Before 2012

Cafe Magazine: Listen Up

Listen Up 
by Angelica Herrera 

Published in Cafe Magazine on March 1, 2010.

CHICAGO -  Wearing an Illini sweatshirt and jeans, Rosaura Maldonado laughs when asked if she openly talks to her Latino parents about dating and relationships.

“Oh! You’re being serious,” she says, apologizing.

Sitting in the crowded Café Jumping Bean in Pilsen, the 28-year-old explains how daunting — if not downright impossible — it is to talk to her Mexican parents about dating, relationships, or much else concerning her personal life. “My first boyfriend wasn’t introduced as my boyfriend to my parents,” she says. “It was assumed he was my boyfriend, but I never officially said anything.” Nowadays, Maldonado’s parents suspect she’s dating someone because her boyfriend is showing up at family parties. It’s clear to Maldonado they know something is going on when, on the rare occasions she’s by herself, her mother inquires, “¿Y tu novio?” [“And your boyfriend?”]

Steering clear of conversations involving relationships is a constant maneuver for Maldonado. Saying too much becomes an open invitation for unsolicited advice from her mother. “My mom tends to give her opinion and tell me what I should do and what I did wrong," she says. “Who wants to hear that?”

Like Maldonado, many Latinos share a similar experience when it comes to talking to their parents about relationships. But something that can be done to change that.

Having worked with families as a parenting program director at Chicago's Midtown Center for Boys for 36 years, Arturo Baranda knows first-hand what it takes to build relationships between parents and their children. He says the trick to open communication between parents and children — no matter how old they are — is following a formula that encompasses attention, acceptance, approval, respect and understanding. Doing so helps create a sense of mutual trust. However, Baranda says simply following the formula isn’t always enough because one must also consider the generational differences between parents and their children. It’s important for children to acknowledge that parents have lived both major successes and failures — and this is something they may be able to someday apply to their own lives, he says.

Still, experience shouldn’t ever trump being fair. “What a parent needs to understand is who is this child of theirs —the good and the bad— and accept them for who they are,” Baranda says. “The worst thing a parent can do is judge their child, or injure their self-esteem because most of the time children hear something the parent says as a life sentence, not as an eruption of agitation or frustration.”


In many ways, Carolina Garcia says she’s played the role of mother and father for years because her husband worked all day, especially during the hours when her two girls were home. During this time, her daughters, now 23 and 21, haven’t always heeded her advice, but when they do listen to her, it’s usually over a cup of coffee.

“Usually, my oldest daughter is the one who listens to me when I tell her something,” Garcia says with a smile, gingerly touching the eyeglasses hanging from her neck. “Meanwhile, the younger one tends to tell me, ‘I don’t want to hear it.’”

But when it comes to being supportive of who they date, Garcia asks them to first bring their sweethearts home to meet because she wants “to know what kind of person he is before I give them my approval... but [my approval] comes with a curfew.” Her youngest daughter still lives at home with Garcia.

Garcia says that possibly the best way for her daughters to open up is to invite them out to dinner just to talk, because when they’re at home, the last thing they want to do is talk.

“It’s your job to capture their attention so they can listen to you,” she says. “As parents, we have walked down that path, and although we don’t want them to go through anything bad, we need to recognize that they too must live their own lives.”

Nonetheless, Garcia wishes she and her daughters spoke more openly.

It’s not just parents who want an open relationship. For the most part others who, like Maldonado, lack an open dialogue with their parents, wish it existed.

Maldonado is sure her parents, who got married at 18 and have raised six children together, must have great relationship advice. “But if I start talking too much about someone, they might misinterpret it as my wanting to get married,” she says with a sigh. “Maybe they don’t really understand the concept of dating because they got married so young.”

Regardless of the generational gap, improperly channeling emotions at a parent or child can result in a wall that is laid brick-by-brick. But knowing how to admit when you’ve screwed up is equally important. “As a parent, accepting that you’re defective is crucial,” Baranda says. “But being able to admit when you have hurt your child, and knowing how to ask for forgiveness, is vital.”

