Investing in Chicago’s children and families means investing in the growth, development, and empowerment of our education workforce. At the Carole Robertson Center, our staff learn alongside the children and families we serve, creating an environment that encourages collaboration and mentorship. In fact, many of the Center’s staff—including teachers, family support specialists, home visitors, and out-of-school-time mentors—started off as parents or engaged community members looking to chart a new path.

The Carole Robertson Center’s Grow Your Own Apprenticeship Model exemplifies our community-centric approach. Launched formally in 2021 as a response to workforce shortages in early childhood education and a need for paths to economic mobility in our communities, Grow Your Own has since empowered dozens of Chicago residents to pursue careers in the field.

No matter what role they play or where they are in their careers, Center staff continue to grow through professional development efforts like conferences, workshops, data-driven quality assessments, and our annual Staff Education, Enrichment, and Development (SEED) Conference.

When North Lawndale Site Director Latonya Jones told me about the Grow Your Own Apprenticeship, I told her that I didn’t have any experience in education. But she said that I had the most important experience of all—as a parent. She said I could start working as a parent teacher, and that to be a successful educator, I just had to be willing to grow and gain knowledge.

Affoue Nguessan

Teacher Aide and TransformED Apprentice, Carole Robertson Center for Learning

Hear the stories of two of our Grow Your Own Teacher Aides, Affoue Nguessan and Vannessa Olivera, from the testimonial videos linked below.


of the Center’s Grow Your Own participants who have completed our Child Development Associate (CDA) cohort passed the exam to obtain their CDA, a professional credential for early childhood educators. The national average is 15%.

teacher aides, home visitors and health aides hired through the TransformED apprenticeship.


growth in Center staff from June 2020 to June 2023

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Since 1976, the Carole Robertson Center for Learning has been dedicated to educating, enriching, and empowering children and families through comprehensive child and family development programs.