In October half term, Project ‘Take Flight’ flew to Chicago to visit our Edison partner schools. Our first couple of days were spent exploring the local area, learning some of its history and taking in some of the tourist, sporting and cultural aspects. The students were blown away by the sheer size of the city and were able to draw some interesting comparisons with the UK.
We spent two days at the Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy (TRCCA) in Gary, Indiana. We were initially shocked by the security measures; a metal detector, security on every corridor and students being required to carry clear plastic backpacks. However, many of the students we met there were clearly aspirational and determined to succeed. The methods of teaching were very different to ours and many of the students worked independently on computers rather than teacher led classes. The students then worked together on a social justice project on Health Care which they are still involved in.
On the second day, the UK students delivered poetry lessons and we were also privileged to see TRCCA’s Panther Poetry Club perform some of their own poems; a phenomenal experience and one which brought home the reality of their situations, particularly in terms of their economic problems and racial issues.
We also visited four campuses of the Bridgescape Academy; Brainerd, Roseland, Humboldt Park and Lawndale, alternative education establishments which offer an opportunity for students to gain the credits they require to complete their High School Diploma. We were given a warm welcome at all the sites, although we encountered equally stringent security measures as we had at TRCCA. Again, students tend to work independently on computers allowing them to work at their own pace and on the necessary modules required. If necessary, students work in a ‘pull out’, a session for a small group of students working on a particular skill; our students took part in an English ‘pull out’ which they enjoyed. Whilst there, we learnt more about the challenges faced by students, the problems the areas have with gangs, violence and guns and heard about their consequences.
Since being home, we have continued to work on Project ‘Take Flight’ as we prepare to hand it over to a new cohort. We hosted a very successful presentation evening for family, friends, staff and those who had helped us. The Take Flight Award for perseverance and aspiration was presented; a trophy to be awarded annually to a student or group of students who have shown dedication and hard work. We have also been able to give house assemblies detailing some of the highlights of our trip. Finally, Becky, Conor and I had the opportunity to discuss our trip with Tim Nash, managing director of Edison, where we discussed the differences between the schools we had visited and KC. The students also outlined ideas for a return visit to Chicago to investigate other aspects of the education systems.
Abbie Coleman, Conor Cotter, Rebecca Kings and Bethany Lay