emotional skills has enriched their school community and created a culture of positivity. Schools change for the better when kindness is made a priority.

I want to sincerely thank the school communities that have made kindness a centerpiece of their work. And I especially want to thank every person who has given their time and resources to Teach Kindness this year and enabled this program to reach children and families across Illinois.

You can just feel it when a school has made kindness one of their core values. Students seem at ease and the school’s environment is warm and welcoming.

I feel it at Palmer Elementary in Chicago where special education teacher Tracy Caronia’s positive post-it notes left for students light up their faces with pride. She sees the difference kindness makes for her students, especially the younger ones who, because of pandemic disruptions, are having their first “normal” school year ever.

And I feel it at Wagoner Elementary in Sauk Village. There, students created positive affirmation posters that are displayed on their lockers. These affirmations remind them every day that they have the power to be kind to others. Educators at Wagoner distribute anonymous Kindness Grams to each other – short notes of gratitude that create waves of positivity among the staff.

These schools have made kindness a part of their identity. They are building schools where everyone feels welcome, valued, appreciated, and seen. The results are amazing!

Teaching kindness makes an impact on students and educators alike. Up and down Illinois, schools have embraced the lessons of Teach Kindness and made a deep impact on their school communities.

I hope you will join them in making kindness part of your daily routine and spread the word that schools are more welcoming when they teach kindness.

As a special education teacher, I try to make all my students feel appreciated and important. That’s why I’ve made it a habit to place positive post-it notes around the classroom, written specifically for each child. I’ll leave one on a student’s folder or the spot they typically sit. I’ll mention how I noticed they said something nice to another child, or how I see that they’re working really hard on an assignment.

The look on their faces — how they light up with pride when they read their notes — that’s everything. With one simple act of kindness, I’m able to lift their self-esteem, build their confidence, and hopefully inspire them to spread kindness, too.

Today, on World Kindness Day, what’s one small but powerful thing you can do to spread kindness?

This is most of my students’ first normal year of school due to pandemic disruptions. Many of them are struggling with skills they would’ve otherwise developed in early grades, including empathy and problem solving. With Stand’s Teach Kindness lessons and activities my students can practice these fundamental life skills, socialize with intention, and learn how their words and actions affect others.

Through engaging and interactive exercises, Teach Kindness gives my students opportunities to understand their emotions and find their place in our classroom community. I’ve seen such a positive change in them since participating in this program.

After a student reads their positive post-it note, I often see them tuck it inside their take-home folder or slip it into their backpack. It’s a reminder that kindness has a lasting effect, and the more kindness we can exhibit toward one another, the better off we’ll all be.

Please consider what you can do today to make someone feel seen, appreciated, and important.

Illinoisans made their voices heard. Up and down the state, Election Day showed intensity and dedication in so many races on the ballot.

The same is true for races where Stand for Children IL PAC made endorsements. We supported a diverse group of education equity and racial justice champions who would stand up for Illinois children and families. We’re proud of each candidate and congratulate these winning endorsed candidates:

  • Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (HD-17)
  • Rep. Robyn Gabel (HD-18)
  • Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (HD-19)
  • Rep. Janet Yang Rohr (HD-41)
  • Fred Crespo (HD-44)
  • Diane Blair-Sherlock (HD-46)
  • Rep. Barbara Hernandez (HD-50)
  • Rep. Mark Walker (HD-53)
  • Rep. Michelle Mussman (HD-56)
  • Rep. Daniel Didech (HD-59)
  • Rep. Joyce Mason (HD-61)
  • Laura Faver Dias (HD-62)
  • Rep. Suzanne Ness (HD-66)
  • Gregg Johnson (HD-72)
  • Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (HD-81)
  • Sharon Chung (HD-91)
  • Rep. Amy Elik (HD-111)
  • Rep. Katie Stuart (HD-112)
  • Sen. Laura Fine (SD-9)
  • Sen. Dan McConchie (SD-26)
  • Mary Edly-Allen (SD-31)
  • Sen. Doris Turner (SD-48)

We congratulate these candidates, and the candidates who did not win but ran great campaigns. Some of the endorsed races are still too close to call, so this list could yet grow. In the end, it shows that education champions represent districts up and down our state and remain committed to building a brighter future for us all.

Now that Election Day is behind us, the real work of building that brighter future begins.

I hope you’ll join us.

Voting booths

All the campaign ads, canvassers, mailers, and texts have led us to one of my favorite places on earth: the voting booth.

Election Day is when our voices are heard louder than ever. It’s when we speak up for candidates who support education equity and racial justice. For folks who support Illinois children and families.

If you haven’t already, today is your day to speak up. Find your polling location here.

We watched and listened, friends – now it’s our turn to be heard.

Campaign season is flying, and we’re nearly at the finish line. Have you made your plan to vote? You have three ways to vote on or before Election Day, Tuesday, November 8.

Vote Early

You can cast your ballot any time between now and Election Day.

Vote By Mail

If you requested a ballot and have not retuned it, now is the time! Ballots must be postmarked on or before November 8 and must arrive at the office of the local election authority by November 22 to be counted.

Vote On Election Day

Election Day is next Tuesday, November 8. Find your polling place here.

With less than a week before Election Day, it’s go-time for voters.

It’s so important for us to make our voices heard in this election. Issues like education equity and racial justice are on the ballot, and we need champions who will stand up for Illinois children and families.

Take a few moments to make your plan to vote. Plan out when you will vote, where, and how you will get there.