And by no means does asking for forgiveness jeopardize a parent’s authority. “If anything, it strengthens a mutual bond because there’s respect in an apology. It signals to the children that their parent trusts they have the ability to show them how to be better people,” Baranda explains. “Showing vulnerability is invaluable to getting your child to open up and talk to you.”


1. Attention: Give them your undivided attention, away from distractions. Talk about your own experiences and encourage them to do the same. Find your children’s strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to pursue things they’re good at — and show up to support them.

2. Acceptance: Accept and love them just the way they are, even when you’re mad at them. Remind them you love them and that you’re proud they’re your kids. Give them the space and sense of security to become comfortable in their own skin.

3. Approval: Be honest and let them know when they have disappointed you and why. But also let them know how proud they make you when they’re great. If you don’t approve of their behavior, wait until you’re in a good place to assertively talk to them.

4. Respect: Show the same level of respect you expect from them. Apologize when you have been hurtful, and be ready to explain what part of your behavior was wrong. Eventually, your children will start to mimic this behavior.

5. Understanding: If you’re involved in your children’s lives, it’s easier to understand what they’re going through and why. If your children feel understood, it’s easier for them to want to come to you for advice. As a result, they’re more aware of the consequences of their actions.

SOURCE: Arturo Baranda, Parent Program Manager, Midtown Center for Boys.

To read the full article on the Cafe Magazine site, click here.

Crain's: Education, arts drive a busy social season

Published by Crain's Chicago Business on December 8, 2007.

Society Galleries: Midtown Educational Foundation

CHICAGO, IL - View photo of honoree John Canning

"I'm honored to receive this award, coming from a great organization," said John A. Canning Jr., with wife Rita. "Our family foundation gives 100 scholarships each year to inner-city children to go to high school and some to college. I heard about the work MEF does and that most of it is done by 450 volunteers, a group of young corporate people who give of their time and experience and act as teachers and mentors. That in itself is impressive."

Crain's: Walgreens Chief Bolsters Education

by Mary Cameron Frey

Published by Crain's Chicago Business on October 20, 2007.

CHICAGO -  The Midtown Educational Foundation was founded in 1963 to help urban children ages 8 to 18 with personal and academic development. Its two centers in Chicago, the Metro Achievement Center for girls and Midtown Center for boys, offer after-school and summer programs that integrate academics and moral virtues. Through them, thousands of children have participated in programs that enable them to compete in college prep high schools and enter college. The Walgreens One-on-One Program recruits young executive volunteers to tutor students. Jeffrey A. Rein, chairman and CEO of Walgreen Co., is co-chairman of its fundraising dinner Monday and will attend.

CRAIN'S: How did you first learn about the Midtown Educational Foundation?

MR. REIN: I joined the board in 2002 at the suggestion of Dan Jorndt, our former chairman, who had been on the board for many years. He suggested I take a look at what they offer.

Why do you think the MEF is important to Chicago?

One of the end results is that kids who are tutored by the MEF go on to college at five times the rate of their peers across the country. Education is a way for others to help themselves and to live up to their full potential. The MEF teaches people what it takes to make a difference in the world, and they serve as role models. Through education, you are teaching people to be productive members of society - not a drain on society's resources.

Tell me about the dinner.

We're expecting around 500 guests at the Four Seasons Hotel and, in addition to cocktails and dinner, we're giving our Reach for Excellence Award to John Canning Jr., chairman and CEO of Madison Dearborn Partners. (He serves on the boards of the Children's Inner City Educational Fund and the Big Shoulders Fund, and his family foundation funds scholarships for more than a hundred disadvantaged kids in Chicago.)

Can you explain your personal views on philanthropy?

I like to support areas and groups that help educate others. I believe in education as a means to an end and because it helps people mature and overcome adversity. I'm fortunate to be in a position to be able to give back. Basically, I like to give to groups that help people help themselves.

Midtown Educational Foundation Reach for Excellence Awards Dinner

When: 5:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Four Seasons Hotel, 120 E. Delaware Place
How much: $500 and up
Who'll be there: Around 500 supporters, including captains of industry, board members and friends
For more info: (312) 553-2000


Chicago Tribune: Girls See School in a New Light and They Shine

by Mary Schmich 

Published in the Chicago Tribune on July 11, 2001.

