The Power of Early Education: Setting Up Children for Lifelong Success

Education serves as a fundamental pillar of personal growth and development. From the time we are born, we are constantly learning. These early years are some of the most important stepping stones to help a child succeed early in life. It is during these years that their minds are most receptive, and the capacity for learning is at its peak. Studies such as one by Harvard, have shown how early education programs benefit children in developing necessary skills they need to succeed. Recognizing the importance of this crucial stage, One Hope United has established a network of Early Learning Centers that provide comprehensive programs to nurture children and empower families. 

Early education has a multitude of positive effects that contribute to a child’s overall progress and long-term success. Some key benefits include:

  • Cognitive Development: Early education programs provide a stimulating environment that promotes cognitive growth through language and literacy, numeracy, problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity.
  • Social and Emotional Skills: Children learn to share, take turns, cooperate, resolve conflicts, and gain empathy and emotional resilience.
  • School Readiness: By exposing children to early learning, they are better equipped to adapt to the classroom environment and succeed academically when furthering their schooling.
  • Language and Communication: Early education programs focus on language development, helping children build a strong vocabulary, express themselves effectively, and by gaining listening and comprehension skills.

These positive effects of early education demonstrate its profound influence on a child’s learning. It is important to realize that the emphasis is not solely on the child, but also on building strong partnerships with parents. At OHU, we recognize the vital role parents play in a child’s education. This is why we actively involve families in their children’s learning process by creating open lines of communication, providing resources, and engaging parents in their child’s education.

At our Early Education Centers, we provide a supportive environment where children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old embark on a transformative educational journey. These centers offer a wide range of programs designed to encourage children’s independence and curiosity. By providing a solid foundation for their academic and social-emotional growth, our goal is to empower children to become confident, lifelong learners.

We are committed to making a lasting impact on communities and empowering individuals to break free from the cycles of poverty, trauma, and neglect. Early education is a transformative force that shapes the trajectory of a child’s life. By nurturing children’s growth and partnering with parents, we are creating a solid foundation to set children up for success. To further our mission, we are hosting an event called Thriving Together on June 6th, 2023. Join us to become part of the movement to build a brighter future for all. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children and communities, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive. Buy tickets or donate today!

Running Towards Hope: One Hope United’s Spring Shuffle 5K

On a beautiful Sunday morning, One Hope United hosted its annual Spring Shuffle 5K event at the Sun Lake Forest Preserve in Lake Villa, IL. The event brought together the One Hope United community to serve the mission of providing education, resources, and support to children and families.

The highlight of the event was the participation of the boys from the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa. Despite the early start, the boys were excited and ready to tackle the 5K. As they lined up at the start, the air was filled with anticipation and nervous energy.

As the race began, the boys took off, some sprinting ahead, while others settled into a steady pace. The trail was challenging, with twists and turns, and a few steep inclines. But the boys persevered, pushing themselves to their limits.

Along the way, volunteers and supporters cheered the boys on, shouting words of encouragement and high-fiving them as they passed. The sense of community was palpable, and it gave the boys the boost they needed to keep going.

In the end, all the boys finished the race, each receiving a participation medal with a look of pride and accomplishment on their faces. One of the boys stated, “Every ounce of my body was telling me to stop, but I used my head and my heart to keep going.”

Events like this play a crucial role in providing the boys with opportunities to grow, develop social skills, build trust, and form relationships. By creating a nurturing environment, One Hope United’s Residential Programs help these young individuals work towards achieving self-sufficiency, educational or personal goals, and ultimately preparing them for a successful transition to a family setting or adulthood.

After the race, everyone enjoyed tacos and ice cream sandwiches while celebrating the achievements of the boys. During lunch, there was an award ceremony where each boy was awarded a superlative, a hat from their favorite sports team, and a McDonald’s gift card. The smiles on their faces were a testament to the hard work and dedication they put into completing the race.

The event would not have been possible without the outstanding work from the OHU team and the many volunteers who gave their time to make it a success. As one volunteer, Christie, said, “This is my second event volunteering at One Hope United. I love doing it and bringing my kids along to set a good example of helping the community.” Click here if you are interested in becoming a volunteer for OHU. 

