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Mack handled her project in a way that reflected what she had learned in the College. "I started with conducting a needs assessment," she explains. "I researched the National School Lunch Program to look up federally mandated policies and to make sure our program was in compliance. I also interviewed or surveyed students, parents, teachers and our principal. My assessment indicated that there was definitely a need not being met by the current lunch program."
Mack then created a service learning project that empowered and involved Congress Park students in their own social and emotional learning. One student became a member of the school district's food committee examining more nutritional food options. Students filled out surveys about their current lunches and participated in group discussions as well as meetings with their principal.
Mack says the previous food options contributed to learning and behavior problems. "The students hated all the lunches and many threw them away, which contribute dot classroom management problems after lunch since many students would go to afternoon classes on empty stomachs." Many students came from households unable to provide them with nutritionally balanced breakfasts or dinners, she added.
By the following spring, students had hot lunches as well as fruits and vegetables. "There is better behavior not only in the lunchroom but in the classrooms as well," Mack observes.
The project met important social and emotional learning goals for the students. "They were able to see how they contributed to the well-being of the school's community," says Mack. "They were able to reflect on how their participation affected the end result."
Mack has since been hired as a school social worker for the Willow Springs, Illinois school district.
With nearly 2.5 million men and women behind bars and a large percentage of them serving long-term sentences, end-of-life concerns in the correctional setting are rapidly becoming a critical issue.
An award-winning filmmaker at the University of Illinois at Chicago is working on a feature-length documentary aimed at sparking dialogue on this looming problem facing U.S. prisons.
Edgar Barens, visiting media specialist with UIC's Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research, says "Prison Terminal" breaks through the walls of one of America's oldest maximum-security prisons to tell of the final months in the life of a terminally ill prisoner and the trained hospice volunteers -- they themselves prisoners -- who care for him.
Shot over a six-month period inside the Iowa state penitentiary, the film draws attention to the fragility as well as the holistic benefits of a prison-based, prisoner-staffed, hospice program and provides an account of how the hospice experience can touch the forsaken lives of the incarcerated.
Barens recently presented excerpts from the documentary at the Stockholm Criminology Symposium in Stockholm, Sweden, and at the American Correctional Health Services Association Professional Development Conference in Orlando, Florida.
"Prison Terminal" is one of several projects currently underway at the Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research, which is directed by Creasie Finney Hairston, dean of the Jane Addams College of Social Work. The center's mission is to bring together the resources of academic institutions, community and advocacy groups to advance social-welfare policies and programs that meet the needs of urban communities, poor families, and the incarcerated.
For more information about the film or to view the trailer, go to http://www.prisonterminal.com
Associate Professor Amy Watson received a 5-year grant from National Institutes of Health for "Crisis Intervention Team and Mental Health Service Accessibility in Police Encounters" for $3.11 million with the first-year amount totaling $704,824. The specific aims of this study are to: (1) estimate the impact of CIT training on immediate outcomes of mental health-related calls; (2) determine how these immediate outcomes, affect longer-term outcomes and utilization of services among individuals with mental illnesses (3) describe how accessible it is for officers to connect individuals with psychiatric services through both experiences that officers, consumers, and other key individuals have had and the perceptions they hold.