Morris Brent, Maryville director of staff education, has joined the pool of mentors as Maryville ambassador for the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Veterans Back to Work Boot Camp. The program began Sept. 8.
The Veterans Boot Camp, which the Des Plaines Chamber started in 2017 with the support of Rivers Casino, will provide 10 weeks of comprehensive career development programming, using proven job-seeking tools adapted to the needs, experiences and skills of veterans, according to the chamber’s website.
Veterans will be able to connect with mentors, local businesses and leaders. The program will cover career preparation and exploration; provide practical, hands-on assistance with job hunting, resumes and interviewing; address emotional and physical health; and give veterans the motivation and tools they need to succeed.
Brent, a decorated Navy veteran himself, looks forward to being part of the boot camp.
“I have a passion for helping vets,” he said. “I’ve been in their shoes and know how difficult it is to transition out.”
He said it is very important for him to serve the veterans as a life or career coach.
“It means a lot to me to be able to help them align their goals with their skills for their next chapter, whether it is finding a job or becoming an entrepreneur,” Brent added.
“Every veteran is not the same. Factors such as how long someone served, what his/her job specialty was, if they served during war and/or peacetime and others are all components that make each veteran’s transition uniquely different.”
He said that part of the transition is to understand where the veterans are coming from before they walk into an employer’s office.
“You have to know yourself and be clear on exactly what you’re bringing to a prospective employer — not just on paper as a candidate, and then be ready to transition from the person you used to be to the person you want to become,” he said.
Brent is a Chicago native and combat veteran who served in the U.S. Navy for 12 years. A decorated cryptologist, he soared through the ranks and received four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, three consecutive Sailor of the Quarter selections and Sailor of the Year award. He served on two warships at sea in two wars and a tour in Okinawa, Japan.
Given his impressive performance record, in addition to his accomplishments as a surface warfare and master training specialist, Brent was cited as one of the Navy’s “best of the best.”
For his final tour, he was selected to return to Illinois to become a navy drill instructor at the Great Lakes Navy Recruit Training Command. Considered among the elite, Brent received a medal for training more than 800 recruits from all over the country.
Brent said that serving as a boot camp mentor aligns with his professional goals.
“When the call came to be a mentor, it took some time for me to think through the invitation because mentoring is a serious responsibility,” he said. “There’s no expiration on it — you have that assignment for life. There is no chance to bail out.”
He said that he would be more purposeful about helping transform the person from their current self to their best self. “And hopefully if they do that, the job part will work itself out.”
Before joining Maryville in 2015, Brent worked as a learning technologist in the nonprofit, corporate and academic fields after his honorable exit from the military in 2001. He is a proud Southern Illinois University alumnus and dedicates his spare time to community projects and social causes.
“I love my job at Maryville,” he said. “I always tell people how blessed I am to walk in my ministry every day through my work. Service to humanity is my passion, and I always want to do things that are purposeful.”
This year’s boot camp will follow a hybrid format. Veterans will have the opportunity to attend the chamber’s networking events like the annual golf outing, in-person networking breakfasts and Zoom Leadership and Social Impact meetings to practice their elevator pitches and networking skills.
Veterans completing the program will attend a special graduation ceremony scheduled in November.
Maryville, which is located just over Mount Prospect’s eastern border, was founded in 1883. It is a child care organization rooted in Catholic social teaching and dedicated to the preservation of the dignity of children at every age. Our mission is to protect children and strengthen families while helping them reach their fullest potential by empowering their intellectual, spiritual, moral and emotional growth.
Maryville serves the children and families through our life-changing programs in the following areas: behavioral health services, early childhood services, education services, family and residential services. We care for babies and young adults, ages birth to 21, across all of our programs in Bartlett, Chicago and Des Plaines.
During fiscal year 2019 Maryville served more than 8,700 children, families and adults and more than 5,000 children, families and adults in fiscal year 2020 (the decrease in number served was due to the pandemic). Maryville has about 500 staff members at its Bartlett, Chicago and Des Plaines campuses. On the Des Plaines campus, we have approximately 70 children in residence.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, serving our beautiful ministry of protecting children and families in our care was paramount. As soon as Gov. Pritzker ordered the lockdown, our Executive Director Sister Catherine M. Ryan, O.S.F. and Maryville’s leadership council moved to action swiftly. Necessary precautions were taken immediately to protect the children, families and staff.
Our Jen School Principal Anne Craig submitted its remote learning plan to the Illinois State Board of Education and received approval right away. Our Jen School faculty took up the challenge of going from in-person to remote learning. Maryville shelter, residential and health care programs continued to care for the children.
When Gov. Pritzker announced the stay-at-home order in late March of 2020, some Maryville staff in support departments did so and worked from home. Staff in family and residential homes continued to report to work daily to care for the children who are not able to be at home for a period of time.
Maryville did not have any serious outbreaks. Safety protocols such as social distancing of at least six feet from any other person, frequent hand washing, wearing of face coverings and checking of temperature at each building were strictly implemented and followed. Deep cleaning was enforced and air filtration in our homes and administrative offices was improved. Additionally, all programs were closed to outside visitors and non-essential medical appointments for our children were canceled.
