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MENTOR GROUP HONORING DART FOR EDUCATION EFFORTS

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Friday, April 15, 2011—A non-profit group improving educational opportunities for Chicago Public Schools students will honor Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart at its annual fundraiser tonight.

Minds Matter of Chicago, which is made up of young professionals serving as mentors to students, guiding them through academic rigors and college preparation processes, will have its 5th annual “Spring For The Students” gala from 8-11 p.m. tonight at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.

Tonight marks the first time they’ve chosen to honor someone as part of the event. In selecting Dart, the group cited his work as a state representative and sheriff to improve opportunities and re-open doors to education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those looking for second opportunities at success. They specifically cited his support for the York Alternative High School located in the Cook County Jail, as well as the push to improve and expand educational and vocational programs for those in alternative sentencing facilities. They also cited  the “virtual high school” program Dart started last year, which is open to non-violent offenders who were arrested while just a few credit hours short of graduating from high school. The program allows those young people to finish the courses online, under the supervision of Cook County Sheriff’s staff, so they can obtain a diploma from their original high school and not a G.E.D.

All proceeds from tonight’s event, which includes a silent auction, will be used to cover funding for the program. Since 2006, the group has assisted 37 CPS students who show strong academic progress but face difficult socio-economic or other obstacles. Minds Matter volunteers work with guidance counselors to identify students and then engage them in a rigorous program to improve study skills, scholarship and financial aid
documents and to also introduce them to careers and community leaders they otherwise might not interact with. The group has helped those students achieve an average GPA of 3.6, while assisting them in enrolling in colleges such as Cornell, Brown, Georgetown and the University of Chicago, among others. The group is currently working with 40 students in grades 10-12.

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