School Partnerships » Umoja


Founded in 1997, Umoja Student Development Corporation is an on-the-ground partner for schools focused on ensuring every student graduates from high school equipped for college and career success. Umoja provides teachers, staff and school leaders with the knowledge, skills and tools essential to increasing on-track and graduation rates, decreasing disciplinary infractions and increasing college enrollment. During the 2016/17 school year, Umoja programs will provide transformative programming to 3,600 students at 13 Chicago public high schools.

Umoja’s College & Career Readiness Seminar model combines an Umoja staffer based within the school and a research-based and standards-aligned daily curriculum with sequenced lessons for all four grade levels. Specifically:

1. Freshman Seminar provides lessons in creating a personal narrative, learning to create and follow personal and academic goals, how to self-advocate, executive functioning, adopting a growth mindset, and beginning to explore and define their future college and career aspirations and what they need to reach those.
2. Sophomore Seminar builds on students’ strengths and supports their success in their second year of high school, including exploring career options and how it relates their identities.
3. Junior Seminar begins to prepare students for the postsecondary planning process and helps students take on the challenges of junior year such as writing personal statements, researching colleges, careers, trade schools, and other postsecondary options.
4. Senior Seminar is the hub for Postsecondary Planning. After engaging in the college application and FAFSA process, students work on career exploration and job interviewing skills as well as developing an “adult toolbox” to help them feel equipped to persist through all obstacles after high school.

Umoja believes if they are to achieve their mission of college success, they must also work to keep students in the classroom. The Umoja Restorative Justice model is a research-informed approach leveraging high schools as strategic arenas for the prevention, intervention and interruption of violence. The Restorative Justice model that gets to the root of conflict, reduces disciplinary infractions, and creates safer, healthier environments for learning. The model employs four key strategies:

1. Full-time Umoja Staffer based in the school
2. Peace Room – a physical space where students and staff can go to peacefully resolve conflicts
3. School Systems & Policy Changes – partnership with administration to move from punitive to restorative discipline and behavior systems
4. Professional Development – ongoing training and support for teachers and staff to identify and address issues that prevent violence and mitigate retaliation.

Meet the UMOJA staff members making a difference at Gage Park High School
Samuel Green
Samuel Green, Social Emotional Learning Specialist

Samuel Green, Jr. is a mission-oriented leader who believes in the value of all humans as an essential asset to the flourishing of the beloved community. Samuel is particularly passionate about the lives of young people and the adults who are privileged to partner with them on their journey. He has worked in youth development and organizational consulting in Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Maryland and Illinois in for the past 9 years. He is also a published writer, blogger, and fitness enthusiast. Samuel has devoted his life’s mission to helping others find their purpose and developing the skills to overcome obstacles. He is a graduate of the University of Florida (B.A.) and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (M.Div). In addition, he has a certificate from Princeton Theological Seminary in youth studies and is a CPS Credentialed College and Career Access Advisor. Currently, he is pursuing a master’s of nonprofit administration at North Park University in Chicago. Samuel supports social-emotional learning capacity building at Gage Park through seminar implementation, post-secondary leadership team (PLT) and freshman-on- track team (FOT) coaching.
Tunisha Rush
Tunisha Rush, Social Emotional Learning Assistant

Tunisha Rush holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in College Student Development at DePaul University. Her role at Gage Park includes supporting senior seminar with college application, FAFSA and much more.
Michelle Brown
Michelle Brown, Restorative Justice Specialist

My name is Michelle Brown and I am the Restorative Justice Specialist at Gage. After graduating from The University of Chicago with a Masters degree in Social Work, specializing in social work in schools, I committed to creating safe spaces in schools for students and adults to address conflict and rethink discipline practices. Here at Gage Park High School, I run the Peace Room, which is a space to use restorative justice practices to address student behavior concerns. In addition to seeing cases in the Peace Room, my role this year will be to help make Restorative Justice integration be on-going and sustainable. This means I will be intentional about coaching, collaborating, and consulting with adults to support them as they incorporate restorative practices in their day-to-day work.