To accommodate remote learning, our information technology (IT) department provided additional Chromebooks to our youth whose school buildings were closed.
In addition to providing tools for a successful remote learning experience, the children and young adults in our residential programs were engaged with different educational activities that allowed them a virtual classroom experience. For instance, the girls on our Eisenberg campus engaged in arts and crafts such as painting, decorating small tote bags with donated art materials, making a piñata, brainstorming science fair ideas, learning the history of the Ferris Wheel in Chicago while they bult popsicle stick Ferris Wheels, playing games and many more.
Maryville’s IT department made it possible for our children and youth to learn remotely and for staff to hold meetings virtually. All of our programs adapted – and warmed up – to using technology to communicate and get connected.
Maryville’s leadership team, led by Sister Cathy, sent daily communication via email to all staff. She made sure that staff had the most up-to-date information from Gov. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lightfoot’s offices, IDPH, CDC and other partner agencies, and what that meant for Maryville and staff. One of the first communication emails that Sister Cathy sent was announcing to staff that no one would be laid off. Sister Cathy and her leadership team had daily conference calls to discuss communication and updates to staff.
We purchased PPEs, enforced deep cleaning and improved air filtration in our group homes and administrative offices at all campuses.
Once vaccines became available, as essential workers, Maryville’s frontline workers were included in the first phase of the rollout. The majority of Maryville’s staff are vaccinated and we are working on having the youth in our care, ages 12 and older, get vaccinated.
Maryville does not foresee any long-term changes due to the pandemic but having the option of offering remote learning to students and virtual meetings to staff when needed – and knowing that they work – shows how Maryville proactively reacted and acted swiftly to address the challenges that unfolded. We strictly adhered to, implemented and followed safety protocols that protected our children and staff; allowed Maryville to operate daily; and allowed staff to keep their jobs.
Planning for the future includes consideration of what actions we would take in the event of another pandemic.
(Posted on Mount Prospect Historical Society website – https://www.mtphist.org/maryville-academy-continued-to-serve-children-and-families-through-pandemic/)
Maryville Jen School’s new school year that started quietly Monday, Aug. 16, ushered in its 15th year as a leader in providing career and vocational instruction to students with special education needs in Illinois.
Principal Anne Craig said it was a quiet first day, but it was contrasted by her staff’s excitement in seeing the students in person.
“There was a lot of ‘great to see you,’ ‘I missed you,’ or ‘wow, you look great’ heard in the hallways of Jen School,” Craig said. “While new students were welcomed with ‘we are so happy you are here’ by staff.”
Craig described it as a seamless transition from summer break back into the routine of a new school year. She said she always looks forward to it because it is full of promise.
“As educators, August is a time of renewal and new beginnings. We get the opportunity to once again positively impact our students’ lives,” she said.
Craig is motivated and excited to see her four goals come to fruition this school year. These goals are:
• Expanding curriculum opportunities for students in the core content areas, as well as in Career Technical Education.
• Continuing to build partnerships with school districts and community.
• Expanding the CTE program opportunities for students.
• Having fun and enjoying the experience with students and staff.
“We have a great deal to be proud of in terms of the type of programming we provide and the direction we are going with the expansion of our Career Technical Education instruction,” she said.
Heather Lischett, assistant principal for vocational ed services, feels this school year started on a more hopeful note than last year with having everyone in person. She said they are still following mitigations, masking and worrying about symptoms and exposure.
“While COVID is still a very real threat, the students who returned this year are excited and motivated to continue their high school journey on the path to adulthood,” she said.
Lischett looks forward to the new school year, particularly Jen School’s CTE Extension program.
“It will have a new look and feel this year as we move students around for more hands-on experiences in a wider variety of job sites,” she said.
The program will follow a new curriculum for college and career preparation, according to Lischett.
“We are excited to expand this program and hopefully add more Career and Technical Education courses to our catalog very soon.”
Lischett said she is happy for every day that she, her colleagues and students can be together in person.
Jen School Counselor Kathleen M.L. Samuelson said staff could not be happier.
“It’s been a long time coming. Building and maintaining connections with our students is our top priority,” she said. “We are looking forward to getting back to business.”
Samuelson said that remote learning created challenges.
“We are excited to return to regular programming, allowing us to integrate experiential learning, social emotional learning and academic instruction that are meaningful and student-focused,” she added.
Craig, who is Maryville’s director of educational services, added that her faculty has been working hard conducting curriculum audits, reviewing and selecting materials suited for students and the school.
“I look forward to seeing our collective and measurable progress as we work together in meeting our goals to ensure our students’ success,” she said.
About Maryville Jen School
Maryville Jen School in Des Plaines is recognized as a National Association of Special Education Teacher (NASET) School of Excellence for eight consecutive years.
Maryville was founded in 1883, and has child care and social services facilities in Chicago and the suburbs.
For information on Jen School, visit www.jenschool.org