There are 16 Grow Your Own (GYO) consortia, 8 in Chicago and 8 in other high need areas in Illinois. The cohorts of GYO Latino candidates featured in this nomination live and work in two diverse, largely Latino neighborhoods in Chicago and attend the College of Education at Northeastern Illinois University. A state law with state funding, Grow Your Own supports the teacher candidates with tuition assistance, tutoring, child care, transportation and supports by cohort coordinators who are academic liaisons with the College of Education and also by coordinators at the two community organizations who support the candidates and help to develop them as community leaders.
The mission of Grow Your Own Teachers, a community-based initiative, is to prepare highly effective teachers of color who will teach in the low-income communities where they live. The target populations are parents, paraprofessionals, and community leaders. Grow Your Own has three goals: 1) to develop a pipeline of teachers of color; 2) to reduce high rates of teacher turnover in low-income schools; and 3) to develop teachers who share the culture, language, and community of the students.
Grow Your Own (GYO) serves 350 candidates statewide; 84% are people of color. The two Logan Square cohorts serve 49 candidates, 46 of whom are Latino. The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) cohort serves 25 candidates, 21 of whom are Latino. Statewide GYO has recruited over 100 Latinos who are becoming teachers. The candidates have an impressive average 3.3 GPA in their major subjects. Sixteen percent of candidates are preparing to be bilingual teachers and another 21% are preparing to be special education teachers. Grow Your Own now has 29 graduates statewide, 14 of them are Latinos from Logan Square and SWOP. The program enjoys a 52% retention rate, impressive since half the candidates come from families with incomes of $30,000 or less. Latino teachers make up a very small percentage of the total number of teachers in Illinois, although their numbers have increased slightly (from 3% to 5%) in the past decade. During this same decade, the percentage of Latino students increased from 14% to 20%.