Image Map

Monthly Archives: October 2018

  • -

Local Organizations Announce Partnership with Erikson Institute to Take a Community-Wide, Neighborhood-Level Approach to Achieve Readiness For All

The community is on a journey to become “Top 25 by 2025,” and Transform Rockford, Alignment Rockford and Rockford Public Schools (RPS) are excited to announce a partnership that will help the region hit its goal. At a news conference today, the three organizations announced a partnership with Erikson Institute, a premier early childhood development program that takes a holistic, population-based, measured approach to assess the readiness of kindergarteners in five developmental domains. Rockford is the largest community Erikson Institute will work with in the state.

Erikson Institute uses the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a population measure that provides a snapshot of children’s health, development and school readiness in the context of their neighborhood, to compel stakeholders on how the community, as a whole, can better support early childhood development. Erikson will work with RPS to collect data in five areas to provide a precise and holistic snapshot of a child’s development in the context of their community.

“We know our community needs to focus on literacy, but if we only focus on literacy, we’re never going to achieve our goals,” said Alignment Rockford Ready to Learn Team Co-Lead and Senior Minister at Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, the Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson. “The work is about readiness to learn. It’s about health outcomes, school attendance, access to immunizations, nutrition and social work and we’re glad to be partnering with Erikson Institute to address these issues.”

“Research is confirming that what happens in early childhood plays a big role in lifelong health, well-being and learning,” said Erikson Institute Associate Director Jaclyn Vasquez. “I’m excited to work alongside organizations and residents here in Rockford. The community impressed me since day one – they’re organized, efficient and ready to drive positive change. I know that once they receive specific data from Erikson, stakeholders and residents will get to work to help transform their city and get students on the right path.”

“Erikson Institute is here to help our community understand where our vulnerabilities are in early childhood so that we can strategically focus our efforts on solutions that invoke systemic change,” said Alignment Rockford Executive Director Anisha Grimmett. “Our school district is considered the education experts and provides the appropriate levels of support to children in the classroom, but we also have to provide children with the critical support they need outside of school, allowing them to come into the classroom ready to learn.”

Directly following the assessment, Erikson Institute will provide Alignment Rockford, Transform Rockford, RPS, and participating private schools with data that shows where children have strengths and opportunities for growth across geographic areas and neighborhoods throughout Rockford, informing the schools, stakeholders and local service providers where efforts and resources should be focused.

“This is where Transform Rockford comes into play. Our team leads for education and families & neighborhoods have already been collaborating to determine how we advance the Supporting our Students and Families strategy identified in the Transformation Plan,” said Transform Rockford Executive Director David Sidney. “Having data from Erikson Institute will allow our residents and community stakeholders to tackle our weaknesses and build on our strengths to help in the transformation process of our city.”

“The initiative provides data that we do not currently have,” said Heidi Dettman, RPS 205 Executive Director of Academics. “It is, for all intents and purposes, the missing link to help us more deeply engage community partnerships to wrap around supports for our students and families. We will be able to gather information about children’s experiences in the early years, monitor their developmental trajectories and outcomes, and help to predict later school success.”

Five years ago when the community set on a journey to transform Rockford, residents joined in a call-to-action for improving the living and working conditions in our region. In October 2017, the community established a partnership with Tamarack Institute, an internationally recognized program that develops and supports strategies that engage local people to solve major issues in their own community. Thanks to the Collective Impact Support team, led by Northern Illinois Center for Non-Profit Excellence, and the support of several local businesses and foundations, Tamarack hosted a workshop to help the community identify a significant complex social issue in the area to solve and agreed to align around 3rd grade literacy as a keystone outcome for student success. In June 2018, using the Data Walk best practice tool, stakeholders teamed-up to create a deeper, shared understanding of the issue and began building a common agenda to achieve this key educational milestone. Bringing in Erikson Institute now allows Transform Rockford, Alignment Rockford and RPS to take a community-wide, neighborhood-level look at achieving readiness for all.

