West Town Academy 2012

WEST TOWN ACADEMY: CREATING EDUCATIONAL & ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN THE FACE OF THE HIGH-SCHOOL DROPOUT CRISIS

In June 2012, Greater West Town’s West Town Academy celebrates the success of our 14th Graduating Class. Ninety-two young people – all former high school dropouts – received their High School Diplomas, the largest graduating class in the 14-year history of the Academy. 57% of our 2012 graduates are going on to community colleges, 24% are enrolled in 4-year universities, and 9% will be pursuing advanced career-related technical training. Others have already secured employment, or plan to join the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Class of 2012 exemplifies the success of our community-based and community-driven strategy to expand educational and economic opportunity for at-risk youth and the communities in which they live.

For decades, Chicago’s public schools have struggled to retain, educate and graduate young people of color, particularly African American and Latino males. The high school dropout crisis is complex, chronic and ongoing, and the consequences for individuals, families and communities are enormous. In GWTP’s focus service areas of the Near West Side, Humboldt Park, Garfield Park and Austin, less than half of our young people complete high school in 4 years. Less than half of our young people have the educational preparation needed to succeed in life. Chicago Public Schools’ high schools in these neighborhoods all suffer from four-year dropout rates of 50%-60%.

AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNITY RESPONSE: THE WEST TOWN ACADEMY

WTA enrolls former Chicago Public Schools drop-outs ages 17-21 and helps our at-risk young people get a fresh start in life by providing them with a second chance to earn a high school diploma. Since Greater West Town moved into its state-of-the-art Community Career Training & Economic Development Center at 500 N. Sacramento Blvd in the Fall of 2010, our capacity to serve high school dropouts in these disadvantaged communities has greatly expanded. The West Town Academy Class of 2011 was 67; in 2012, the graduating class has grown by leaps and bounds to a historic high of 92. WTA will eventually enroll 200 former high school dropouts per year.

WHY WTA SUCCEEDS: West Town Academy has been recognized as one of the most effective dropout re-enrollment programs in Chicago, and has also attracted national acclaim. Its success is grounded in carefully crafted, community-based and community-driven strategies for outreach and recruitment; collaboration with other community-based organizations and agencies; student engagement in the classroom and school community to improve student retention and achievement; and clear pathways to post-secondary education, training, and employment. Many of the teachers at WTA come from the community. The faculty is as diverse as the student body. A program that assigns “Mentors” to every student has been highly effective in winning student trust, engagement in the classroom and student life at the Academy, and positive outcomes for students.

MORE THAN A “DROP OUT”

At WTA, we believe that our young people have great potential, and that it is up to each one of them to be an active participant in their own education. Our young people leave high school for many reasons, but we don’t see them as “clients” or “victims.” Each one has the inherent ability to succeed. It’s up to us to challenge our youth and help them become empowered. At WTA, we respect their potential and dignity. WTA imparts the lesson that if our students step up to do their best and respect themselves, their fellow students, our school and teachers, each and every one can become a role model and leader in our community. At WTA we work hard every day to foster that sense of responsibility and cultivate the potential of every student. Our message is simple and direct: It’s up to them to make the most of this second chance.

Visit the West Town Academy Website by clicking here.