Mission: Project: VISION, Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 with a mission to provide youth of Chicago’s Chinatown and Bridgeport communities with tools for educational, personal, and civic development. In the fall of 2004, volunteers piloted a homework tutoring program in borrowed space at the local library and Boys and Girls Club. Since then, Project: VISION has moved on to its own space in Chinatown and has reached over 300 youths with its programs while remaining primarily volunteer-run and continuing to provide all programs free to youth. Project: VISION takes a holistic approach to youth development, with a goal of helping each youth achieve success in all areas of life by providing positive role models and positive activities. We strive to help youth build strengths, develop skills, gain confidence and positive attitudes that will help them succeed in school and beyond as future community leaders.
Target demographics: Project: VISION serves youth ages 12-21 in Chicago’s Chinatown, Bridgeport, and surrounding neighborhoods. Youths seek out our organization for many reasons and needs; some are looking for a means to connect with peers and mentors, and some seek to receive homework help, while others want to get involved in the community. Still, our community is often overlooked as underserved; in reality, many of the youths Project: VISION serve are from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Currently, 96% of Project: VISION youths are Chinese American, with 90% from low-income first generation immigrant families. While many families come to this country seeking better opportunities for their children, language, long work hours in service-oriented jobs, and little understanding of the American education system are all barriers to the parental involvement youth need. This leaves many youth in need of guidance, support, and encouragement, which after school programs like ours can help provide.
Programs: Since the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, Project: VISION’s programs have served 65 youths, providing services to an average of 50 youths each week in several core programs. Programs take place in a 1200 square foot facility consisting of two classrooms, one general tutoring area, library, and computer area with three student workstations. The Youth Center is open from Mondays-Thursdays from 2-7pm. The After School Homework Tutoring Program is the cornerstone of Project: VISION’s programs as education is the key to future success and eventually to building a stronger community. Tutoring is available at the Youth Center during all hours of operation and is staffed with volunteer tutors available for homework help and one-on-one tutoring. In addition to fostering academic success in terms of helping students improve grades and test scores, the program also strives to help students develop effective academic skills and build appreciation for learning that will serve them well as they move on to college and beyond. So far, in the first semester of this school year, 40 students have benefited the program, increased from serving 30 students over the entire last school year, attesting to the need for this program. The program retention rate is 85%, and on average each student receives six hours of tutoring per week (increased from an average of five hours per week last year). Upon enrolling, each student now completes an initial assessment, consisting of a set of three academic goals and objectives. After the first semester, preliminary estimates show that 70% of tutored students are meeting at least one objective under each academic goal. Furthermore, student surveys show that participants recognize the benefits of the program: 89% feel the program helps them do better in school, while 72% feel more confident at school, and 56% feel tutors help them improve their study skills. Every Project: VISION student should aim to attend college, and the College Prep program has helped many students achieve this. We continue to send 100 percent of our high school seniors to college after preparing them with programs such as ACT test prep classes, college application, essay writing, and financial aid workshops throughout the school year. The ACT prep program has been particularly successful; over the years, the program has prepared over 100 students for the exam, with over 70% achieving a 2-point or greater improvement in composite scores. Leadership opportunities and community service are fundamental to positive youth development. While many youths seek service opportunities to fulfill school requirements (Chicago Public School high school students are required to complete 40 community service hours prior to graduation), Project: VISION strives to foster a sense of social responsibility in youth that goes beyond obligation. Project: Youth Initiative is a service learning program that aims to provide meaningful service learning opportunities that help youth learn about the problems in their community, develop positive attitudes toward service, and understand the importance of volunteerism. These are the experiences that will encourage youth to stay involved and help them grow into active community members willing to give back to others. Each semester, Project: Youth Initiative provides three service opportunities to students. Last school year, 50 youths participated in community service projects, collectively earning over 500 service learning hours, and this year, 30 youth have already collectively participated in 270 service hours after one semester. Youths engaged in many projects including recycling projects, community health fairs, production of an anti-tobacco public service announcement, and a community anti-obesity campaign. These meaningful projects have helped youth build positive attitudes toward community service. For example, after participating in an anti-tobacco service project, 90% of students stated that they learned something new and that as a result of the program are encouraged to continue volunteering in the community!