11 Evanstonians — Individuals, Businesses, Nonprofits — Honored as Change Makers
MashUP 2021, Evanston and Northwestern University’s annual hook up, was a joyful affair as a few hundred turned out to honor 11 individuals, businesses and nonprofits being heralded as Evanston change makers. An Evanston Chamber of Commerce event annually supported by N.U. and the business community, the Sept. 29 offered a smorgasbord of samplings from 25 Evanston restaurants and bars, and celebrated this year’s award winners in four categories.
The Catalyst Award, a salute to the symbiotic relationship of this North Shore college town with its university, went this year to the retiring leadership of both Northwestern and Evanston Township High School District 202 — N.U. President Morton Schapiro and ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. Witherspoon, superintendent since 2006, last month announced he will retire June 2022, after 16 years. Schapiro, who in 2009 became the 16th president in N.U.’s 170-year history, announced in March he will retire August 2022, after serving 13 years.
The two were honored for the Northwestern-ETHS Partnership that has seen the high school and college work together to enhance learning opportunities for students at both institutions. Their more than 100 partnerships and collaborative ventures have been supported through “The Partnership Office” at N.U. in the past decade.
Efforts range from the Northwestern Evanston Education Research Alliance, and the Northwestern Academy, to Evanston Scholars, and Digital Divas. Operating in four priority areas — Diversity in Stem, STEAM (STEM + art and design), College Access and Career Preparation, and Identity and Social Consciousness — the partnership spans a range of disciplines and boundaries, crossing into academics, athletics, health and wellness, cultural events, mentoring, arts, and community engagement.
“At ETHS, we had many different field trips, like Kits and Kats Day. That was the first time I was really brought in on this relationship between Northwestern and ETHS,” said Nolan Robinson, an N.U. Class of 2021 graduate, and 2017 graduate of ETHS.
Speaking in an Evanston Chamber of Commerce tribute played at MashUp, he was referring to the Northwestern Wildcats, and ETHS Wildkits.
“I think it opens up the idea of what college is, and what going to a university is, to people who may not know, like me. My parents didn’t go to college. My older siblings didn’t go to college. I didn’t know that much about it. This was the first taste I had into what being a college student, going to a university, was all about.”
Congratulating the pair, Marcus Campbell, ETHS Assistant Superintendent and Principal, said that under their tenure, a relationship between the two institutions bloomed.
“[It] has been drastically different. And it has been transformative for students, and transformative for our staff,” Campbell said. “It has been transformative for all of those constituents that have been able to benefit from the Northwestern University-Evanston Township High School Partnership. I just want to say thank you.” Their relationship spans Schapiro’s 13-year tenure, Witherspoon said.
“These are strategic partnerships. This is a very different level. It’s within a structure of how do we make it mutually beneficial? How does it benefit Northwestern? And how does it benefit ETHS? And how does it benefit this community, and your students, and our students? And it really does,” Witherspoon said. Schapiro expressed hope that Evanston students continue to benefit for years to come.
“I think that intentionality is going to last when we’re both gone from here,” the university president said. “I’m sure it will, because the university deserves it, the city deserves it, and the great high school deserves it.” Held this year at the Palmhouse, 619 Howard Street, the hybrid indoor-outdoor event featured music and live art showcasing talent from the community. It drew several hundred attendees, who had to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID19 test results within 72 hours, and mask up when entering the Palmhouse food court from the outdoor tent.
This year’s winner of the event’s top award — the Corrine Passage Spirit of Evanston Award — went to an Evanstonian who has been racking up accolades lately for her work promoting equity and efforts to bridge the racial wealth gap.
The award, celebrating an individual who embodies the best of Evanston, through compassion, courage, kindness and creativity, was presented to Evanston Police Department Officer Tosha Wilson, a 5th generation Evanstonian, founder of the Boosting Black Business platform, and co-owner and founder of The Aux, a new business incubator in South Evanston.
“To me, Tosha IS Evanston. She embodies Evanston. She loves Evanston. She is true to Evanston, and that’s something I appreciate,” said fellow Evanston Police Officer Enjoli Daley, who nominated Wilson.
