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GYO Takes Springfield by Storm!

"Members of the General Assembly, I am asking you to open your eyes, open your ears, and open you pocketbooks," testified Grow Your Own teacher candidate Pearl Martinez. "Make sure you provide Grow Your Own with the $3.5 million that we need."

Ms. Martinez, standing under the dome of the State Capitol Building, spoke to a high energy crowd gathered in Springfield February 23rd to fight for the Grow Your Own Teacher initiative (GYO).  The chants and cheers for GYO rang from every balcony in the rotunda.

LSNA, in partnership with Northeastern Illinois University, supports and trains 58 community leaders on their journey to become teachers in hard-to-staff schools.  The Logan Square cohort served as a model for statewide expansion.  Currently, 450 GYO teacher candidates in 16 communities around the state are working towards their bachelor's degrees through GYO. 

Due to the state budget crisis, continued funding for GYO is at risk.  GYO suffered a 10% budget cut last year, and this year the state budget situation is even more grim.

GYO teacher candidates--who have made great sacrifices to pursue their vision for community schools--are rising to the state budget challenge.  On February 23rd, over 200 GYO teacher candidates and supporters made the trek to Springfield to send the message that cutting GYO funds would not be a wise decision.

"There is nothing more important than investing in education," said Ms. Martinez, a 3.7 GPA student who expects to graduate in 2011. "Grow Your Own exists to teach our children that they, too, can be leaders of this world."

Legislative champions, such as Senator Iris Martinez, the chief sponsor of GYO, are standing up for the program. "We need teachers who can connect to the children, connect to the community.  I am going to fight for GYO."

Carmen Rodriguez and her children

Cynthia Gonzalez, Jennifer Richter, and Jose Ruano