Today, Stand for Children officially announced our very own Jessica Handy as our new Illinois Executive Director. Jessica brings to this new role a deep well of policy expertise and statewide relationships to lead the organization into a new era.

You’ve surely seen Jessica’s name in your inbox for a long time now. She’s been a fixture at Stand for over 12 years, leading our government affairs department in Springfield. During her time at Stand, she’s helped to enact some of the most impactful education policies of the last decade.

This session, Jessica is excited to lead the team as we advocate for a significant increase to the Evidence-Based Funding Formula, to end the unjust practice of imposing court fines and fees on Illinois youth, and to create a comprehensive statewide literacy plan.

When she’s not at work, Jessica stays busy standing for children in other ways. She is now in her sixth year as a foster mom. As a former teen mom herself, she has a special interest in supporting teen moms in care to become successful parents. Inspired by the literacy advocates she met across Illinois, Jessica also recently earned tutoring credentials to support students with dyslexia.

We look forward to working with you all in the weeks to come as the legislative session culminates, and in the months and years to come as we look to create a brighter future for us all.

Before I ring in the new year with my family, I wanted to send you a quick note with one last request for 2022.

We achieved so much this year thanks to generous supporters just like you who bolstered our efforts to increase investments in the classroom and develop programs to spread kindness in schools across the state.

But 2023 is a new year, and to keep the success going, we need you to keep standing with us.

Before you log off to celebrate, please consider taking a moment to make a tax-deductible gift to support our work.

I’m excited to see everything we’ll achieve together in 2023!

As the year winds down, I’m reflecting on all that Stand has achieved this year. From expanding access to Dual Credit and career technical education classes to improving literacy for young readers across the state, there’s so much to be proud of — but still so much to achieve in 2023.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Stand for Children Leadership Center today to support our mission.

  • $25 can support a family engagement event for Illinois parents
  • $50 can help support a parent or educator to attend Stand’s resilience and well-being retreats
  • $250 can help established a Teach Kindness program at an Illinois elementary school

The clock is ticking down, but there’s still time to invest in the important work of Stand parents and educators striving to improve educational outcomes and opportunities for students. Show that you stand with Illinois students by making your gift today.

When I look back on 2022 and all we achieved together, I see so many positive sparks of change for our children. Your gift of $5 today will help spark the next change.

Schools became kinder, more welcoming spaces for students and staff through the Teach Kindness program.

Educators thrived as they helped improve school climate and parent engagement through the CAFE Coaching program.

More children in underserved neighborhoods got the tools and programs they needed to become better readers.

We gained important insight into perspectives on Dual Credit courses through our community survey. We know where to work and build support to expand access to this critical high school resource now.

Our Payton Parent Fellows grew as leaders and helped put parents and caregivers at the table when important issues were discussed at the state and district level. All of this work – really, all of it – is possible only thanks to the support of folks like you. Your generous support allows us to make a difference every day across so many issues, programs, and relationships.

Giving Tuesday logo

Today is Giving Tuesday and a busy email day, so I’ll make this short and sweet.

Stand’s work in schools across the state, especially our work spreading kindness to students and educators through Teach Kindness, is only possible with the support of folks like you. Your generosity allows us to reach more classrooms and impact more lives. It’s as simple as that.

Can I count on you to support Stand’s work in the community with a tax-deductible donation today? Every little bit helps.

Thank you for everything you do to support our mission to fight for education equity and racial justice. Together, we can make the world a kinder place and continue to stand for Illinois children and their families.

“How can I help?” Four magical words that I need to remember to say more often to friends, family, and colleagues.

Here’s how six volunteers are helping Stand Illinois fight for educational equity and justice. Perhaps they may spark in you an idea for helping others; these folks definitely inspire me.

Melissa Hostetter is a first-grade teacher who is active in the Illinois Early Literacy Coalition. She’s playing a critical role in increasing awareness – including among legislators – around the reasons why Illinois must step up its game in early literacy. Melissa recently spoke at “Literacy & Justice for All,” an event hosted by the Coalition. (Her presentation begins at 10:56). Melissa explains in an incredibly approachable way about achievable policy changes to support reading instruction for Illinois students.

Stand’s COVID Safety Care campaign is targeting some of the areas that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. The care team went to over 2,000 doors in three weeks, sharing resources for getting the facts about COVID. None of this would have been possible without the help of good people like the amazing Nastassia BallardKeith Wilson, and Savannah Snyder. (They’re pictured with Stand staff member Tommorrow Snyder.)

