Institute of Museum and Library Services awards $150,000 grant to deliver new college and career readiness initiative

The Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded a 2017 national leadership grant to Triton College. The $150,000 grant supports a new initiative developed in partnership with Triton, the Oak Park-based Equity Team, Inc. (E-Team) and the Oak Park Public Library formally titled "Triton College Activating Community Opportunities." Through it, families and students in middle and high school are working closely with trained volunteers, tutors, and mentors for ongoing academic, and social support. The grant is one of only 12 awarded nationally in its IMLS category.

"Beginning as a grassroots campaign to empower our community to prepare our youth to be 100% college and career ready, we have spent months working with a dedicated team from Triton, the library, and the community to build the capacity for this initiative," said Frances Kraft, a leader of the Oak Park-based E-Team.

"The award of this grant underscores the importance of building relationships among schools, families, and community with the student as the focus," Kraft added. "We are ready and excited to be doing this important work."
"Triton College Activates Community Opportunities" empowers partners to deliver new and unique programming aimed at eliminating decades-long achievement and opportunity gaps.

Activities include:

  • Tutoring and mentoring
  • Student success workshops
  • Academic assessments
  • Career inventories
  • Family engagement seminars
  • Educational empowerment workshops
  • Health and career fairs
  • Financial planning seminars

Programming, which began October 1, takes place primarily at the Main Library.

"We are thrilled to be able to offer library staff expertise and public space to help support this new initiative," said Oak Park Public Library Executive Director David J. Seleb. "This initiative's goals are very much in line with the library's mission to share the information, services, and opportunities that fulfill Oak Park's aspirations around literacy, learning, education, and equity."

Triton, the lead partner on this project, has worked for several years with Oak Park's E-Team, a grassroots community coalition of education advocates founded in 2013 to address longstanding achievement and opportunity gaps.

"This grant award will allow Triton College to work closely with organizations and schools throughout the Oak Park community to address gaps in college and career readiness," said Triton College Dean of Academic Success, Dr. Deborah Baness King. "By utilizing the Oak Park Public Library as the central location for services, Triton College, along with our partners, will be able to bring services and resources to the community that can be easily accessed by families and students."

Students from Triton's TRIUMPH and SURGE mentoring programs work with Oak Park and River Forest students daily at the library. The project has also gained support from Oak Park and River Forest schools.

Dr. Carol Kelley, superintendent of schools for Oak Park Elementary School District 97, said, "Our district is committed to providing our students with access to a system of supports that will enable them to thrive both in and out of the classroom. We believe this program will further strengthen this commitment, while also helping to advance our vision of creating positive learning environments for all students that are equitable, inclusive, and focused on the whole child."

Oak Park River Forest District 200 Superintendent Dr. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams said, "This is a great opportunity for our students to build connections with one another, through being both recipients and providers of tutoring and mentoring. We expect this will result in positive student outcomes, as well as enhance our collaboration with community partners."

Kraft said the E-Team was deliberate in gathering the perspectives of the library and various community partners, including local school districts' leadership and schools' parent-teacher organizations, through meetings and public forums. "We will work hard to ensure that the program stays aligned with our community's aspirations. Our intention is to enhance educational outcomes and to value diversity, inclusion, and equity while providing a safe and healthy environment for all students and families," she added.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's approximately 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. 

About Triton College
Triton College is a two-year community college dedicated to helping members of the 25 communities in Western Cook County within our district and beyond achieve educational, professional and personal success. Located in River Grove, Ill., Triton offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs at its 100-acre campus that features a comfortable, friendly and diverse atmosphere. Triton also holds classes at several satellite locations as well as offers online learning opportunities. Our dedicated faculty and staff work to provide high quality, convenient and affordable education opportunities to more than 12,000 students each year. Triton College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission; member, North Central Association. 

About the E-Team of Oak Park
The E-Team of Oak Park is a nonprofit composed of education advocates who believe in the power of relationships. The mission of the E-Team is to be a community change agent focused on family engagement and student achievement. By building trust and respect between our students, families, teachers, schools, and community, we are creating partnerships to ensure a quality education for all our children.