Remember, at Stand we show up, we speak up, we reach out, and we vote.

Paid for by Stand for Children IL PAC

If your experience has been anything like mine, every time you turn on the TV or go to the mailbox, you can’t avoid campaign ads or mailers. It’s definitely campaign season in Illinois.

Campaign season means something to us here at Stand, too, as we look for candidates to champion issues related to education equity and racial justice. These elections can have such a huge impact on those issues and so many others.

Today, Stand for Children IL PAC is pleased to announce our support for a group of diverse and committed education champions for the General Assembly. In Springfield, they will stand up for Illinois children and families.

For the 2022 General Election, Stand for Children IL PAC endorses the following candidates for the General Assembly.

For the Illinois House:

  • Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D)17th District
  • Rep. Robyn Gabel (D) 18th District
  • Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (D) 19th District
  • Rep. Janet Yang Rohr (D) 41st District
  • Diane Blair-Sherlock (D) 46th District
  • Rep. Barbara Hernandez (D) 50th District
  • Rep. Mark Walker (D) 53rd District
  • Rep. Michelle Mussman (D) 56th District
  • Rep. Daniel Didech (D) 59th District
  • Rep. Joyce Mason (D) 61st District
  • Laura Faver Dias (D) 62nd District
  • Rep. Suzanne Ness (D) 66th District
  • Gregg Johnson (D) 72nd District
  • Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D) 81st District
  • Rep. Keith Wheeler (R) 83rd District
  • Sharon Chung (D) 91st District
  • Rep. Amy Elik (R) 111th District
  • Rep. Katie Stuart (D) 112th District

For the Illinois Senate:

  • Sen. Laura Fine (D) 9th District
  • Sen. Dan McConchie (R) 26th District
  • Mary Edly-Allen (D) 31st District
  • Sen. Doris Turner (D) 48th District
  • Sen. Kris Tharp (D) 56th District

We’ll be in touch soon as Election Day nears with more updates. In the meantime, I hope you’ll make a plan to vote and urge your family and friends to do the same.

(Paid for by Stand for Children IL PAC)

I love the reaction we’ve received to the student videos released last week. Their amazing experiences with Dual Credit courses, and the bright futures they all have ahead of them in college and career, show the vast potential of these game-changing courses.

Those stories are inspiring. I know there are more just like them, or could be, if we work together and broaden access to advanced courses like Dual Credit.

That’s where Stand’s Dual Credit Advocacy Toolkit comes in. We released the toolkit a year ago in the hopes of giving Illinoisans at every level of the education system – parents, students, educators, administrators, community members – the tools they need to grow Dual Credit’s impact in their school. Folks have put it to use and added to their own stories.

I hope you’ll take a few moments to explore the Dual Credit Advocacy Toolkit. It offers a step-by-step guide to bring Dual Credit to your school, grow an existing program, or even help guide educators through the steps of gaining required certification. It really has something for everyone!

Dig into the Toolkit and use it to add to your own Dual Credit story. I can’t wait to hear what you accomplish. As always, if we can help lend a hand, please reach out. We’re always happy to help grow Dual Credit across the state.

Thumbnail from Dual Credit Student Success Stories video

Over the past few years, we’ve really seen the difference that Dual Credit courses are making for students across Illinois. As more high school students take these advanced classes, fewer students needed costly remedial classwork in community college.

Dual Credit’s impact is real. But you don’t need to take my word for it. Take it from real Illinois students who experienced the benefits of Dual Credit courses firsthand.

Payton will save time and money as she transitions directly to the nursing program in college.

Jessa knew the collaboration between her high school and community college created unique opportunities.

Riley’s online courses helped put her on the fast-track to get into the workforce sooner.

Each of these students graduated high school with an associate degree, setting them on a course for future success.

These Illinois students are living examples of what Dual Credit courses can do for individuals and school communities alike. Through our partnership with Vienna High School, Stand had a unique opportunity to hear directly from these students about their experiences in Dual Credit courses. What we heard was inspiring. I encourage you to watch for yourself. We’re seeing more and more that when districts commit to Dual Credit, great things can happen. And as we look to the future to set up more students for success in an ever-changing economic landscape, Dual Credit remains a significant accelerator to that success.

The Stand team is spending the last few days of summer preparing for an upcoming hearing of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Statutory Court Fee Task Force. We plan to comment on their latest work, and I hope you’ll join us by lending your voice to this cause.

We told you earlier this year about the problem with juvenile court fees and fines, a deep economic injustice. These fees and fines vary across Illinois counties, creating a patchwork of injustice that falls especially hard on low-income youth and families. Fees can range from DNA identification ($250 per test), probation supervision (usually $50 per month), and room and board while a child is held in detention ($10 per day). They can add up in a hurry and saddle children and their families with debt, further delaying plans like college and career.

The good news is that the Supreme Court Task Force sees the injustice of these fees and fines and recommends that “legislation be enacted abolishing assessments and fines in juvenile delinquency cases.”

We wholeheartedly agree and will provide testimony in support of eliminating juvenile court fees and fines. Stand with us and voice your support for the abolition of these fees and fines!

Ultimately, juvenile fees and fines undermine community health, economic stability, and trust in our courts. That’s why numerous states and local jurisdictions – both majority Democratic and Republican – have reduced or eliminated juvenile fees and fines in recent years. We must do better for Illinois youth and their families.

Thank you for standing with Illinois children and their families against this economic injustice. We’ll be in touch again before the hearing and follow-up with additional ways to engage on this issue.