B2SI Partners with Vietnamese Association of Illinois

The Nonprofit Joins our Growing List of
Community Partners


We are happy to announce that the Vietnamese Association of Illinois (VAI) is joining our list of Back 2 School Community Distribution Partners. The nonprofit, located in the Uptown neighborhood, focuses on serving diverse communities, fostering unity, and promoting Vietnamese American identity. The VAI hopes to eliminate many of the issues that immigrants face. 

Last month, the VAI hosted a giveaway of our signature Back 2 School Illinois supply kits. Those kits were handed out to youths in the organization's Out-of-School Time program which consist mainly of participants from low income and Chicago Housing Authority families. Over 50 youths in this program received the kits during Vietnamese Association's back to school week for the spring semester and many more were given away to families in needs in the community. Tony Pham of Vietnamese Association of Illinois said, "These kits, thanks to Back 2 School Illinois, brought huge smiles to all youths in the program and it lifted a burden on the family."

We look forward to working with the VAI for many years to come.

2016 B2SI College Scholarship Winner Update

Harvard Freshman Tells Us About Her Experience Thus Far

Every year at our Kickoff Event we give out five college scholarships ($2,500 each) to graduating high school seniors, courtesy of Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois (CCEA) and the Tufano family. Among our recipients in 2016 was Lucy Wang, graduating senior from Naperville Central in Naperville, IL.

This past fall Lucy began her undergraduate career at Harvard University. After her first semester, the difference in lifestyle is the most significant change that Lucy has noticed. As a result of less time spent in classes, Lucy has been able to try a number of new things as well as finding the time to be an editor for the undergraduate newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, join the robotics clubs, and work at the Harvard Art Museum. Despite her love for the arts, Lucy’s favorite course thus far is linear algebra, which she says stretched her mind in a way that no other class has done before.

Unfortunately, Lucy was unable to attend our Kickoff Event last May, but she is still extremely honored for the recognition. She has this advice for high school seniors who are still in the college/scholarship search: “Don't be hesitant to recognize that you may not be 100% sure of what you want to do because I know that I didn't. Set your goals high because you never know if you don't try, and keep your mind open.”

B2SI Has Exclusive Interview with 93.9 WLIT's Robin Rock

CEO Matthew Kurtzman Discusses B2SI's Vision and What to Look Forward to With Our Organization 

Robin Rock of 93.9 WLIT-FM had Matthew up to the iHeartRadio studios this week to discuss our organization’s programs and the need for nonprofits such as ours to fill in the cracks in our system the prevent children from getting a proper education.

Listen to the full interview below:

Holiday Distribution with Operation Homefront

Great Lakes Naval Station Receives 200 B2SI Kits

B2SI rounded out a successful year with holiday distributions with our dedicated partner, Operation Homefront. Military families at the Great Lakes Naval Station received our signature kits as well as some household supplies and holiday treats provided by several area companies.   We welcomed Mommy Blogger, Kelly Anderson, as a special volunteer for the event. Kelly is a journalist and contributing writer for several publications in the Chicagoland area. 

We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with Kelly, and we cannot wait to continue our partnership with Operation Homefront in 2017.

Ellen Crittenden Joins Board of Directors

Ellen (center) with her mother and sister

Ellen (center) with her mother and sister

This year one of the winners of our “Win School Supplies For An Entire School” Contest was ACE Technical Charter High School. When we journeyed to the south side high school for the distribution, we met bilingual lead teacher, Ellen Crittenden, who was the contest applicant for ACE. It was here that we noticed Ellen’s passion for her students as well as education as a whole. We then asked Ellen to join our Board of Directors and the rest is history. 

Ellen Crittenden (maiden name Anderson) has taught in the Chicago school system for over a decade. After graduating from St. Mary's College in Indiana with a bachelor's in French, Ellen began teaching high school in Chicago Public Schools. In her 16 year career, she has taught French, Spanish, and English as a Second Language. In 2009, she received her Master's Degree in Bilingual/Bicultural Education at DePaul University.

Ellen's passion for education is fueled both by a love for teaching and the desire to see her students learn. The experiences that she has had and the outstanding young people that she has met throughout her career led her to her association with B2SI. In the fall of 2016, her current school was awarded school kits for each of its students.  She hopes to bring her expertise of teenagers and their needs to this organization. 

Let's give Ellen a warm welcome to B2SI!

2016 B2SI College Scholarship Winner Update

Kailish Panchapakesan Tells Us About His First Semester of Undergrad

Every year at our Kickoff Event we give out five college scholarships ($2,500 each) to graduating high school seniors, courtesy of Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois (CCEA) and the Tufano family. Among our recipients this year was Kailish Panchapakesan, graduating senior from Harry Jacobs High School in Algonquin, IL. This fall Kailish started his undergraduate career at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is studying medicine.