They're girls like Joslyn Ewing-Brown, a sturdy 12-year-old who quietly but proudly notes that in 6th grade, having promised herself and her mother that she'd improve her grades, she pulled her 5th- grade F in math up to a C.

Full Text: (Copyright 2001 by the Chicago Tribune)

When Sharon Hefferan, who runs a program called Metro Achievement Center, called recently and said, "Come see what we do," I hesitated. There are 10,000 good programs for the needy in the naked city, and even a good do-good program isn't necessarily a good story.

So I compromised. I'd come see but wouldn't write anything. Then I saw the girls.

Actually, you don't so much see the girls as feel them here in this bright former ceiling tile warehouse in the West Loop, where five full days a week in the summer, 300 girls burst in from such turbulent Chicago neighborhoods as Pilsen, Lawndale, Little Village and Cabrini-Green.

Waves of girl energy ripple through the cozy halls, in and out of airy classrooms, energy that manifests almost as visibly as neon. This isn't school, it's a sorority of girls studying their way up in the world.

They're Hispanic and African-American girls mostly, not the best students, not the worst, simply girls from low-income families who without an extra ear or nudge might drop out of school, get pregnant, fail to dream a life that includes college and a good job.

"The forgotten middle," Hefferan says.

They're girls like Joslyn Ewing-Brown, a sturdy 12-year-old who quietly but proudly notes that in 6th grade, having promised herself and her mother that she'd improve her grades, she pulled her 5th- grade F in math up to a C.

"At school you have to worry about the popular groups; are the boys going to accept you?" said Joslyn, who was carrying a book on the Salem witch trials. "Here, teachers explain more. I can easily go to the teachers here and say I don't understand, and you don't get snapped on. At my school, I hear, `You should know this already.' Here, they help you with your confidence."

The teachers are, in fact, Chicago public school teachers, all female, but, like the students, they are briefly liberated from the long school year and the big school bureaucracy, and the ones I see, at least, teach with a missionary zeal not as reliably encountered in the schools.

"Is there someone brave enough to read with passion?" a reading teacher asks as I slip into the room.

Hands waggle eagerly while the teacher explains they're about to analyze a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. for verbal technique, foreshadowing and vocabulary. The designated reader then begins.

"I have a dream ..."

"Oh, that's not powerful!" the teacher cries. "Stand up! We need to know you have a dream!"

The girl stands, draws a breath, exhales with force: "I HAVE a DREAM!"

If these girls weren't spending the summer here, they might well be home with the TV. Instead they study reading, writing, arithmetic, art. And good behavior.

Metro has a Catholic inclination but gets no church money--money comes from corporations, foundations and an annual benefit--and the girls come from a variety of denominations. But they attend character education class, each week exploring a different virtue, say responsibility or generosity.

"To link the heart and brain and soul," says Hefferan.

Most of these girls come from families in which no one has ever gone to college. Metro's goal is to make sure all its students do. A bulletin board beams with pictures of girls heading this fall to places like Loyola and Barat.

During lunch--boxed turkey sandwiches supplied by the city--I ask some of the girls why this program seems to inspire them in a way school or other tutor programs haven't.

"It's organized and secure," said Michelle Zavala, 12.

Patient teachers, they add. No boys, so no flirtation, less fashion, less intimidation. And each girl gets an adviser, a college woman who embodies a vision of the future.

There are other reasons. The girls must apply and a small tuition is charged, creating a sense that being here isn't just duty, it's privilege, choice, investment. A parent or guardian must promise to participate. An air of trust grows from such small touches as open storage boxes instead of lockers.

It helps, of course, that the summer is short and classes are small, unavailable luxuries in a public school year. And if it seems a little crazy that enterprises outside the schools wind up doing so much of the education, it's good to know the forgotten middle
is being remembered.

Sub Title: 
[North Sports Final Edition]
Start Page: 
Subject Terms: 
Quality of education
Private schools
Geographic Names: 
Chicago Illinois


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