Latin School of Chicago Member Profile

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In 2012, the Latin School of Chicago, a coed, PK-12 independent school located in the heart of Chicago, examined opportunities to expand their already rich and diverse service learning program. With a desire to become authentically “of” Chicago, Latin committed to the notion of fully immersing themselves in one neighborhood in order to make genuine, long-lasting connections. Hence the Uptown Partnership was established.

The Uptown neighborhood is located close to Latin and is known for being one of the most diverse areas in Chicago in terms of culture, race, age, and economic status. The partnership itself grew out of a number of long standing relationships already in place, including the nearly 20-year old middle school partnership with McCutcheon Neighborhood School.  By working with the Alderman, community leaders and citizens of the neighborhood, Latin strives to have a meaningful impact on the neighborhood while also providing the students, faculty and parents the opportunity to develop strong relations with the people and organizations of Uptown through partnership and collaborative experiences.

Curricular Partnerships
Students from the three divisions of school, parents and faculty are all contributing members of this initiative as a result of the diverse opportunities developed.  Curricular partnerships have been cultivated over the course of many years and include three different public schools.  For example, the 3rd grades of both Latin and Courtenay Language Arts Magnet School together learn about Louis Sullivan, the father of skyscrapers, and create clay tiles as a reflection of what they learned. In 4th grade, the students of Latin and Courtenay read Hugo together, blog and sketch their reflections of what they read and then watch the movie together at the Black Ensemble Theater, a community theater in the Uptown neighborhood.  With McCutcheon Neighborhood School, the 1st and 2nd graders read at least three Christian Robinson stories together in preparation for a visit with him at the Chicago History Museum. In the Upper School a Dance Mentoring Program has been established. After an Upper School teacher created a Dance Pedagogy class for Latin students, she furthered their learning by giving her students an opportunity to build on what they learned by teaching Goudy Technology Magnet 3rd graders movement and dance skills.

In addition to these curricular programs, the Upper School students also participate in “Project Week” which allows them the time to participate in in-depth projects that focus on one theme.  This year the projects tackled the concept of identity.  Projects included a storytelling/poetry slam workshop with Senn High School, focused on pieces of work that address personal identity, a #WEAREUPTOWN photography project with Goudy Technology Magnet middle schoolers capturing images of the many different citizens of Uptow and a journalism project that investigates and profiles different immigrants in the community. 

Partnership Growth
The foundation has been set for Latin to have an increasing presence and impact in the Uptown community and the influence on the students at Latin is obvious.  As a result of the opportunities for partnership provided to them, many students have initiated their own collaborations in the community and have fostered an entrepreneurial spirit in doing so. Students have created the “Student Philanthropy Initiative” which is a student run club that looks at the grant writing and application process. Through their own doing, the students created an opportunity where organizations from Uptown can apply for grants.  This spring they will be able to award up to $5500 to one or more deserving organizations.  Students have also created a “Street Store” which is a pop up free clothing store comprised of all donated clothes for local clients of various shelters in the neighborhood. In addition, faculty have also created opportunities to refurbish computers and teach code (coding) classes both in the schools as well as the after school programs in Uptown.

Looking to the future
As a result of the community commitment to the Uptown Partnership, Latin is looking to expand the opportunities available to both their students as well as the students of Uptown by creating meaningful after school youth programing.  Latin hopes to obtain a physical location in Uptown to create a space where students from all schools can come for after school programming in computer science, the arts and athletics.

In addition, they also hope to expand on the “Project Week” theme of identity and further explore it with all members of the Latin and Uptown community.  With the help of Story Corps, the Uptown Partnership is going to collect stories from members of both communities to get a sense of who they are as a community.  Not only will they record the stories, but they will also be collecting a repository of poems, photos and artwork that help depict the identity of this unique neighborhood and even more exceptional partnership between one independent school and its surrounding community. 

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