Overall, the Spring Shuffle 5K was a great success, bringing people together to support a worthy cause and providing a fun and challenging experience for the boys from the Ermit L. Finch Campus. One Hope United looks forward to hosting more events like this in the future and continuing to make a positive impact in the lives of our community!

Celebrating Pride

Celebrating Pride

Dr. Charles Montorio-Archer

The month of June is celebrated as LGBTQ+ Pride month, and while so many of the ways Pride month has been traditionally celebrated have been canceled due to COVID-19, I wanted to share a few thoughts about Pride.

First, Pride is about understanding and accepting who you are. Regardless of external validation, we owe it to ourselves to accept who we are individually, and personally. Pride isn’t just a celebration one month out of the year…it is a way of living year-round. For me, it’s about who I am all the time.

Secondly, Pride was about, and continues to be about equality, and civil rights. A leader in the civil rights movement, right along with Martin Luther King, Jr. was Bayard Rustin, a gay, Black man. It is so important to understand the intersectionality in our struggle for a better, more equitable society. Bayard Rustin said, ““You have to join every other movement for the freedom of people.” I believe, just as one of our values at One Hope United states, that our hope must be turned into action.

Third, Pride, while about equality and civil rights, is also about equitably providing services. As a child and family welfare service organization, One Hope United does not believe that just because an individual or couple is LGBTQ+ that they should be barred from providing foster care, or adopting, for example. And in our residential centers, we’ve worked to ensure that LGBTQ+ youth not only feel safe, but also have the support and respect needed from our staff.

Lastly, I believe that you should bring your full, whole self to every single circumstance, situation and experience. Be authentic. As an African American gay man, advocate, attorney and other characteristics, it is important that I bring all of myself to my mission building and mission movement service. I understand what it is like to be the “other” in the room- the only African-American, or gay man in a room, and I’ve not spoken my truth at times because of feeling inadequate. What I refer to as Identityphobia stifled my voice, presence and contribution. That is why I’m passionate about the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative at One Hope United.

However, you choose to embrace your identity, and have celebrated Pride this month, I hope you celebrate who you are every day.

Recognizing Juneteenth

Recognizing Juneteenth

Dr. Charles Montorio-Archer, President and CEO


As Juneteenth (June 19th) arrives tomorrow, it’s important that we remember what happened on this date in 1865.

Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to issue the following proclamation: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

Juneteenth has become a day of celebration- Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day- as some call it. And while 47 states, and Washington D.C. recognize it as either a state or ceremonial holiday, the federal government has yet to make June 19th an official holiday. This must change. The federal government needs to recognize the importance of this event in United States history. By declaring Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the government will bring awareness to the history, and the contributions of African Americans in our country.

Some businesses have recently made Juneteenth a company-wide holiday. It is vital that organizations look internally at what they could and should be doing to address systemic racism and bias in their own companies- and also, how they can be investing in the communities in which they operate.

When I began leading One Hope United over a year ago, it was an important initiative of mine to make diversity, equity, and inclusion top priorities- not just because of the diversity of our staff, or of the clients we serve, but because it is the right thing to do. It was also the right action to take when we formed the internal Taskforce on Equity in Human Services. As Black Lives Matter protests sweep the nation, we at One Hope United understand that we have a unique intersection with human services and justice systems where we can advocate for necessary changes.

I’m proud of the fact, that within one week of announcing the taskforce, I hosted an open forum with OHU employees, to discuss the taskforce, its mission, and to hear their perspective on the inequities in the systems in which we engage. I look forward to continuing the conversation and leading the organization to turn our hope it into action. It is because of the diversity of who we are, we need to be deliberate about our evaluation of what we do- which is why we are not announcing Juneteenth as a One Hope United holiday this year. Our taskforce will have a rich dialog about how we observe Juneteenth organizationally.

Recognizing this event’s place in history is important and it’s inherent in the work we do that we have the ability to make our society a more equitable place. Addressing systemic racism doesn’t start with a federal holiday, it is necessary to commit to the work of being anti-racist and being pro-equity. Let’s move forward united in the hope of a brighter, and better tomorrow for all.

OHU Celebrates Women’s History Month

This month, One Hope United has been celebrating Women’s History Month. Throughout the month of Month, we have been sharing OHU staff’s amazing stories about their favorite women in history who have made an significant impact in their lives.

