New head of Robert Crown Center likes the fit

R.J. McMahon became chief executive officer of Robert Crown Centers for Health Education in June, after working as vice president and director of development for Fenwick High School in Oak Park for about five years. Before that, McMahon, who lives in River Forest, worked as the director of external relations and director of development for Chicago International Charter School in Chicago,

Q: What about the position at Robert Crown appealed to you?

A: It has a great mission and great people. This really had to be a good opportunity for me to leave Fenwick. But I saw it as a chance to do something special and use all my abilities, and expand my capabilities professionally. And it’s great to be in a community like Hinsdale.

Q: What is the center’s mission?

A: To provide healthy, happy and safe lives for children.

Q: How is it similar to what you did at Fenwick?

A: The education component, and it’s a nonprofit. The challenges of a nonprofit are always great.

Q: How is it different from Fenwick?

A. Here it’s so much more the management of the organization, and making sure we are good stewards of our resources. It’s also a smaller environment so you can really get to know folks.

Q: How big is the staff at Robert Crown?

A: It’s about 18 people. Ten or 11 of them are teachers by trade or health professionals. I’m fortunate to have really good people in the right places.

Q: Does the organization’s board want you to find new initiatives for Robert Crown to pursue, or implement the vision the board has set?

A: “It’s a partnership. The board sets the strategic direction, but they don’t do it in a vacuum. In the coming months, we’re going to do a needs assessment to see if there are gaps in our programming that we could possibly fill.

We also are going to look at our physical environment and develop a one- to three-year plan to improve and enhance our physical space.

Q: From where does the revenue come to operate Robert Crown?

A: A little bit less than half, about 45 percent, of our funding is fees for service. About 40 percent is grants, including from private corporations. The rest comes from individual support and special events (fundraisers).

Q: Robert Crown draws kids from a wide area, correct?

A: We are educating over 80,000 students each year. We get a lot of field trips from schools in Will, Lake and Cook counties, in addition to DuPage.

Q: What is the age range of the students?

A: The programs are for children in pre-kindergarten to high school, but the majority are in second to seventh grades.

Q: Does the center bring its programs to schools, as well as offer classes on site?

A: We do whatever works best for the schools.

Q: A lot of people associate Robert Crown with sex education, but what other programs do you offer?

A: We have classes on healthy hygiene, nutrition and a positive body image. We have a science behind drugs class. We want to arm students with information and help them understand how drugs, including prescription drugs and painkillers, impact their brain. We have a heroin prevention program that we are rolling out in six high schools and six middle schools this year. It’s extremely important the work we are doing.

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