When Jenny Chang is not helping suburban students in More Than SAT’s Excellerate Digital Advanced Learning, she’s tirelessly working with city kids in Monster Education Foundation. The latter is a scholarship organization for select students seeking positive change in their Chicago neighborhoods plagued with poverty and violence. Jenny co-founded Monster in 2012 to support students she’d originally wanted to reach as a Chicago Public Schools teacher.
She and her husband rally their three children, age 10 and younger, to participate in community service projects and fundraising events for Monster. “It’s one way to keep them from getting spoiled or sheltered,” Jenny said with a laugh, yet serious about the entitlement mentality of many youth. “Kids are often being served—getting shuttled from activity to activity, but they rarely have the opportunity to serve others.”
Jenny herself showers her own kids with enrichment opportunities, from baseball to Excellerate, but more importantly, “I want to raise my kids with gratitude,” she says. “I want them to know that they’re blessed to be a blessing to others.”
This was the knowledge her immigrant parents instilled in her as they raised her and her two siblings in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. “There is a mantra in Korean that you study to benefit yourself, but my dad, who’s a pastor, turned that around and said we need to study to benefit others,” Jenny said. (She had this mindset when she earned her Master of Education degrees in Special Education and Educational Leadership.) Though their family was below the poverty line, Jenny “never felt poor,” as her parents continually housed international students and hosted a homeless man for a year. Jenny’s mom, who had cleaned houses and worked on assembly lines, “magically” fed family and church members. In giving outside their comfort zone, her parents would say they’ve been more blessed than the recipients.
That’s the kind of experience Jenny would like for those who serve the 16 Monster scholars. Student clients of More Than Scores And Tests have had the opportunity to partner with the scholars since 2015, when More Than SAT joined hands with Monster to provide study skills seminars, college consultation, and test prep for the organization. So far, seven students from More Than SAT have participated in Monster’s community service projects, fun social gatherings, fundraisers, or marketing efforts.
“The city is only 30 miles away but it’s like night and day for the suburban students,” Jenny said. One scholar’s individual community service project was a peace rally at the very corner where he had randomly gotten badly beat up by other teens. At a Monster outing at Millennium Park, another scholar was dealing with the effects of recently losing his brother to gang violence.
“This design is more for the suburban kid than it is for the Monster scholar, who doesn’t necessarily need a partner,” Jenny said. “The kid from the suburbs gets to know someone from the city. They get past that whole white-knight mentality and can say, ‘I actually don’t have much to offer but I can befriend someone from a different place and expand my worldview.’ We think we have so much to offer people who have less than we have materially, but then we realize they have a lot we don’t have in other ways—and we can actually share life.”
If you or your child would like to “share life” with the Monster scholars by coming alongside them in their service projects or joining in Monster events or efforts, contact Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Monster Education Foundation, visit http://www.monstereducationfoundation.org/.
Jenny began working for More Than Scores And Tests in 2015. Jenny designed the curriculum for More Than SAT’s signature class Write On! and was instrumental in the success of the company’s summer camp and Excellerate program. She currently serves as the director of the Glenview learning studio.