Today, we are showcasing Shirlene “Candy” Tomes and her appreciation for the women at One Hope United. Tomes is a Milieu Counselor in our Centralia Residential and Group Home Campus.
“My journey started in January, when I was 22 years old at One Hope United. I was a single mother to a 1-year old little boy, and I had no real clue what life was about. I came from a broken home and really did not have guidance. I was not quite sure what I would be exactly doing and what One Hope was about.
My first year was very challenging and intense; I never worked with youth and especially youth who have been impacted by trauma. I remember making late night phone calls to my leaders/supervisor in tears wanting to quit, after being spit in the face, hit, and bit. By the end of our phone calls I remembered gaining some peace and understanding to what the youth was feeling and needing. I quickly learned not to take things personally. I even quit for a brief period and came back, trying to search for something that I felt was missing. Then God led me back to One Hope United. I began to find myself as the years went on; I was becoming a strong woman myself.
The leadership of woman [at One Hope United] believed in my talents and strengths, even the ones I did not know I even had. They did not judge or criticize me, and they built me up and helped me improve myself.
I remember feeling so empowered at many points when working with very strong and fierce women. Even walking amongst these women to and from a serious crisis. The team work they displayed, the safety they provided, the love they shared; to some of the most ‘unlovable children’. Moments like these, I knew this is where I belonged. I can honestly say they were mother figures to me as well as my own mother.
My mother and I had quite the journey in growing up. When I began my journey at One Hope, my mother and I began to develop a truly healthy mother/daughter relationship. I became a better mother to my own child. As I watched many powerful women work with the toughest youth, I remember feeling ‘I want to impact young women one day, the way these women are impacting me.’ I never felt so safe, loved, respected, and so much more in my time throughout out One Hope United, this even impacted my personal life. Because of the empowering women that God placed in my life I am the woman I am today, because of them. I’m very thankful and humble to be raised by such strong women.
Young women (staff, youth, strangers, family, and friends) are able to come to me and thank me for empowering them, the way I thanked the women who have helped me. Impacting young women grow in their journies in life is an amazing feeling. I have my mother to thank; as well as [wonderful women at OHU] in my 10+ journey at OHU. Because of these women, I am the woman I am today and for that I thankful!
“I am a strong woman because strong WOMEN raised me.”

Read more #OHUDiversity stories on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Chicago Welcomes Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer

Over 125 Influencers Attend Reception for One Hope United President & CEO

Representatives from Chicago’s political, nonprofit, and social justice communities came out Friday, February 22nd, to welcome Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer as the President and CEO of One Hope United.

Over 125 people attended the reception in the Mid-America Club, hosted by One Hope United’s Board of Directors.

Director of Development at

See all the photos in our Facebook photo album.

The One Hope United family also came out in full force, with members of the Board of Directors, Ambassador and Auxiliary Boards, and staff as well as donors in attendance. Theresa Dear, Board Chair of One Hope United, introduced Montorio-Archer and officially welcomed him to the organization.

In his remarks, Montorio-Archer thanked the Board and his husband, Paolo Montorio-Archer, for supporting his decision to join One Hope United and relocate to Chicago from New York, where he was born and founded The THRIVE Network, a nonprofit that assisted people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live lives with dignity, respect and independence.

Throughout February, One Hope United has been celebrating Black History Month, featuring inspirational quotes by staff members and African American pioneers, and Dr. Montorio-Archer invoked one such figure from the podium: “Martin Luther King once said that we should never forget to ignite the hope within ourselves, and I hope that you do that all the time,” he said.

Montorio-Archer also invited attendees to take part in two upcoming events:

Throughout April, One Hope United will repeat its Go Blue 4 OHU campaign, in which Chicagoans can dine out at over 30 participating restaurants to raise awareness and funding for child abuse prevention programs.

On May 3rd, One Hope United’s fifth annual gala returns to the Hilton Chicago. Hope In Action: Why I Have Hope, will feature a keynote and performance by the Glee Project’s Mario Bonds as well as a cocktail hour, dinner, silent and live auctions, and other special performances.

About One Hope United
One Hope United is a private human service organization that offers a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based programs including early education, foster care, adoption, counseling, residential, and other support services. What began in 1895 as a children’s home in Chicago now serves 9,000 children and families each year in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Florida and employs nearly 800 passionate and talented professionals. For more information, please visit www.onehopeunited.org.

