(Above: Seniors sporting their “Gold Polos” they receive when they get their first college acceptance!)
I can say with an incredibly high level of confidence, that this is the first time this has happened (ever in history) for an open-enrollment* school in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago.
*For those of you not in the education world, open enrollment means that students do not have to meet any academic standards in order to enroll and be a student at my charter high school. There are no admissions tests, no essays, nothing. Parents walk in and register their student the same as they would at any public high school. Our school is a charter school and in layman’s terms the big differences between public and charter schools are that we are (in-part) privately funded by donors and that as a result we have more flexibility in our discipline system and school policies, so for example, our students wear uniforms.
Four years ago, in the fall of 2012, I was a Junior in college about to begin what would be two of my favorite courses in all of college: Economics of Education and Economic of Social Issues. I would also complete my Poverty & Human Capability Minor capstone that year by doing a community research-based project focused on availability of and knowledge of resources for low-income families living in a Section 8 housing development in Lexington, Virginia. (Shoutout to my partner in crime, Tommy!) Thinking back, it is crazy to me to look at my life now and see how the things I learned in those three classes are a smorgasbord of skills and education I needed to follow my passions and do the work I do now.
As a Junior in college (and far before that, even) I knew I wanted to be in non-profits, working (or trying to work) to make the world a better place. I have always been a people-person and my dad and I have debated on numerous occasions the merits and drawbacks of the Tactical Approach vs the Boots on the Ground approach (give me a break on the terminology-we are a military family). For those of you wondering where exactly I am going with this and why today I am suddenly writing about something that happened a month and a half ago, it is because today I need a reminder of why I do the Boots on the ground, pedal to the metal, deep in the trenches work. And trust me, this week feels like the trenches!
The first two days back from spring break have been some of the most stressful of my job to date. To admit it has been a rough transition from the beaches of Florida, beverage in hand, to this week would be an understatement. The Hawks season ending last night is, of course, also a contributing factor.
Which brings me to this: every minute of stress so far this week is so incredibly worth it.
This week, our students are deciding which college they are going to attend in the fall and committing to that school. For the 151 crazy, fun, loving and lovable, drive you crazy Seniors who were ALL accepted to college, they deserve every minute of love, support and guidance in making the biggest decision of their lives. One that has the power to end poverty in their family lines forever and change the trajectory of their lives. One that breaks all molds for the North Lawndale community. One that smashes through the low expectations that many people hold for low-income students of color. One that sets the bar for our high school as the first graduating class. Hell, I’d be freaking out too if I was them- although if I am honest, I am freaking out.
So as I head to bed early tonight knowing tomorrow is going to be another long day, I feel better reminding myself of the amazing fact that 100% of our kids were accepted to college. It’s historic, it’s amazing, and it will drive me through the next few days of running up and down 7 flights of stairs, grabbing kids out of class, discussing college decisions in the hallways, calling mom from said hallway and finally, hitting the accept button on their college offers.
Being stressed about this is an amazing problem to deal with. Bring on May 1st!
It is well with my soul.