As we celebrate Veterans’ Day this week, we say a special thank you to Keith for his service to our country. Keith is an Army veteran who served in the Middle East. Our hugs to you, Keith.

Next up, amazing parents and students are volunteering with the Learn from History Coalition. In order for students to create a better society, schools need to provide a thorough, accurate, and fact-based history education. Among the many contributions made by Laurie Goldstein to this effort is sharing her story with the Illinois Times. Equally powerful are efforts from Jennifer Lind, who was a guest on the Beyond the Beltway radio program.

Please also join me in congratulating three staff members for their recent promotions.

As our Government Affairs Director for over 10 years, Jessica Handy played a key role in every education-related policy that Stand has fought for, while also devoting significant time to our bi-partisan political work. Jessica has been so motivated by the amazing people she met through our recent early literacy work that she has begun Orton-Gillingham training so she can tutor children who struggle with reading. She will transition to the role of Stand’s Policy Director where she will continue to lead the Early Literacy Coalition and focus on policy and implementation matters. Meanwhile, Aimee Galvin, is stepping into the Government Affairs Director role. She’s more than hit the ground running already, building off her political, agency-level, and coalition efforts for the last several years at Stand.

Tommorrow Snyder has been promoted to Community and Family Partnerships Director. The title is long because her reach is so far; Tommorrow’s work with policymakers, parents, and community members is always impactful, innovative, and honest.

If we can help you, please let me know. If you would like to help us, well, please also let me know.

Four news flashes about members of the Stand Illinois Team.

Tommorrow Snyder, Stand’s Regional Organizing Director, has been appointed to the statewide Work Group for implementation of the Jett Hawkins Act. This Act bans hair discrimination in schools. Tommorrow brings a rich perspective to this issue – in addition to leading Stand’s community and family engagement partnerships, she is a licensed cosmetologist. The Jett Hawkins Law Work Group is working with the Illinois State Board of Education to create a model toolkit and resource guide for schools.

The Springfield Business Journal has selected Jessica Handy, Stand’s Government Affairs Director, for its annual 40 Under 40 list. Jessica’s inclusion on this list of movers and shakers highlights the dedication and impact she has across the state and in her hometown. She has been a leader in advocating for increased school funding, a more equitable funding formula, and access to advanced coursework. When asked for her proudest professional accomplishment, Jessica cited legislation that stopped millions of federal funds from being siphoned each year from classrooms serving low-income students and students with disabilities. Jessica is a mom, a foster mom, and an affordable housing advocate.

For a few years now, the Stand Illinois office has had the tremendous help of Brandi Watts, a colleague who would travel back and forth from our Texas affiliate. We’re thrilled that she has now moved to the Prairie State and joins us as Stand’s Educator Partnerships Director. Brandi leads our educator engagement strategies and will be helping shape state and district education policy, while continuing to play a key role in our organization’s national Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts.

To commemorate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Chicago honored 12 individuals for their contributions to their communities and the entire city. Mimi Rodman, Stand’s Executive Director, was one of these honorees and was selected for her support and advocacy for the Chicago’s youth. Mimi is a first-generation Korean American. Chicago has the fifth largest population of Asian Americans in the country.

Kim Payton was a force of nature when it came to speaking up for children and her community. She put in the hours, knocked on the doors, made the connections, and kept pushing for what’s right. She was like a superhero, standing up to make things better for everyone.

She was also a genuine and gracious person. It’s hard to comprehend that my friend passed away, but I will always remember her humor and warmth. Our relationship was woven together through the bonds of action and getting involved in something bigger than ourselves. We both wanted what’s best for our children and our communities. Working through Stand, we were able to accomplish so much together.

The photo accompanying this blog is one that I love. That’s Kim on the right in the bright pink top and me holding the sign. We were at a rally for fair school funding – another one of those events Kim never missed.

Kim joined the inaugural class of Stand Parent Fellows, taking her advocacy and connection to Stand to another level. She was a mentor to other parents, a friend to all, and a welcoming presence at each event she attended.

It’s because of that dedication and engagement that we are so proud today to announce the Kimberly Payton Parent Fellowship.

Kim is the only person we could possibly name our parent fellowship after. Her advocacy spanned years and her resolve to stand up for all children and communities knew no bounds.

This is a truly fitting way to honor Kim here at Stand. She will continue to serve as a role model for all parent members and fellows. Her example shines bright, and her personal motto, “each one, teach one, reach one,” is now imprinted into our work.

I miss my friend terribly. But as those pangs of grief come and go, I also feel a deep sense of gratitude for having had her in my life. I feel motivated to continue the work. I feel committed to making a difference.