“She’s just genuine. She has a generous, generous heart. As an officer, I appreciate her. As a friend, I appreciate her. As a Black woman in the world, trying to make a difference, I truly, truly appreciate her.”
It was when Wilson sought a loan to launch her new business, the The Laundry Cafe-Evanston — and was denied — that she began thinking of other Black businesses in the same situation, leading her to create the Boosting Black Business platform that raised $110,000 for nine fledgling Black-owned ventures. The Aux, home for hers and other businesses, followed, unveiled to the public last month.
“I was beyond thrilled when in January I got a call from Tosha. She used her platform to help us in a tremendous way,” said Tamara Stewart Hadaway, Founder and Principal of one of those ventures, Evanston’s Kingsway Preparatory School.
“And just to see how the community rallied, just based on Tosha’s word, really. They rallied behind her, and they were supporting us and helping us to get closer to our goal. We wouldn’t be where we are without that. She’s just selfless — the embodiment of everything that Kingsway stands for, and everything we want our students to be, caring, selfless, to consider others beyond themselves.”
When Wilson got the call she’d won, there was at first, disbelief.
“I got the call from Jared Davis, who sits on the board, and he said, ‘You know, it was unanimous that you won this award,’ and I’m like, ‘Really?’ Are you kidding me?’ I was surprised. I really was. I did not expect that call. I think it’s really cool. It’s an Evanston award, and I love this place,” Wilson recounted.
“I started Boosting Black Business because my cousin and I went to get a loan, and we were denied. And we just wanted the loan for laundry equipment. And so I just kept thinking, how many people are going through this, who are trying to start up something, who look like me, who work hard like me, and can’t get a loan?” she said.
“So I just accidentally created a community of people who were supportive of Black business. It was difficult, and it was tiring, and it was just me with the help of my friend Jennifer, so it was rough. But it was so worth it.”
“In Evanston, we talk about equity. We talk about inclusion. We talk about Black businesses, and Black Lives Matter. And yet our business footprint is no good. We have strong mom and pop stores that stand strong and work well with the community, but we want generational wealth. That is the legacy we’re trying to leave here.”
The Future of Evanston Award, new this year, went to three young Evanstonians who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic:
Eli Coustan — the 8th-grader who created the ILVaccine.org website to provide a frequently updated, centralized database for people to search for COVID vaccines in Illinois.
Margaret Dillingham —the 6th-grader who sewed masks and helped raise awareness about the importance of wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID.
Olivia Ohlson — the 8th-grader who packed and distributed hygiene kits to Evanston residents in need at Evanston Vineyard's drive up food pantry.
There were five recipients for this year's Mash Up Moolah Award, annually honoring organizations going beyond the call of duty to help Evanston become a better place to live, work and play:
Butcher Boy Recording Studio — a nonprofit that teaches high school students the art and science of music production and audio engineering.
C & W Market and Ice Cream Parlor — where owners Clarence and Wendy Weaver have been providing local families and senior citizens with free groceries since the pandemic.
Evanston Present and Future — sponsor of Evanston’s Annual Juneteenth Parade.
Evanston Pride — providing a safe space and programs for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Evanston We Program — the nonprofit founded by the late Hecky Powell, offering career exposure and internships for ETHS students seeking to enter a trade vs. attending college.
And participating restaurants included: 4 Suns Fresh Juice, A La Carte, Cupitol Coffee & Eatery, Curt's Cafe, Farmhouse Evanston, FEW Spirits, Firehouse Grill/ Candelite, Five & Dime/Taco Diablo, Good To Go Jamaican Restaurant, Green Spoon, Hecky's Barbecue, Hilton Garden Inn, Hardly Shaken (Janek Evans, Bartender), Jennifer's Edibles, Koi Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge, La_Cocinita, The Peckish Pig Evanston, Smylie Brothers Brewing Co., Soul & Smoke, Usmania Chinese, Usmania Fine Dining, Valli Produce and Ward Eight.
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