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'We want to hear from them:' Illinois Central College initiative plans survey for 61605 ZIP code

Theresa Koehler (left) and Justice Hobson (right) from the Peoria Cradle to Career Initiative at Illinois Central College.
Collin Schopp
Theresa Koehler (left) and Justice Hobson (right) from the Peoria Cradle to Career Initiative at Illinois Central College.

Illinois Central College’s Peoria Cradle to Career Initiative wants to know what families living in Peoria’s 61605 ZIP code need to succeed.

Program manager Theresa Koehler says, starting at the end of the month, four surveyors will speak with an estimated 800 families, to find out their unmet needs for education, transportation, housing, internet access and more.

“We want to know, from the residents, specifically the families in the area, what their needs are,” said Koehler. “Sometimes I think we think we know what those needs are. But we want to hear from them and have conversations with them about their needs.”

In order to get in-depth answers, Koehler and the surveyors are taking a community and discussion-based approach to the survey. The entire process kicks off with a community event to start building a relationship between surveyors and area families.

“That will be a celebration of us actually starting our surveys or our conversations with people. We're going to make it a family fun night, we'll have a bounce house for the kids, we'll have face painting,” said Koehler. “It'll be a family friendly event, and we will start to have some conversations with people, we will also have some food there.”

Koehler says surveys start the following week.

Family Resource Navigator Justice Hobson is one of the surveyors. She says during her conversations, comfort will be key.

“I personally feel like when you're having conversations with someone, and you're asking them to be vulnerable, and answer certain questions that they may be reluctant to already answer, it's important to not make those people feel rushed at that moment,” said Hobson.

Hobson says the ICC surveys will overcome barriers to trust and instilling confidence by building a rapport.

“Invite them to feel comfortable sharing those things, as well as feeling like there is something positive that's going to come out of it.” she said. “If you're rushing through it, I felt like that would create a sense of worry with that.”

The survey is made possible through a $500,000 federal grant awarded to ICC last September, which created the Peoria Cradle to Career Initiative. As part of the program, Koehler says Cradle to Career will create a “community action plan” with recommendations for both ICC and the broader Peoria area.

“So it's connecting people,” she said. “Perhaps making policy changes as well.”

The kickoff is scheduled for Thursday, Mar. 23 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Annie Jo Gordon Community Learning Center. The event is for families with school-age children in the 61605 ZIP code.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.