I will honor Kim’s legacy. I hope you will, too, because the work begins again, in her honor.

One of the most remarkable parents I have had the privilege of knowing during my time at Stand is Kimberly Payton. Many folks called her Kimmie, and the passion and depth of caring she brought to her advocacy was infectious.

I am terribly sad to tell you that Kim recently and suddenly passed away. She leaves behind five children and an irreplaceable void here at Stand.

Kim’s personal motto was “each one, teach one, reach one.” She lived by those words every day. No matter what life threw at her, Kim found ways to make her community a better place.

Kim first became involved with Stand in 2014 through our program, Stand University for Parents. She had been with us ever since, putting those advocacy skills to work across Chicago and the state. Kim was there when we fought for fair school funding. And she and her family participated in our early literacy programs, Beat the Odds Reading and Every Child Reads.

Kimmie was a constant at Stand as One retreats, welcoming folks with a warm smile and a contagious laugh. She shared her truth and made the retreats a safe and welcoming space where everyone felt like family. Kim served as chairperson of the Local School Council and vice-chairperson of the Parent Advisory Council, both at O’Keeffe School of Excellence.

One of Kim’s most profound legacies is the lower crime rates of the streets of her community. After a serious altercation at the school, Kim sprung to action to convince Chicago Public Schools that the children of South Shore needed Safe Passage. Teaming with Stand, Kim led a door-to-door campaign, collecting over 100 petition signatures. Kim later told me that she kept ringing doorbells even though she heard shots ringing down the street. You can read more about Kim’s heroic efforts and the impact they made.

I hope you’ll join me in saying a short prayer, sending a positive thought, or sharing a quiet moment with a loved one as a tribute to Kim.

Today, the Center for Antiracist Education (CARE) is launching to respond to the enormous number of teachers who want to contribute to ending racism in their schools and in society, but say they lack the tools, resources, and professional development to do so.

According to a survey conducted by EdWeek, 84% of teachers want to teach from an antiracist perspective, but only 14% feel they are well-equipped to do so. CARE will bridge this massive gap by empowering teachers to identify racism in learning materials, providing guidance on materials that align with antiracist principles, and offer valuable professional learning via a first-of-its-kind certification program. CARE will also conduct research and evaluation to rigorously assess the impact of its resources.

“Teachers see the tremendous suffering and strife and the massive waste of human potential that racism causes in society, and also how racism hurts and holds back students,” said CARE Executive Director Maureen Costello, who previously led the highly successful Teaching Tolerance program. “They want to help their students to do better and their schools and our society to be better by strengthening what they teach and how they teach it.”

CARE is an initiative of Stand for Children, a nonpartisan national nonprofit focused on ensuring all students receive a high quality, relevant education. CARE is led by widely respected educators Maureen Costello, Valeria Brown, and Kate Shuster and guided by a distinguished Advisory Board of educators and researchers including University of Pennsylvania Prof. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Harvard Kennedy School Prof. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, University of California, Berkeley Prof. Kris Gutiérrez, Ohio State University Prof. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, University of Texas at Austin Prof. Daina Ramey Berry, and National Teacher of the Year candidate Juliana Urtubey.

“Antiracist educators see the humanity and potential of every student and ensure that what we teach and how we teach helps students to flourish, see each others’ shared humanity and perspectives, and learn to recognize and combat racism and systemic inequities. It is our duty to holistically embody what it means to be antiracist educators,” said Urtubey, a learning strategist at Booker Elementary School in Las Vegas. “The outcome is huge — more joyful and just classrooms and a better future is achievable for every educator — and CARE is here to help every committed educator progress and reap the benefits.”

Across the country, hate crimes and racial terrorism are on the rise, as are the number of students who report experiencing hate-driven bullying by their peers. The rise of highly public acts of hate combined with the nation’s reckoning with racism and the stark racial inequities laid bare by the pandemic have produced an enormous appetite among teachers for tools and resources to help them ensure every student is seen and learns to see the world from different perspectives.

A dozen prominent groups of educators and education leaders, including AASA, The School Superintendents Association; the National Council for the Social Studies; and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) have already endorsed CARE’s principles for an antiracist future.

“Teachers are asking for the tools to do better,” said Stefanie Wager, President of the National Council for the Social Studies. “They know we ourselves were taught an incomplete version of the story of this country, and they know that we build a stronger country by building well-informed citizens. CARE is offering an answer to the question they’re asking.”

For more information about CARE, visit