The Dunham Fund provided a $1 for $1 challenge grant up to $125,000 to support the Dreaming Tree Foundation and its non-profit arm, Fresh Films, in the production of the teen film, Traveling without Moving. With the grant, the Fresh Films staff will mentor 300 at-risk youth in the Aurora area interested in learning the technical and life skills of film production as a collaborative art.
Fresh Films offers a one-week filmmaking apprenticeship for the teens, rotating them through every position on the film set, from camera to sound to costumes to film editing and continuity. While involved in these activities, the teens are also introduced to the many thousands of lesser-known tech and engineering career opportunities available in an industry boasting $31 billion in revenue.
Traveling without Moving is a science adventure film centered on the 2013 Nobel Prize winning discovery of the Higgs boson particle and will be released in theaters and on DVD in 2015. Steve Guttenberg (Three Men and a Baby, Cocoon, Police Academy) will take time away from his new SyFy Channel film to play the leading role of Verstag. U.S. Congressman Bill Foster, the only scientist in Congress, will do a movie cameo and provide behind the scenes extras highlighting the scientific theory in the film.
This summer, Aurora University provided housing and a college campus experience to the teens during their apprenticeships. The proximity to Fermilab, the support of hi-tech I-88 corridor companies, and the use of area vendors for housing, meals, locations and supplies brought a positive economic impact and increased visibility to the Aurora area. The Dunham Fund grant will also support teen apprenticeships for future Fresh Films productions.
The Dunham Fund encourages the nonprofits that it supports to partner with other service providers in its service area. The Fund itself also partners with other funders and Chicago area corporations to support worthy programs or projects. It was an Aurora area corporation that introduced Dreaming Tree and Fresh Films to the Dunham Fund for grant consideration.
The Dunham Fund is a major supporter of education and career pathways for teens and young adults. Allowing teens an opportunity to work behind the scenes on a film set, stay on a college campus and interact with teens from other areas of Chicagoland offers a great learning experience. The Dunham Fund is proud to partner with Dreaming Tree Foundation and Fresh Films.
This Dunham Fund challenge grant of $110,000 to the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation, will help Indian Prairie School District 204 expand on its 2014-15 school year success with the STEM initiative, Project Lead The Way (PLTW) pre-engineering capstone programs, and to enhance existing and add new extracurricular, after-school robotics and coding clubs to elementary and middle schools in the district.
District 204 continues to experience a strong amount of student interest in Project Lead The Way engineering courses. School administrators anticipate increased demands will require the district to expand the number of class sessions and teachers trained to administer PLTW courses. With initial support from the Dunham Fund, the district introduced capstone courses for high school seniors and eighth grade students in fall 2015.
Indian Prairie 204 secured an initial investment from the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation to introduce after-school, extracurricular robotics clubs in two elementary schools and two middle schools at the start of the 2014-2015 year. The two Aurora area schools selected for this initiative were Still and Fischer Middle Schools. Within days, all of the schools reached maximum enrollment. The Foundation also provided support that allowed high school clubs to double student enrollments from 90 to 180 students. Through the collaborative support of the Dunham Fund, IPEF and District 204, robotics clubs will be added at two elementary schools and two middle schools, and expanded at three high schools, allowing for up to 150 additional students to participate.
District 204 introduced a middle school coding club at Gregory Middle School at the start of the 2014-15 school year. Start-up IPEF funds enabled the school to offer four different sessions for up to 120 students, one of the sessions specifically designed for girls. With support from the Dunham Fund, IPEF and District 204, additional coding clubs will be established and coding will be embedded into the course curriculum at the secondary level. This would allow for 360 additional students to participate in the coding clubs and classes.
In collaboration with SPARK and the Race to the Top Leadership Academy, Fox Valley Montessori School (FVMS) submitted a grant proposal to the Dunham Fund for a three year program to integrate a minimum of 20 children at risk of not being prepared for kindergarten into its Montesorri Primary (3-6 years) Classroom. The school will partner with Fox Valley United Way’s SPARK (Strong, Prepared And Ready for Kindergarten) program to identify participants, based on risk factors and parental commitment. Aurora University will provide outside outcomes assessment for the at-risk students. The Dunham Fund fully funded the implementation of the Montessori school’s John C. Dunham Early Childhood Outreach Program with an $115,755 grant.
FVMS feels that its school and educational philosophy could make a larger contribution to the children and families of the Aurora area. Early childhood education has long been a focus in the Montessori education style, which stresses learning through personal interaction and individual discovery. “More and more research is showing us the importance of early childhood education in preparing children for successful lives,” said Denise Monnier, Head of School at Fox Valley Montessori. “We want parents in the area to be able to say, regardless of income level, ‘That’s something I want for my child.’”
The purpose of the collaborative outreach program is to provide an opportunity for eligible at-risk children to enroll in the school’s full-day program and to experience the preparation for the elementary grades that a Montessori education can offer. FVMS seeks to assess the preparedness of the children before, during and after completing the cycle. The Montessori staff foresee that the children completing the three year primary program at FVMS will be more fully prepared to flourish in an elementary classroom and continue with positive growth throughout the rest of their childhood. The hope is that this program will provide sufficient information to begin a formal study of the effectiveness of Montessori for at risk-children and pave a pathway for a larger program in Aurora, serving many more children and their families.
FVMS will assess the children upon entrance to the program and then continually assess within the school as they progress. FVMS will partner with a member of the Education faculty at Aurora University for outside assessment, following the children through the three year cycle and beyond as they enter elementary school, implementing assessment tools developed by the school as well as those developed by the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. FVMS will also work with its Aurora University partner to develop additional assessment tools as the program develops.
To qualify, families must meet the criteria of the Department of Human Services’ Child Care Assistance Program. Parents should be working or enrolled in school, with a total household income of less than 185% of the Federal Poverty Level.
If the Dunham Fund and Fox Valley Montessori School can show the program works, Monnier said, it could become a model for more widespread future efforts. “This is about creating a community of parents across all income levels who share a high expectation for their children. This is about being able to say, 'My child will have a better life than me, earn more than I do, and be a more positive part of the community than I was.' Every parent should have that dream.”