The pandemic has hit all of us hard. But it has hit some of us harder than others.

When Sullivan High School teachers Dayna Heller and Rebecca Coven began hearing stories from their students about just how hard it was hitting vulnerable Sullivan community families, they knew they had to do something to help out.


And thus was born the Sullivan High School Solidarity Fund. So far, it has sent $250 checks to 20 families. By Coven’s calculation, 16 of those families qualify for no federal or state benefits of any kind; half qualify for English Language Learner support; a quarter have a least one family member who has tested positive for coronavirus, and a quarter of the students have to work to support families where elders have lots their jobs.

Heller and Coven teamed with Sullivan colleagues — social workers Noe Torres and Josh Zepeda and counsellor Jason Brookes, and then with Rogers Park’s venerable Northside Community Resources to create a mutual aid fund, that would allow for tax deductible contributions to the Solidarity Fund.

Because of strict Chicago Public School rules prohibiting direct aid to students, it was necessary to create a completely separate, independent mechanism for helping Sullivan families, and through the good offices of Friends of Sullivan board president Mike Glasser, introductions were made at Northside Community Resources, and the Solidarity Fund was born.

According to US News & World Report, 94% of Sullivan students are “economically disadvantaged.”

Social worker Torres says this about what the checks mean to people: “The need for help (among Sullivan students) is always there. But this pandemic has made the situation dire for many.”

How does he Noe know this?

“Our job is our outreach, to maintain engagement with students, and so we began hearing details.” Further exploration led, Torres says, to “sobering accounts” of what people are going through.

The checks are real help, but beyond the cash, what the gifts do, Torres says, is they give “hope” to people in danger of feeling hopeless.

So far much of the $6,180 raised has come from Sullivan staff reaching into their pockets.

You can help, too:

–– Jack Hafferkamp