A team of elementary school mothers stand victories during playground reconstruction

Change starts close to home

When parents begin their journey with The COFI Way at Self, Family & Team training, they form their first teams to organize and take action within their own local schools and communities.

Working closely together, they identify community strengths and needs, invite more families into the mix, find new helpful resources, and act.

COFI currently works with parent action teams across dozens of Chicago neighborhoods and Illinois communities on a wide range of local school and community action campaigns. For example, some local teams lead outreach projects in partnership with various community entities, such as Early Learning and Illinois Solar for All Ambassadors. This outreach model grew out of policy victories won by COFI-trained parents!

Simply put, parent leaders get things done:

  • An icon of a home with a heart inside

    364,866 doors knocked

    and 153,428 families reached about early learning

  • 27,552 families provided

    with Summer Meal Program information

  • 17,182 children referred

    to Head Start and Preschool

  • 12,547 miles walked

    by 46 Walking Preschool Bus conductors

  • 217 appointments made

    for the COVID vaccine

  • 3,059 families reached

    with grassroots education on Illinois Solar for All

Spotlight on recent neighborhood victories

Kane County leaders engage with community

Active Parent Leaders of Aurora (Padres Líderes Activos de Aurora) and Elgin Parents with Power (Elgin Padres con Poder) held two successful community forums in 2022. Consisting of COFI-trained parents, the two groups hosted 155 community members, discussing the results of over 450 surveys and their vision for the future regarding mental health, school lunches, and after school programs. Almost immediately, District 131 responded by moving forward on a parent recommendation for contracting with a healthier food vendor for school meals! 

Two women in blue POWER-PAC IL shirts take notes during a community forum
Two young children engage in fun math exercises with a parent volunteer
Making math fun in the South and West Sides of Chicago

COFI parents always work to ensure that children are exposed to development opportunities at an early age. In 2019 COFI-trained parent leaders across Chicago held Mighty Math Fun Family events as a part of an ongoing initiative to make math fun and accessible to young children and their parents. Peer facilitators highlighted simple and effective strategies for “finding the math” in everyday activities like cooking, grocery shopping, reading, and playing outside.  

“An example for those who will come after us”

Long-time and well-respected COFI leader Maria Sanchez was featured in a video in spring 2021 encouraging everyone to get the COVID vaccine. Her powerful message was heard loud and clear – many fellow parent leaders (some originally hesitant) made their vaccine appointments. Soon after the video was released, COFI partnered with Erie Family Health Center and Protect Chicago Plus to encourage community members in the South and West Sides of Chicago to get vaccinated. Over two years, parent ambassadors helped 500+ residents access the vaccine!

Four people stand by a Chicago bus stop with COVID vaccine materials for community outreach
Five women wearing safety vests and holding paper stop signs stand in the middle of the street
School transportation for all who need it

Parents United for Change, the East St. Louis branch of POWER-PAC IL, won incredible school transportation victories in their school district over the span of four years. Starting in 2014, they won busing for hundreds of preschoolers, elementary, and middle school students – but some families were still excluded. Parents continued to fight – and in 2018, achieved their goal with the passage of HB 5195, which provides transportation for students who live close to their schools but whose commute to school is through a “dangerous area.”  

Safer street crossing for families

After months of advocacy, a group of COFI-trained Little Village moms (belonging to Padres Lideres Unidos) celebrated the installation of two new stop signs at a busy intersection in their neighborhood. Cars often flew through this intersection, located blocks from two elementary schools, making it extremely unsafe for children and families to cross. Parents collected over 500 signatures and worked with their alderman to make this important change over the course of several months.

A group of Latina mothers stand near a new stop sign that they helped install in their neighborhood