Baumhart Scholars Respond to COVID-19 Webinar

Baumhart Scholars Respond to COVID-19 Webinar

Baumhart Scholars Respond to COVID-19 Webinar
By Jaycie Weathers, Student Reporter

On Thursday, May 7, more than 150 leaders tuned in to hear how current and incoming Baumhart Scholars and their organizations are responding to COVID-19. The discussion featured themes of ensuring an equitable response to unemployment, closing the degree divide, leading the way for companies to provide the wellness resources, and working with small businesses to stay open during the economic crisis.

Daniel Cervantes, Senior Vice President of Programs
Skills for Chicagoland’s Future

Skills for Chicagoland’s Future works to match unemployed and underemployed job seekers with meaningful job opportunities. During a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has forced mass layoffs, Daniel Cervantes’s organization is even more crucial for both employers and job seekers. Daniel identified Skills’ strategic approach for dealing with, what is looking like, a long process of rebuilding a stable workforce and economy. “We’re fully preparing for what we think might be a three-tier wave of unemployment in the face of COVID-19,” Daniel said.

Phase 1 of the organization’s plan was an emergency response to pivot to serve needs of essential businesses, expand client partnerships, and move online to continue hosting job fairs and interviews. Now, the organization is entering Phase 2, which consists of shifting career services to south and west communities that are affected by the inequitable economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Daniel and his team at Skills are committed to equity in every step of the COVID-19 recovery process.

To learn more about Skills for Chicagoland’s Future visit: www.scfjobs.com

Myla Skinner, Chief of Staff to the CEO

OneGoal is an organization working to ensure low-income students succeed in their final years of high school, enroll in postsecondary education, and earn their postsecondary degree. “Aspiration is uniform, but opportunity is not,” Myla explained about the degree divide occurring between low-income students and their high-income counterparts. Now that schools have suddenly moved online, Myla and her team are working around the clock to continue providing important tools to their students.

To do this, OneGoal is focusing on three main targets to keep the organization on track: focusing on how their students, staff, and resources are doing during this time. “We are full speed ahead in addressing what students need no matter what it looks like,” Myla said. OneGoal is addressing student needs by assessing every situation students might be dealing with including closed schools, lack of resources, and other roadblocks to learning. OneGoal also recognizes that the long-term outlook for in-person learning might be different from what we’re used to, so changing to fit the new normal is crucial moving forward. To accommodate staff needs during this time, OneGoal has reduced the number of hours of work employees are expected to complete while sustaining full salaries. OneGoal is addressing insecure resources by reevaluating projects to ensure they are tightly aligned with strategic and financial goals. In this difficult time for all organizations, Myla called on universal themes that inspired the audience: Be kind. Give care. Provide grace.

To learn more about OneGoal visit: www.onegoalgraduation.org

Nicole Gilbertson, General Manager
Chill Meditation

Chill Meditation is a modern meditation business headquartered in downtown Chicago. Since its initial founding as a brick and mortar meditation studio in 2017, Chill’s offerings have expanded to education, corporate partnerships, and more. Nicole has been working with her team to quickly transition Chill’s offerings online to support employees and the broader community in a time when people are searching for ways to cope with strong emotions. “Mindfulness can improve your resilience to stress, improves listening and empathy skills, and strengthens focus which can lead to more productivity, which is especially relevant now,” Nicole said.

Chill has launched free online support through platforms like Instagram Live and Zoom. Additionally, the team was able to accelerate the launch of the Chill Anywhere app as a way to meet the moment. Nicole believes it is an employer’s place to step up and support their employees during this difficult time. “We have the opportunity as businesses to support our teams through this time of social isolation,” she said, urging the Webinar participants to explore options that will fit their employees' unique needs.

To learn more about Chill Meditation visit: www.chillchicago.com

Jonathan McGee, Assistant Deputy Director of Regional Economic Development
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

Jonathan McGee, Assistant Deputy Director of Regional Economic Development for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, is directly involved in many state initiatives to allocate funding to businesses who need it to survive this pandemic. Jonathan recognized the diverse needs of the state and identified areas of inequity as a result of the pandemic stay-at-home orders. “Downstate Illinois has suffered from flooding, poverty, and lack of investment, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t forget about our folks down there who are suffering,” he said about the state’s strategy for pandemic relief mechanisms.

Jonathan pointed out that small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and microbusinesses with 5 or fewer employees are at greater risk for failing, but many of these businesses are keystones in their Illinois communities. He believes it is necessary to protect those economies any way the state can. The state has also been working with third party organizations to identify equity gaps in the pandemic response. He urged webinar participants to share important insights about COVID-19 actions as a way to accelerate recovery going forward. “We need better coordination, communication, and collaboration across state agencies and organizations,” Jonathan said. He believes teamwork will get us through this difficult time and help us come out stronger together.

To learn more about the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity visit: www.illinois.gov/dceo

Watch video