Introducing LIFT-Chicago’s Parent Leadership Institute

By Sarah Spunt, Miriam Kirubel on May 24, 2018

Categories: Our Work, Social Connections


Parents’ voices are at the center of our work. At LIFT, we believe that parents are the experts in their own lives. They know what is best for their families and have big dreams for their children. But those dreams don’t stop there. Here in Chicago, and across the country, LIFT parents desire to have safe and economically thriving communities where their children can play without fear; high quality schools and healthcare; and access to opportunities that help to ensure they live happy and successful lives.

Over the past two years of working with families on the Southside of Chicago, parents have consistently told LIFT they want to be leaders in their community and help fill the gap in the Southside’s support system. However, many feel like they don’t have the skills, tools or awareness to be those community pillars for families. As a result of this feedback, LIFT-Chicago’s Leadership Institute was born.

In the fall of 2017, LIFT-Chicago was one of five organizations to win the OpenIDEO Bridgebuilder Challenge funded by the GHR foundation. The Bridgebuilder challenge called for innovative ideas promoting solutions at the intersection of peace, prosperity and planet. LIFT-Chicago proposed piloting a program to train and empower parents to become leaders in their communities.

Through LIFT-Chicago’s Leadership Institute, parents get the opportunity to build the skills they need to effectively develop relationships, organize and lead groups, identify problems and design solutions. Parents receive tailored training and spend 12 weeks meeting with families on the Southside to understand their current challenges; community organizations to understand how they can support families; and LIFT to design and implement an event aimed at finding solutions and bringing disconnected communities together.

The Leadership Institute launched in February with a cohort of five parent leaders, and over the next month, we’ll highlight every parent leader and their experience. First up, Kellia, who you may remember from our annual report!

Kellia is an ambitious and dedicated parent and leader. Currently she is preparing to take the GED and open up her own beauty salon, and serves as an advocate with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. As an advocate and aspiring entrepreneur, Kellia knows she’ll need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills in order to succeed. And that’s one of the many reasons Kellia joined our program; to build her public speaking and partnership development skills.

So far, Kellia has already had a couple opportunities to do that just. In her first two weeks of the program she received training on public speaking and building relationships with community stakeholders. By week four she had the chance to put these skills to use, working with her team to organize and facilitate a focus group with parents from the community, and by interviewing community partners. She found it especially helpful that she’s was able to rehearse these skills during role plays in training because it gave her a space to “practice [her] communication skills and receive feedback from [her] peers and the group facilitator.”

Kellia is looking forward to the day where she can apply what she’s learned as a business leader who provides employment opportunities for her neighborhood and supports those at risk of being homeless.

Stay tuned to our blog to get more updates on the program and to meet another one of our parent leaders, next week!

About the Authors

Sarah Spunt

Sarah Spunt is a licensed clinical social worker the Program Director at LIFT-Chicago, a national nonprofit that empowers families to break the cycle of poverty. At LIFT, she is responsible for evaluating data to analyze and improve service delivery and increase impact while meeting organizational goals. She oversees partnerships, community and university development. She also Read More

Miriam Kirubel

At LIFT, Miriam works with the Vice President of Program and Evaluation and the National Program Director to support the design and implementation of new programs. She also works with the development team on writing proposals and managing national grants. Miriam LIFTs because everyone deserves access to the support, opportunities and resources to reach their Read More