Kids Teaching Kids: IMSA Allies and Its Recent Changes

The Allies program—formerly known as KI—is a unique organization that provides high school students the opportunity to teach elementary and middle school students STEM subjects. As a state organization dedicated to spreading high quality education across Illinois, IMSA has a department called Professional Field Services (PFS), which reaches out to the state to “share instructional models and mathematics and science programs that inspire teachers and students and have practical applications for Illinois classrooms.” In other words, PFS spreads the love of IMSA. One way they do this is with Student Statewide Initiatives (SSI). This spreads IMSA’s love to Illinois’ students in a few ways, including IMSA’s Allies program.

Ryan Yang offered a summary of the Allies program, saying “Allies is a program in which we give opportunities to privileged and underprivileged students alike, giving … exposure to science and mathematical concepts to students. We do this through events such as FUNshops (essentially just two interactive science or math lessons in hour long blocks), family reading nights, and field trips in which students come to IMSA to experience lab practice such as dissection.”

The program has seen some changes in leadership. They’ve hired a new curriculum writer, Carmela Minaya, and a new person to run Allies, Heather Richardson. Both can be found around their offices in A144.

The Acronym had the opportunity to talk to Aziza Darwish, head of SSI, about recent changes to the Allies program. On the subject of expanding the program to IIT’s charter school network, she said “the bonding I’ve seen in just a few meetings there is amazing. We’re helping with that. We’re enabling that. We’re giving them the opportunity to work with something they may never have worked with in their life before. Not only that, but we’re giving them access to a new way of learning.”

Regarding IMSA students in particular, Darwish added, “I think all of our IMSA students are amazing and then the Allies are extra special to me.” She then added some details about behind the scenes changes to Allies: “We’ve probably changed the curriculum most. We’ve done a lot to modify and expand so that allies get a lot from the program. It’s not just a teaching program, really. It’s so much more than that. Students are gaining collaboration, communication skills, college readiness skills, and of course the teaching aspect is there but you do gain so much more from teaching.”

In my conversations with members of the SSI staff and various students—and my own experience as a member of Allies—I’ve always observed a magic in peoples’ eyes. For some, it’s just a club. For many, though, it’s more. It can becomes a way to learn how to do something often taken for granted: educate others.

For more information, follow these links (or go ask any Allies member):
Allies webpage:

PFS webpage:

SSI Blog (from which the article’s feature image was taken)

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