Success Stories

Martha’s Story

Why is Family Network important? Isolation destroys a family. With depressed moms, kids suffer. You have to learn how to raise your child. They love America. You have to teach them to love America and Mexico. We don’t want them to forget about Mexico. They learn English and Spanish. It’s a gift.

Read Martha’s full story here

Laticia Learns Emotional Support

I’m so proud of being a part of Family Focus because it helps me a lot with my kids. I didn’t know before about these kinds of programs.  It helped me a lot – before I couldn’t leave my son because as soon as I’d leave he’d start to cry. But then once I participated in Family Focus, he’s able to say ‘Bye bye, Mommy!’

Read Laticia’s full story here


A.D. came to Illinois with her son, Javier. She did not speak English, making her feel out of place and lonely. She became a participant in Family Focus’s programing and drastically improved her life. A.D. learned English and gained parenting knowledge. She now has three daughters, all of whom have been a part of the Family Focus programming preparing them for pre-school and beyond.



This success story comes directly from the voice of a former participant. Dujon C. Smith, now a graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, spent a large part of his youth at the Evanston center.Dujon wrote to us to shed light specifically on the incredible influence JoAnn Avery, one of our Program Coordinators, has had on his life and his successes. Dujon is one of the many participants JoAnn has impacted, as she recently celebrated her 33rd year with Family Focus. We thank Dujon for sharing his inspirational story!

Family Focus is where it all began for me. From the summer programs to the after school programs during the year, this center has helped to mold and motivate me into the man that I am today.

I had been a program participant for years and throughout my time I was able to see and experience more than I could have ever imagined. JoAnn Avery has played an integral role in all of it; she saw something in me many others did not. Her belief in the man that I could become has helped fuel my passion to become more than what society might have expected for a single parent child growing up in the 5th ward of Evanston.

After my time at the center, I have been able to travel, work, and study in over 33 countries on 5 continents, allowing me to develop strong intercultural communication and leadership skills. My unique and diverse experiences in the U.S. and abroad have provided me with a detailed knowledge of a variety of business cultures.

As of December 2014, I have completed my Bachelors of Science in International Business with minors in Accounting and Nonprofit Management at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. In my post graduate career I am honored to work as the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of a mobile application start-up in Los Angeles as well as securing a full-time job offer working at Deloitte LLP in London, England for their U.S Corporate Tax Group. 

Anything is possible if you believe in yourself and you surround yourself with people who believe in you. I want to thank Family Focus for igniting the flame within me.


“I have been participating in the program since I was 3 years old. In the programs I have learned how to live healthier, to exercise and to cook. I learned this is Fitness and Nutrition and Cooking class.  Also I have learned about different jobs in the community. When I went to this program I was very glad to learn that people go to college and then get a job. I like these programs because they help us to be better students for our future in this country.”
— 10 years old Family Focus participant

“Since my children participated in the Fitness and Nutrition program, when we go to buy groceries they read the food labels to make sure we are buying healthy foods. I also learned how to read labels and now I take the time to read them too.”
— Family Focus Mom

Mary had stopped working as a teacher in order to care for her new baby daughter and her 2 ½ year-old son. The baby had health problems and Mary was also concerned about her son’s behavior. Her husband was a full time student, and this young couple had very limited income and a very small apartment. Mary often felt overwhelmed, exhausted, and anxious. The family was referred to Family Focus’ Family Network location by the hospital where her baby had been born. Family Network was able to offer a full scholarship, and Mary began attending the Drop-In Program twice a week with both children. She enjoyed talking with the other parents in the Baby & Me Room and in the Parent Lounge, and brought many of her questions and concerns to our social worker. Her son enjoyed playing in the preschool room and adapted well to the predictable routines and activities.

After several months the staff suggested that her son might benefit from a developmental screening; Mary followed through with our support, and the screening showed that her son had some hearing problems related to frequent ear infections. He was eligible for speech therapy in a school district program when he turned 3, and is now doing well in preschool. Her husband finished school and found a new job and the family is preparing to move to a small house. Mary visits the center to connect with friends and has helped to organize a meal-sharing program here. She plans to return to a part-time teaching position when her daughter starts preschool. Family Network provided the support this family needed to negotiate a critical period in their lives.

It was December 19th and Bertha Chavez, a family support worker at Family Focus Right From The Start Program, was frantically punching numbers into the telephone. It was 6 days before Christmas and Bertha had received a sad call from the Gonzales family. She had been informed that the local organization who finds sponsors to donate Christmas gifts to needy families, was unable to find a sponsor for the Gonzales family. Without a sponsor the Gonzales family would have no Christmas gifts. They could not afford to buy gifts seeing as Gloria, the mother, had just had a baby a couple months ago, and was unable to work. Bertha desperate to make Christmas happen for her family was in the process of calling anyone who might know a sponsor. Finally, Bertha found a possible donor. She was on the phone with Moraine Township and they also had a sponsor program. However, there was no guarantee that there would be any willing donors. Bertha was told that they might be one person, and that they would call her the next day if they were interested.

Almost without hope Bertha waited all day the next day. Just as almost all her hope had gone she received another phone call. It was the donor! The donor was Officer Mike Leonard from the Highland Park Police Department, and he, having heard what the situation was also determined to give the family a Christmas. Thus an arrangement was made to meet on the 25th and give gifts to the Gonzales family.

It was Christmas morning and Bertha met up with Officer Leonard in front of the Gonzales’s apartment building. He resembled Santa Claus with a big and heavy bag of presents and a bright smile! He and his daughter had pooled their money to buy food for the family and presents for the children. As Officer Leonard gave the Gonzales family the presents, the house was filled with awe and heart-warming happiness. It was truly amazing how Officer Leonard was able to bring Christmas to the Gonzales family. Thank you very much Officer, for your kindness and generosity!

