A reflection on 2023 and outlook for 2024 from our Executive Director: Barb Thayer
With 2024 quickly approaching, it has given me pause to think about how I want to start the new year, both personally and professionally. With every year comes challenges and opportunities and for Candor 2023 has been a year in which we feel like we are returning to a normal school environment after dealing with all the challenges of the pandemic. I’m thrilled to say that 2023 has really been a year of opportunity for us.
I am so fortunate to have an amazing team to be working with. Our school partners interact with our incredible team of educators, so they see every day the talented group of individuals that are working with their students. What the school partners don’t see is the tremendous administrative team that we have that helps to make the process of working with schools and engaging with more students possible. The Candor team is comprised of individuals who are deeply committed to our mission regardless of their role within the organization. I am humbled to be working with such an amazing and dedicated group.
If you had to describe the past year in one word, what would you choose?
“Fruition” is the word that I would use to describe the past year at Candor. We began the overhaul of our programming in 2016 and finalized our last program in 2023. Every program is now infused with social emotional skill building and decision-making scenarios that prepare every student to deal with the challenges that they face during adolescence. When we began the program overhaul, we had no idea that we would be developing three types of delivery methods for our programs, but because of the pandemic, Candor, like the rest of the world, had to pivot quickly to meet the needs of our school partners. We are so proud of the various delivery methods and happy to report that student learning gains for both our Live Virtual and Online Interactive programs closely match those of our traditional In-Person programs. Truly, the journey to transform our programming has come into fruition in 2023.
What was an organizational achievement from the past year that made you most proud?
We set out to begin to market our Live Virtual and Online interactive programming to locations outside of Chicagoland. We began a marketing push in Wisconsin in 2023 but did not expect to deliver any programming to students in Wisconsin in that first year. We have been fortunate enough to engage with over 500 students in the Milwaukee suburbs this year. The success we have had in Wisconsin has empowered us to continue to expand to more schools outside of the Chicago area.
Which events from the past year proved to be the most challenging? How did you deal with them?
At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, many schools were confused about the new sex education legislation that was adopted in Illinois in August 2022. This caused a great deal of concern for school administrators throughout Illinois and that resulted in many conversations between the Candor team and the administrators of our school partners. We responded by providing schools with clear information about the alignment of our program to the National Sexual Health Education Standards because we cannot possibly meet all of the objectives in the 90-minute programs we deliver. We seem to have struck the right balance and have been increasing the number of programs we deliver and the number of students that we serve.
What are you looking forward to in 2024?
We hope to work with more students in more schools and deliver more programming, so they are armed with the knowledge and information they need to stay safe. Our goal is to provide young people with information that will help them to learn to keep their bodies safe as they develop into adults. Our programs are science-based and age-appropriate and include social and emotional skill-building, decision-making, and scenario-based learning, which resonates with the students. We collect feedback from the students and hear a great deal about how they are much more comfortable talking to their trusted adults about these sensitive subjects after working with our health educators.