Michelle Damico
Michelle Damico Communications

One Hope United Names
Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer
President and CEO

Entrepreneur, author and attorney co-founded, led and merged nonprofit The THRIVE Network in New York City

One Hope United’s board of directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer as the organization’s President and CEO. Dr. Montorio-Archer, a successful New York nonprofit entrepreneur, child and family advocate, attorney and author assumed the leadership position last month following a national search.

Founded in Chicago in 1895 and based there to this day, One Hope United is one of the oldest and most respected human service nonprofits in the country. Today, the organization provides education, foster care, adoption, counseling, residential and other support services to over 9,000 children and families each year in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Florida.

Dr. Montorio-Archer co-founded The THRIVE Network in 1996 and served as its CEO for another 11 years before successfully merging the organization with The New York Foundling. THRIVE, which continues to operate under its own name, is a $36 million nonprofit organization that assists individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout New York City.

“Charles is a transformational leader who has demonstrated a passion for empowering all people to live with dignity and respect,” says Theresa A. Dear, Board Chair of One Hope United. “With his proven leadership, and his commitment to helping others reach their full potential, he is the ideal person to lead One Hope United to our next level of greatness as we work to help every child and family live life without limits.”

“I am thrilled to become part of the One Hope United family and community,” says Dr. Montorio-Archer. “When I began as a direct support professional in this industry over 25 years ago, I quickly recognized that, while our life circumstances may vary, we all want and deserve the same access to opportunity. That starts with the supports and services that One Hope United is so committed to providing – education, family support, a place to live and thrive, and connection to loved ones, as well as being recognized within our society. These are the building blocks to a life without limits, and I look forward to working with my new colleagues to help bring these to every child and family.”

Dr. Montorio-Archer has written three books, most recently Everybody Paddles: A Leader’s Blueprint for Creating A Unified Team, which provides a management model for reaching strategic alignment and accelerating organizational change through respect, collaboration and leadership. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Lincoln University, a Master’s degree in Public Administration from CUNY Baruch College, a JD from Brooklyn Law School and a PhD in public policy from Walden University. From 2001 to 2004, he served as Assistant District Attorney in Kings County, Brooklyn, NY. Then from 2004 to 2007, he served as the Associate Executive Director for the InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies, where he advocated at the city, state, and federal levels for program development, business sustainability, and policy and regulatory reform.

In addition, Dr. Montorio-Archer has served on numerous boards, presented two TEDx Talks (“The Friendship Clause” and “IDENTITYphobia”), contributes to Forbes and Huffington Post, and has been featured on television, radio, print, and other media outlets.

Dr. Montorio-Archer succeeds Todd Schultz, who has been acting CEO for the last year. Schultz will remain a part of the Executive Leadership Team as the Chief Transition Officer.

About One Hope United
One Hope United is a private human service organization that offers a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based programs including early education, foster care, adoption, counseling, residential, and other support services. What began in 1895 as a children’s home in Chicago now serves 9,000 children and families each year in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Florida and employs nearly 800 passionate and talented professionals. For more information, please visit www.onehopeunited.org.

Michelle Damico
Michelle Damico Communications

10 One Hope United Early Education Centers Now NAEYC Accredited

Rigorous quality assessment puts OHU early learning centers in nation’s top 10 percent.

One Hope United now has 10 early education centers that have received accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)—the world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children.

Waukegan Early Learning Center joins nine other One Hope United child care and early education centers that have already earned this prestigious mark of quality, including Aurora Early Learning Center, Elgin Child & Family Resource Center, and Sprouted Child Care & Early Education (Wilmette) . All of One Hope United’s eligible centers are now accredited or undergoing accreditation by NAEYC.

In the 30 years since NAEYC Accreditation was established, it has become a widely recognized and coveted sign of high-quality early childhood education. Less than 10 percent of all child care centers, preschools, and kindergartens nationally achieve this recognition.

NAEYC Accreditation is a rigorous and transformative quality-improvement system that uses a set of 10 research-based standards across four categories—children, teaching staff, partnerships with families and communities, and administration—to recognize and drive holistic quality in early learning programs.