“The prenatal classes were good. I was educated on things I didn’t know about, for example I learned about the changes my body would go through, such as weight gain, and common discomforts of pregnancy. My doula made me feel comfortable. The comfort measures from class helped me to relax during the labor process. I was thankful my doula was at my birth. I thanked her for her services before she left the hospital.” “The prenatal classes taught me how to stay calm, especially when Marquise wasn’t stabilized. I learned how to keep Marquise calm during the labor process. It was a plus because I was able to apply comfort measures through the use of hand massages and rice socks that I Learned in class. I was also, educated on the breathing techniques and positions for laboring out of bed. Before the class, I didn’t know walking, standing and leaning may help stimulate contractions, and that kneeling may relieve back pain and hemorrhoids. I’m glad I attended the Prenatal classes with Marquise.”

James is an active, smiling 4th grade student who joined ASAP in late fall.  He immediately became a leader, sought out by other children and staff alike.  He possesses a warm, caring demeanor, always there to support other children and offer his assistance to teachers.

The news reported one night late in January that a 38 year old man in the real estate business had been murdered in broad daylight.  James lost his father that night.  We discovered that, growing up in the inner city, James’ dad had been a powerful gang member, but had completely turned his life around.  He moved his family to the suburbs and gave his time helping others in need; he was an attentive, devoted father.

The ASAP staff kept in constant touch with James’ mom during the time of the funeral, keeping tabs on James’ well-being.  We encouraged his mom to send him back to ASAP as soon as he felt comfortable.  When he returned, two weeks later, he was greeted with hugs and words of support from the staff, and cheers from his peers.

James had sad days and shared his feelings with staff members, but continued to thrive while attending the program.  The smiles returned quickly and, with the nurturing of the staff, James continued as an active member of the “ASAP family” throughout the rest of the school year.  His mom often commented on how important the after school program had been for James during the difficult time.  She was grateful that ASAP helped her son keep up with his homework and that we gave him a safe, nurturing environment in which to spend his afterschool time.

James’ mom has already registered him for the upcoming school year; the staff is looking forward to his return.   The family is now relying on only one income.  Without the help of significant scholarship assistance from Family Network, James would not be able to return to ASAP, the program that helped him so much.

Parent Comments about ASAP:

I like the environment- they encourage everyone to get along and help each other. Very team driven.

Primarily we chose ASAP because we believe in the program. Ralph is a special reason, because he has so much to share and is such a strong positive influence on every child. However, all of the staff are good and strong. It is a pleasure to see my child involved in this beautiful, rich, diverse environment.

(Nick) is unhappy if we pick him up early. He wants to stay until the very last moment to be a part of it all and because he enjoys every bit of ASAP.

I asked my kids if they want to go back to their “old” after school program (that they attended the year before) and they said “NO”! They love ASAP.

Growing up in a home where alcoholism and domestic violence are present, Lupita did not understand that she and her two children had choices for a better life.  Through the efforts of her Family Focus support worker, Lupita left behind an abusive marriage and was able to find and apartment and secure child care at a local agency.  As a result, Lupita has a job cleaning houses and is now supporting her family.

Lupita is a 34 year old mother who has two children ages 3 and 6.  She came to the U.S in 2002. Growing up in rural Mexico,  Lupita had a difficult childhood because she was raised in a household where domestic violence and alcoholism were present.  She was in an 8 year relationship with her husband, Arturo, where these problems were also existent.  Arturo was very unstable.  Often he would stay outlate drinking with his friends and when Lupita questioned him he would get very upset and they would fight. Lucrecia, a Family Focus  support worker, began working with Lupita’s family when her first baby, Ashley, was born in 2005. Lucrecia worked with both parents explaining to them what alcoholism is and the importance of seeking help by referring Arturo to AA, in addition to therapy.  Unfortunately, he went to one meeting, but never went back.

As time went by, Arturo became more and more violent when he came home drunk. Lupita did not know what to expect, especially since she had seen similar behaviors in her parents growing up. Lucrecia started taking to Lupita about the cycle of domestic violence. Lupita even made some attempts to leave her husband, but she always went back. Lucrecia discussed this issue with Lupita over many visits. One time after drinking all night, Arturo came home and hit Lupita. She then made a final decision to leave her husband. Lucrecia really supported her during this time. She referred her to a domestic violence shelter, but in the end Lupita decided not to leave her community where she had support from friends and our program.

Lupita ended up moving to an apartment with her two children. Lucrecia helped her to find furniture and child care at a local agency. Lupita was able to find a job, and began supporting her family.  Eventually, she purchased a used car to get to her job, of cleaning houses. Lupita changed her life by leaving behind an abusive relationship for a brighter future for her and her children. The support, care, and dedication she found from Family Focus’  Right From The Start program was essential.

Rashona Davis was 17 years old and pregnant when she first came to our Englewood center. As a first time parent, she was scared about what to expect yet determined to help her baby thrive.  Englewood is a Chicago neighborhood impacted by violence, poverty, high rates of teen pregnancy, poor school performance, and unemployment of over 30%. Yet positive things are happening in this community and Family Focus is at the center.

During Rashona’s pregnancy, Family Focus provided her with home visits and medical care to ensure her baby was developing properly.  She attended parenting classes to prepare for the demands of parenthood and the prevention of a second pregnancy.  With the help of staff, Rashona focused on her academic plans and remained in high school. At Family Focus, Rashona felt welcome and found a peer group of other young women in her situation, allowing her to continue to receive the support she and her child need to thrive long-term.