Before I began substituting at Young Women’s Leadership Charter School (YWLCS) of Chicago, I had only experienced charter schools from the outside looking in. I had a lot of ideas of what I thought charter schools were but my experience at YWLCS showed me what they are and can be.
Teaching young women in Chicago, I was challenged to consider the limits placed on this generation and the role education plays in preparing them to overcome the barriers they may face in the years to come.
During one of my classes, I wrote the phrase “Angry Black Woman” on the whiteboard and asked each young woman to give me a word that replaced “angry.” The words these young ladies gave were incredible. They shared words like heroic, secure, creative and delicate, powerful, brilliant and inspiring.
Then, I asked if any women in their lives reflected the words they shared. As you can imagine, they referenced their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, in addition to the teachers, counselors, deans and other administrators they encounter daily.
The more they spoke, the more evident it was that their perception of self is derived from the examples in their lives. Women (and men) who value education and integrity help shape their outlook of the world around them.
Over time, I built a relationship with these young women that caused me to remain an example in their lives. In December 2017, I began my role as project manager at YWLCS. The three months I’ve spent in this role have completely changed my perspective of the future of education in Chicago.
Regardless of the inner fiscal workings in our district, money is not the only force to keep a school’s doors open. It is the heart and the soul of the people housed in the building. It is the motives, the integrity and credibility of the leaders in position to make a difference one student at a time.
It is the classroom management and development of instructors and substitutes placed before our children. It is the continuous oversight from faculty and staff who ensure a safe learning environment. Mismanaged, such a basic expectation of customer service to children and their families disrupts the confidence of a people who once believed in the value of education in Chicago.
Under the leadership of Vanesa Scott-Thompson and Taquia Hylton, I’ve witnessed a wraparound approach to supporting the students of YWLCS. These women prioritize instruction and teacher development. They lead from a place of fearlessness and compassion that serves as examples to our young women and their families.
At YWLCS, we work to show children how valuable of an investment we believe they are.