For more information on Erikson Institute, visit


  • -

Rockford Listed as One of the “15 Best Places to Move to in the U.S.” by Prominent Consumer Magazine

According to prominent consumer magazine Reader’s Digest, Rockford has been recognized as one of the “15 best places to move to in the U.S.” The recently published article highlights small cities and big towns across the United States that are flying under the radar and touts these places as “the perfect destinations to set-up house and put down roots.” Rockford is the only Illinois city included on the list, next to other prominent cities including Salt Lake City, Utah; Reno, Nevada; Kansas City, Kansas and Burlington, Vermont.

“Word is getting out and people are noticing that Rockford is on a comeback,” said Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau President & CEO John Groh. “Our community offers acres and acres of forest preserves and parks, numerous museums and bike paths and year-round recreation. We should all be proud to call Rockford region home.”

The article specifically boasts Rockford for its small-town charm, unsuspecting, cultural, culinary and outdoor spaces, describing our city as a truly “off-the-beaten-path experience.” It also mentions that Rockford is home to dozens of museums, including the top-ranked family Discovery Center museum, offers a cable-run wake park and one of North America’s top Japanese gardens, has more than 10,000 acres of natural land for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy and mentions the new Embassy Suites convention center which is scheduled to open April of 2020.

“We’re excited that a well-known media outlet sees the assets and opportunities, along with the strengths of our community,” said Transform Rockford Executive Director David Sidney. “Being recognized as one of the “15 best places to move to” is another sign of positive transformation our community is experiencing.”

To read the full article, go to

  • -

Transform Rockford Welcomes New Steering Committee Members

Transform Rockford is pleased to announce the election of two new members to its Steering Committee. The newly elected members are Benjamin Bernsten and Daniel G. Saavedra.

“I am pleased to welcome our two newest members,” said Transform Rockford Steering Committee Chair Bobbie Holzwarth. “They each have a unique background, with diverse experiences that make them an asset in helping with the transformation process of our city.”

Benjamin Bernsten was named the President of Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois in May 2018. Since joining Goodwill in 2012, Ben has been responsible for all aspects of Goodwill’s retail operation and legal affairs within its 18-county territory. He’s created numerous new programs and revenue generating operations including Goodwill’s e-commerce program. Ben graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, WI. He resides in Rockford and is actively involved in the community, serving on other numerous boards including Rock River Water Reclamation District, The Workforce Connection, Northwest Community Center, and GiGi’s Playhouse.

Daniel G. Saavedra is President and co-owner of Rockford-based Saavedra Gehlhausen Architects. He has more than thirty years of experience in the architectural profession and has received recognition for excellence in architectural design for more than thirty projects his firm has developed nationally and regionally. His experience includes more than 400 projects in the religious, health care, commercial, institutional, and residential, facilities. Some of these projects are the SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center, various projects at Rock Valley College, Rosecrance, Anderson Japanese Garden Visitors Center, Poplar Grove United Methodist Church, Practice Velocity, and many more. Dan grew-up in Colombia and came to Illinois in 1984 after obtaining his degree in architecture from the Universidad La Gran Colombia in Bogota, Colombia. Dan resides in Roscoe and is actively involved with as a trustee for the Rockford Art Museum and Northern Illinois Conference for the United Methodist Church. Dan has also volunteered in many non-for-profits organizations in the region including Transform Rockford.

Other Transform Rockford Steering Committee members include:

  • Nate Boelkins, UTAS
  • Tom Gendron (Emeritus), Woodward
  • Bill Gorski, Retired from SwedishAmerican
  • Bobbie Holzwarth, Holmstrom Law
  • Christie Jarrett, Stenstrom
  • Doug Jensen, Rock Valley College
  • Jim Keeling, Hinshaw Law
  • LoRayne Logan, Workplace Staffing
  • Paul Logli, United Way of Rock River Valley
  • Peter Provenzano, Supply Core
  • Dave Schertz, Retired from OSF
  • David Sidney, Transform Rockford