Living with Passion and Purpose: LEARN Staff and Educators Rally at their 2020 All Staff Event

Kristen Wehmeyer
Marketing & Communications Manager

Humbled. Inspired. Passion. Purpose. These are just a few of the words that LEARN staff members were saying while they gathered online for the LEARN All Staff Virtual Event on October 13, 2020. And after watching the program, it was undeniable that the group of 500 employees at LEARN Charter School Network are living with passion and purpose.

Each October, LEARN staff come together as a community in celebration and camaraderie. Typically, this is done in-person. Instead, like many physical events these days, the entire event was moved to a virtual format and enjoyed via Zoom. Even though it can seem difficult to recreate an event like this in the virtual world, the LEARN staff still felt like they were able to reconnect. “I loved the entire event,” said Mary Corpier, teacher at LEARN 10 North Chicago. “I loved the celebrations and happiness. I laughed out loud quite a bit and loved seeing the whole staff.”


Celebrating our LEARN Family

To begin the program, LEARN honored staff who recently celebrated career milestones. We celebrated our new team members as well as 5, 10, 15 and 30 year anniversaries with LEARN. In today’s work environment, long-term service is rare; we are thankful that so many choose LEARN for their life’s work. Most notably, we honored Denise Dinkins-Mines who celebrated her 15 year anniversary and Jacqueline Boughton, who celebrated her 30 year anniversary with LEARN.

Lastly, LEARN announced the winner of the Margaret V. Romano Legacy Award. The award recognizes a team member who embodies and exemplifies the LEARN core values and mission in their work. 

This year, Osei Agyeman-Badu from LEARN South Chicago was the 2020 winner. As his colleagues stated, “Mr. Badu is such a talented artist who shares his gift with his scholars and colleagues. He is passionate and selfless; he teaches life skills and brings content to ‘life’. Using the grant from Chance the Rapper, he was instrumental in creating a state of the art ‘maker space’ that gives students the chance to make their learning real”. Thank Mr. Badu for your hard work, for living the LEARN Core Values, and for building relationships with your scholars and families that will last a lifetime.


Remembering those Lost

2020 has been a very difficult year. We lost our freedom of movement. We lost our ability to hug and touch our family members. We have lost our privilege to educate most of our scholars in-person. But most devastating for many people is the loss of loved ones. This year our community grieved the loss of two staff members and two precious students.

Please join us in honoring and remembering Kwanzaa Hamilton, Drevon Reed, Annette Hudson and Ariel Ellis through our tribute below.


Hearing our stories

Every year, LEARN staff hear from alumni, board members, parents and colleagues about the impact of a LEARN education. For former students, LEARN is life-changing. It builds the foundation for long-term academic independence and personal success. For staff, being a LEARN employee exemplifies a greater purpose in life. Many people in the LEARN family shared their stories this year of how education changed their lives and of their passion to commit their lives to ensuring the youth in Chicagoland’s most underinvested neighborhoods have access to a high-quality education.

This year remained the same, as staff heard from a LEARN alumni currently attending Kenyon College, a parent from LEARN 6 North Chicago | Great Lakes and two colleagues. They then had a chance to share their ‘why’ through the Zoom chat. Click the video below to hear one alumni’s story about the impact of LEARN.


The next big push: 50% college graduation

As we move forward through the pandemic, LEARN’s President and CEO Greg White challenged staff to consider the following: “How do we not just survive, but thrive during these tough times? Even before COVID-19, LEARN employees had a mantra: It’s hard because it’s hard. This is an acknowledgement that we intentionally elect to do the hardest work in the most challenging communities. It’s important work. It’s life changing work. But it is hard work.”

We are so proud of our staff and how they live with passion and purpose. Because of their commitment, we have definitively closed the achievement gap. LEARN alumni graduate from 4-year colleges and universities at twice the rate of comparable peers and 10 points above the national average of all students regardless of race or socio-economic status. But we won’t stop there. By 2035, we are committed to an ambitious goal of increasing our 4-year college completion rate from 33% to a groundbreaking 50%. 


When joining the LEARN family, educators and staff join a community who have made it their life’s purpose to help their scholars achieve great success. We hope that through this virtual event, staff felt the camaraderie among the LEARN campuses and inspired.  “We thank our LEARN staff for everything they do,” said Christina Page, Senior Recruiter and Employee Engagement Manager. “It is nothing short of a miracle. We thank them for their higher purpose. For the lives that they change. For the small and big miracles that happen every day in and out of the classroom.”

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