Steans Center > For Students > Graduate Fellowships > Steans Graduate Fellowship > Steans Graduate Fellows > Supporting the organization in its efforts to empower Chicago’s refugee community through education: Chloe Bierut

Empowering Chicago’s Refugee Community through Education

Chloe Bierut
Chloe Bierut, Spring 2021 Fellow ,

MA in Nonprofit Management .College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences 

Community Collaborator: Madonna Mission

During the three quarters I spent as a Steans Center Graduate Fellow, I worked on a special project forMadonna Mission, a nonprofit organization that provides education and resettlement services for refugee individuals and families in the Chicago area. Throughout the fellowship, I engaged in several activities that supported the organization’s growth and expansion of services. I had the overarching goal of supporting the organization in its efforts to empower Chicago’s refugee community through education. The project had three goals: (1) to establish and manage an abuse and violence prevention training program for staff and volunteers, (2) to firm up crisis management plans and put them into writing, and (3) to begin working on an abuse and harassment prevention training program for Madonna Mission’s clients. From March of 2021 to November of 2021, I worked to complete these goals.

Throughout the Spring quarter 2021, I compiled information for Madonna Mission’s abuse prevention and general safety training program. Much of my time was spent watching the training modules provided to Madonna Mission by its insurance provider. While I initially thought I would be going through these modules to determine which were appropriate to assign to volunteers and staff members, I quickly learned that it would better to take information from the modules that was relevant and appropriate for Madonna Mission’s needs and compile it into presentations and documents to be shared with staff and volunteers. I spent time formatting the information into presentations and documents and this information was shared with Madonna Mission’s summer staff. In order to confirm that the summer staff had completed the training, I created a check-in quiz with information from the training that they all had to complete as a part of their onboarding process. The training materials developed were also refined, edited, and used for the After School Program volunteer tutor training.

I began the second quarter of my project by leading Madonna Mission’s summer staff in the general safety and abuse prevention training. I spent time walking staff through the elements of the training program that I had developed during the first quarter, ensuring that all questions were answered and that all information was thoroughly explained. The participants were receptive and understanding of the information. All participants were highly engaged with the training program and passed the quiz/check in at the end of the training without issues. After the training was completed, I began working on solidifying Madonna Mission’s crisis protocol plans and procedures. While the organization had a clearly outlined plan in case of a fire, plans of action for other crises were not formally outlined. I spent a significant amount of time researching crisis management and I found a guide from the Department of Education that was particularly helpful in getting started.

Together with my site supervisor, I outlined a number of potential threats that the organization could face. Examples of threats include fire, extreme weather, active shootings, bomb threats, parental kidnappings, and medical emergencies. The supervisor and I walked through the elements of crisis mitigation and prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery for the potential threats. Through this work, we were able to establish what information we already had, what we needed to outline further, and our next steps. From there, I worked on developing a crisis management procedure and protocol manual. I spent a lot of my time researching crises, as well as methods for mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from the outlined scenarios we deemed important to consider. I began outlining my research and working on the procedure and protocol manual, and I was set up to complete the project in the fall.

My final quarter as a Steans Graduate Fellow consisted of working on and finishing up the crisis procedures manual, as well as beginning to develop a pilot program that will share educational resources and tools for abuse and harassment protection with women and children that come to Madonna Mission. Working on the crisis management guide consisted of completing further research for each outlined crisis, editing down and rewriting information relevant to Madonna Mission to put in the manual, finding valuable supplemental materials to include in the manual’s appendices, conducting risk assessments, and formatting the guide so it can be easily read and used by staff when needed. This took a significant amount of time, as I felt it was important to get the right resources, formatting, and information laid out so that the document could be helpful not only now, but for years to come as the organization grows. While the first draft of this document was finished as a part of this project, my hope is that it will be further edited and developed as the needs of the organization grow and change. To begin developing the abuse and harassment prevention pilot program, I looked into programs at other schools and organizations and I began compiling resources that could be used in our own program. While this pilot program is still being developed, I believe starting this endeavor was an important step in working towards giving clients tools, education, and resources that they can use to protect themselves.

My fellowship project was developed with the goal of impacting social equity. In schools across Chicago, marginalized groups bear the brunt of extreme education inequality. Refugees living in Chicago are one of the communities feeling the effects of this inequity. Without the proper resources and funding, many Chicago public schools are unable to give refugee students essential ESL (English as a second language) and academic support. Long term, this can leave refugee students without the right skills to achieve good grades, compete with their peers, finish high school, or attend college. As an organization, Madonna Mission is committed to investing in the education of Chicago’s refugee population with its multiple programming efforts. As a Steans Center Graduate Fellow, my project was built around fulfilling some of Madonna Mission’s key operational needs so that the organization can continue providing essential education programs and work towards reducing education inequity.​​​