With guidelines for everything from teacher preparation to safety standards, NAEYC Accreditation ensures that programs are safe, well prepared, and intentional about ensuring children’s success. As a reputable indicator of quality, NAEYC Accreditation correlates with children’s greater readiness and success in school and beyond, increased educational attainment rates, and overall healthier lifestyles.

Find a NAEYC Accredited One Hope United center in your area:

Western Suburbs

City of Chicago

Northern Suburbs

*Opened in July 2016, Joliet Early Learning Center is still in the accreditation process.

      Chance the Rapper’s SocialWorks Donates Toys to One Hope United Youth

      One Hope United is honored to announce that youth served in Chicago and throughout Illinois will benefit from the generosity of Chance the Rapper’s youth empowerment charity, SocialWorks, and WGN TV Morning News viewers.

      One Hope United was hand-picked by SocialWorks to receive a gigantic shipment of toys to its Lake Villa offices following the December 8, 2017 WGN Drive-Thru Toy Drive. The donations collected during the WGN TV Morning News will spread holiday joy to children in One Hope United’s residential homes, early learning centers, foster care, counseling and family services programs in the Chicago metropolitan area and downstate Illinois.

      “We’re blessed to have the opportunity to contribute to One Hope United,” said Justin Cunningham, Executive Director of SocialWorks. “Creating loving environments where youth can reach their full potential is at the heart of SocialWorks and I hope these toys bring smiles and hope to every child and family served,” he added.

      “One Hope United would like to thank SocialWorks, Chance the Rapper, and WGN TV for their generosity and hard work to enhance the lives and communities we serve,” said Scott Humphrey, President and CEO, One Hope United. “You’re showing the children and families in our programs that with dedication, friendship, and love, one can make a difference in people’s lives. We are grateful to SocialWorks help in spreading joy to thousands throughout Illinois,” he added.

      Senior Supervisor Corey Dickson works directly with some of the youth who will receive toys from the donation. “This is going to help so much,” he said. “They’re going to appreciate it a whole lot – especially coming from Chance the Rapper.”

      About SocialWorks
      SocialWorks aims to empower youth through the arts, education, and civic engagement while fostering leadership, accessibility, and positivity within the youth throughout Chicago. Using this framework for our interactive spaces and experiences, SocialWorks hopes to nurture local talent and open new doors much like what their founder, Chance the Rapper, has done in the music industry. Our initiatives, OpenMike, Warmest Winter, Parade to the Polls, and our New Chance: Arts & Literature Fund, were created to advocate for youth and the fulfillment of individual achievement and success in all its forms. We’re excited to continue to bring impact to the nation and we hope that you tag along for the ride. socialworkschi.org

      About One Hope United
      One Hope United is a private human service organization that offers a diverse array of early childhood education, prevention, intervention and community-based programs. The non-profit began over 120 years ago with the same vision it holds today: for every child and family, life without limits. One Hope United’s team of  800 talented professionals serves thousands of children and families each year in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Florida. onehopeunited.wpengine.com

      OHU Leader Joins Bowman Leadership Fellows Program

      We are excited to announce that Carisa Hurley, an Early Learning Director of Programs here at One Hope United, has been accepted into the Erikson Institute’s Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows Program!

      The Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows Program chooses fifteen professionals who provide direct service, advocacy, and funding support while working in the early childhood sector. The fellowship is incorporated into a 10-month leadership program designed to enhance each participant’s knowledge-base, provide skill application, and connect them to a larger network for influencing early childhood policy and system changes.

      The intentions of this fellowship are to “…provide professionals in the field with the knowledge and tools to extend the impact of their work by influencing policy change that can transform early childhood on a larger scale.” says Geoffrey A. Nagle, President and Chief Executive Officer of Erikson Institute.

      The fellowship program provides evidence-based information and the analytical framework to apply a racial equity lens to early childhood policy. Monthly seminars covering subjects such as the public policy life cycle, federal and state policy, and other related topics provide fellows with a solid foundation to distinguish important early childhood issues and be given the opportunity to translate learning into action.

      All of the fellows chosen are child advocates working within various organizations, therefore the overarching goal is to enhance their role and expand their influence to frame policy issues and recommendations guided by their organization’s mission and the diversity of the population they serve.

      We wish Carisa all the best as she begins her fellowship on June 16th!

      Click here to learn more about our Child Care and Early Learning programs.

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