Late last week I toured Englewood’s newest high school, Englewood STEM.
Walking into the building, I felt unsettled and skeptical. As someone who grew up in the neighborhood, I distrusted Chicago Public Schools’ plan to create a new high school. I distrusted the Board of Education’s promises to make sure neighborhood students would attend Englewood STEM. And I distrusted closing all four of the community’s historic high schools to make room for the new one. It felt like a plan to push gentrification.
Many in the community shared my concerns. But when I got inside the building, I was impressed by what I found. Principal Conrad Timbers-Ausar bounced back from his own high school struggles and now uses his experience to help his students.
He also has experience helping his daughters learn more about STEM. Now he has a chance to put it all together in a beautiful new building that cost $85 million.
Students have had input into Englewood STEM since before the school opened. Last spring, Timbers-Ausar recruited a class of 400 freshmen. At neighborhood meetings, he also encouraged prospective students and community residents to vote on the school mascot. The recent movie milestone, “Black Panther,” provided inspiration.
Timbers-Ausar also wants to encourage students to think ahead to STEM careers, so they get visual inspiration about that, too.
After taking the tour, I felt much more comfortable with the decision to create one-brand new school for the neighborhood. Englewood students and families deserve up-to-date facilities and this investment in their education.
I’m with Asiaha Butler, executive director of R.A.G.E. Englewood, who told Chalkbeat Chicago, “Now that it is open and the dust is settled, I want to ensure that the thing promised and talked about does come to fruition.” In recent years, Englewood has grown tremendously, thanks to its residents and local community-based organizations. I hope CPS and City Hall will work to enhance the quality of life in Englewood and other neighborhoods that have been historically neglected and marginalized.
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