Past Event

Our Community – what it has, what it needs

How does poverty impact educational opportunities? What can we do about it?

As more and more public schools find themselves providing food, school supplies, and other basic services for students living below the poverty line, the connections between economic inequality and school performance have become more apparent.

Join us for an evening dedicated to talking about the relationship between poverty and education. Jonathan Guryan (Northwestern University) will be joined by local education leaders, Julia McClendon (YWCA of Elgin), Tony Sanders (CEO of School District U-46), Reyna Padilla (Vice President of the Bilingual Parents Advisory Committee), and Melissa Owens (Chairperson of Citizens’ Advisory Council for School District U-46), for a conversation about how poverty impacts the promise of public education – featuring small group discussions to talk about how your experiences resonate with others’ across the state.

We’ll have a closing assembly, moderated by Kerry Lester (Daily Herald), where everyone can share their thoughts and enjoy a performance by South Elgin students.

About the participants

Jonathan Guryan is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University and Chair of the Institute for Policy Research’s Program on Education Policy. His work spans various topics related to labor markets, education policy, and social interaction. His research interests include the causes and consequences of racial inequality, the development of skills and human capital in both early childhood and adolescence, the labor market for teachers, social interactions in the workplace, youth violence, and lottery gambling. In recent projects, he has investigated the effectiveness of an individualized, intensive math-instruction program, and the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy based interventions for at-risk youth. Jonathan is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He also serves as a co-director of the Urban Education Lab, an editor of the Journal of Labor Economics, and a research consultant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Julia McClendon is the CEO of YWCA Elgin; a position she has held for 15 years. The YWCA Elgin programs include: Adult Education and Family Literacy, School Age Child Care (SACC), and sponsor Elgin Partnership for Early Learning (EPEL). She works with local community groups to create educational programs and opportunities for women such as programs like How to Run for Office – A Woman’s Focus and Women on the Brink (WOTB) an Elgin committee of individuals and representatives who are focusing on the need for children up to 12 years old to have access to affordable, quality child care. Prior to this position, McClendon was Executive Director of Mesilla Valley Community of Hope in Las Cruces, N.M an umbrella agency that served the homeless population.  Her alma mater is Iowa State University where she completed her post-graduate degrees in Sociology from Iowa State University.

Tony Sanders is the Chief Executive Officer of School District U-46, a place he has called home since 2007. Tony oversees the implementation of all board and district policies and procedures as well as the alignment of resources to all districtwide initiatives and improvement plans for the state’s second-largest school district. He works in close collaboration with an administrative staff that manages a balanced district budget of nearly $500 million, and he has lobbied relentlessly in Springfield for more equitable state education funding.

Reyna Padilla is a very active parent in U-46, where her daughter is an 8th-grade gifted student at South Elgin’s Kenyon Woods Middle School. Reyna is the vice president of the Bilingual Parents Advisory Committee, or BPAC. Originally from Jalisco, Mexico, Reyna is a graduate of the U-46 Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute and formerly was president of the PTO at her daughter’s elementary school.

Melissa Owens is the current Chairperson of the Citizens’ Advisory Council for School District U-46 in Elgin. She is also board president for McQueen Station Farm and is an operating board member for the Alignment Collaborative for Education, or ACE. A former business owner for 23 years in Roselle, she is the current Volunteer Program Coordinator for the Community Crisis Center in Elgin. She is passionate about civil rights and economic empowerment and was voted Volunteer of the Year for U-46 in 2013.

More on Continuing Ed.: Parents and the Future of Illinois Public Schools

Continuing Ed. is a yearlong, statewide series working with parents, schools, and communities across the state – in Chicago, Decatur, Elgin, and Jackson County to move the conversation about public education back to parents. All Elgin events will be moderated by Kerry Lester of the Daily Herald. For the complete schedule and more information, see

If you require a sign interpreter or any other arrangements to fully participate in this program, please contact at least 72 hours in advance of the event. For more information, please call (312) 422-5580.