Stipes ’11 Learning Lessons on Community Diversity

Cody Stipes ’11 – I have had a great experience in Chicago. I have been observing at Whitney Young High School, the Alma Matter of First Lady Michele Obama. As you enter the school, you can tell that W.Y.H.S. is a step above the rest. The faculty, staff, and students are extremely intelligent and I am fortunate to be able to observe such a great school. My host teacher has been a great resource and has taught me a lot about the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. 

As many of you may know, the CPS system has been facing many financial challenges and W.Y.H.S. is no exception. In fact, last week about 300 students from W.Y.H.S. staged a walk-out in protest of the Illinois Government’s decision to cut education funding again. It is believed that the walk-out drew the attention of those at the statehouse in Springfield.

The educational experience is challenging in Chicago, and the continued cuts are doing nothing but making it worse. At W.Y.H.S., they have discussed releasing more teachers and increasing their class sizes to 35 students or more per room. I remind you, this is at a selective CPS school. The hard and unfortunate side effect of these cuts will only continue to hurt the students of all Chicago Public Schools were it has been a battle for year just to get students to graduate from high school. 

Experiencing the educational atmosphere in Chicago during this time has been extremely beneficial for me, because it is inspiring. It is inspiring because we need to make sure we make the best decision as voters when it comes to electing officials who will ultimately make decisions about the direction of our school systems. It is inspiring because I am seeing that the world of education needs strong leadership from young educators like the men in our Wabash Education Program. It is inspiring because there are so many young students throughout this city who can truly be transformed by having one teacher care and thinking that one teacher might just be you.   For that, I am truly fortunate to have been able to experience this week in Chicago.   

Besides teaching, we have been able to get around the city and see what Chicago has to offer. Today, we only spent a half day in the schools and enjoyed the rest of our afternoon in the Pilsen neighborhood with Guillermo Delgado, a colleague of Dr. Izzetto. As I got off the bus to join our group in Pilsen, I was walking through the neighborhood and I honestly couldn’t believe we were getting a tour of this place. It looked really rundown and not very interesting, but as Mr. Delgado showed us the beautiful art and culture that has been present in this neighborhood for so many years, my opinions really changed. 

Mr. Delgado formerly lived in Pilsen and was able to tell us stories and explain the importance of the different sites we saw along our walk. After we finished, I realized that Chicago is a lot like Pilsen. On the surface, it looks just like every other big city. However, once you hear the stories and experience the cultural importance of the different sites, you start to find a city that is rich with traditions that truly make it a unique place. I could definitely see myself living in Chicago and teaching in the CPS system, which is something I was not sure about before this trip. 

Tonight, a group of us are planning to go out and experience more of the night life in Chicago by watching the Chicago Blackhawks playoff game and my beloved Cubs. I am looking forward to the rest of our stay and getting the opportunity to teach at Whitney Young on Thursday.

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