The Insider’s Guide to Englewood STEM High School

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.

Englewood STEM Principal Conrad Timbers-Ausar talks about the use of positive images, include kente cloth, to make students feel welcome.
Englewood STEM Principal Conrad Timbers-Ausar shows off his new building. Timbers-Ausar

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.

CPS spent $85 million on Englewood STEM, which features high ceilings, big windows and modular furniture spaces where students can relax.

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.

The new Englewood STEM mascot, the Panther, graces the hardwood basketball floor.

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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Tanesha Peeples

South Side community leader Tanesha Peeples is a Chicago Public Schools alumna and proud Englewoodian. She currently serves on the board of the Montessori School of Englewood. Formerly, she served the Deputy Director of Outreach for Education Post, for whom she penned the long-running column Hope and Outrage. As an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University, Tanesha began to develop a passion for and understand the importance of public service. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration, she returned to Chicago with a new perspective on community, politics and civic engagement. Tanesha then attended and graduated from DePaul University with a master’s degree in public service management and urban planning and development. Throughout her professional career, Tanesha has used her education, passion and experience to navigate a number of nonprofit, political and independent ventures, advancing her mission to educate and empower marginalized populations. Prior to joining Education Post, she also managed her own consulting firm specializing in community relations. Tanesha’s vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or zip code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. Find her on Twitter at @PeeplesChoice85.