During his first semester, the difference in his schedule is the most significant change Kailish has noticed during his transition from high school to undergrad. As a result of this newfound flexibility in his schedule, Kailish has been able to join the Division I Tennis team, the Society of Future Physicians, Student Government, and several other organizations.While Kailish is majoring in Pre-Med, his favorite course thus far is English 161 with Professor Gina Gemmel. The topics of poverty and race in our current age are very intriguing to Kailish and he says Professor Gemmel goes above and beyond while instructing the students.

Kailish said he is very honored to be one of the recipients of this year’s CCEA Scholarship and has this advice for all current high schoolers in the search for schools and scholarships: “Time management and being proactive is key. The sooner you apply for scholarships and to schools, the better prepared you will be for unforeseen circumstances. Put in the effort on essays and use your resources to get information. This means meeting with high school counselors, emailing admissions staff, etc.”

The Harbour Receives Signature B2SI Kits

Together We Are Improving the Lives of Illinois Schoolchildren

In the Park Ridge area, the Harbour offers emergency shelter, transitional living, and counseling to homeless and neglected youth. For over 40 years, the nonprofit has served youth between the ages of 12-21 who need a helping hand. The Harbour aligns with our organization’s values, which makes B2SI very pleased to partner with the Harbour for yet another year. 

At the beginning of November we visited the Harbour for our annual kit donation. For the past several years, the Harbour has been one of Community Distribution Partners and we are happy to continue our support of their efforts. This year we gave the organization 25 kits. 

For more updates on our year-end kit distributions, check out of News section in the weeks to come. 

2016 Marks Another Year of a Successful Partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago

Year End Distributions Are Underway

While our main distribution season runs from July through September, we distribute kits throughout the entire year. Our second busiest time for distributions is during the holiday season. To jumpstart our year end distributions, we visited our longtime community partner: Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. 

In October, we visited the James R. Jordan Boys & Girls Club, on the West Side near the Illinois Medical District, to hand out kits to 60+ children. At this event the children beamed as they accepted their supply kit and reminded us of the impact of our work. This 60 kits is a small percentage of the 1,000+ kits we give to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago on an annual basis. 

"Build A Kit" Program Continues to Build Steam


On October 13, CNA hosted their company-wide Volunteer-a-thon. Back 2 School Illinois, The Anti-Cruelty Society, Center on Halsted, and several other nonprofits were present at the event to discuss the missions of the organizations and get CNA employees interested in their cause. As a result of the help of CNA employees, we were able to assemble 500 kits, which were then distributed to area YMCAs and United Service Organizations (USO).

This was the first year CNA held the event, which was such a success that they immediately started to have conversations about expanding the effort in 2017.

POWER UP! Boot Camp Enters Its Third Year

Drizzle, fog, and crisp fall weather greeted participants of our POWER UP! Boot Camp on Saturday, October 15, but that didn’t dampen their spirits. Produced in partnership with the Chicago Park District and their Wellness Staff, we hosted the day-long event for children ages 6-12 at West Lawn Park (4233 W. 65th Street) with indoor and outdoor activities to teach youth about the importance of regular exercise and proper nutrition. Among the activities were yoga, an obstacle course, aerobics, and kickboxing as well as learning how to read packaged goods labels, how calories get burned, how to make proper food choices at a fast food restaurant, and much, much more. Throughout the six-hour program, we challenged kids physically and mentally, while encouraging them to think more critically about the choices they make in regard to their health.

This year we had 152 participants join us for a day of education and fun. The spike in attendance this year is largely thanks to the hard work of Sandra Ramirez, Lead Bilingual Teacher at Peck Elementary School. After her children attended the Boot Camp in 2015, Ramirez wanted to get families in her area more involved in the choices their children are making regarding their health. Ramirez did a lot of community outreach prior to our Boot Camp and was able to attract a number of families from Peck Elementary.

As a part of the camp, the participants took a pre and post Boot Camp exam to measure what they learned. At the end of the day, all of the participants walked away with a fitness/nutrition bag filled with all sorts of good stuff such as a pedometer, Frisbee, jump rope, water bottle, and healthy snacks. We hope our fitness packs encourage the youth to take an interest in their mental and physical health because being healthy is a lifestyle that is determined by the choices they make long after our POWER UP! Boot Camp is over. 

To help ensure the long-term success of the program, a new component was added to the program this year. Parents were informed of the importance of reinforcing what their children learned and how setting a good example is the best method to encourage their children to be active and eat right.

Special thanks to Professor Abel Galvan and all the University of Illinois Chicago students who spent their Saturday volunteering with us.

The Boot Camp would not have happened without the support of our major sponsor MoneyGram as well as in-kind donations from Kits for Kidz, Republic Bank, Chipotle Mexican Grill, KIND Health Snacks, Skinny Pop, and Gogo SqueeZ.