WEST TOWN ACADEMY: FIGHTING BACK AGAINST CHICAGO’S HIGH-SCHOOL DROPOUT CRISIS SINCE 1996


West Town Academy (WTA) has been a part of Greater West Town Community Development Project’s (GWTP) efforts to overcome our community’s dropout crisis for more than 20 years.  At WTA, our mission is to build an urban high school education model that demonstrates how at-risk students of color can succeed with the appropriate investments, structure, and community support. We retrieve, retain, and educate youth that have dropped out of of high school, helping them to become tomorrow’s leaders, today.  Greater West Town and WTA have a long history of leadership and innovation in the fight to reclaim our youth:

In 2003, GWTP released two groundbreaking reports on the severe Chicago dropout crisis, and called for dramatic changes in both local and state policies to address policy flaws that were pushing students out of high school by the thousands. GWTP’s research attracted front-page coverage in the Chicago Tribune, resulting in widespread public attention to the dropout crisis and the effectiveness of WTA”s model dropout retrieval efforts. 

Over the next few years, GWTP convened the “Community Coalition on the Dropout Crisis”-- a diverse, influential, local education advocacy network of over 20 community-based organizations serving at-risk and dropout youth to call for policy reforms. These efforts led to adoption of State and Chicago Public Schools policies that address the needs of at-risk and dropout youth, including the passage of more comprehensive CPS absenteeism and truancy policies and procedures, and the passage of groundbreaking State attendance law reform legislation.

Today, WTA’s ongoing success and strong reputation as a model dropout retrieval program helps young people, while educating and informing community and civic leaders as to the magnitude and scope of the dropout crisis and the ways to effectively address it.



PAVING THE WAY TO CAREERS AND COLLEGE

Providing an opportunity for former high school dropouts to return to school and earn a high school diploma at West Town Academy is Greater West Town’s “cornerstone” strategy for creating greater educational and economic opportunities for at-risk youth living in the communities that we serve. It’s imperative that we have community-based and community-led initiatives to reclaim our out-of-school youth:

  • Nearly half (50%) of teens on Chicago’s West and South Sides never finish high school.

  • Without a high school diploma, a young person’s access to living-wage employment plummets.

  • Youth unemployment - especially for African American and Latino young men - remains at an all-time high.

Over the years, West Town Academy has successfully addressed these challenges, and is regarded by educators, community stakeholders, and public officials as one of the most effective dropout retrieval programs in Chicago. Since 1998 WEST TOWN ACADEMY has graduated over 1,290 former dropouts.


WEST TOWN ACADEMY IS A BETTER ALTERNATIVE 

  • West Town Academy awards a state-recognized high school diploma, and is a campus of the Youth Connections Charter School (YCCS) network.
      
  • WTA students complete their graduation requirements in a full-day school environment, with a rigorous academic curriculum, extra-curricular activities, and community service opportunities.

  • Students benefit from small classes with personalized attention, and are encouraged to become lifelong learners and role models in their families and communities. 

  • WTA students have an opportunity to take exploratory, hands-on, elective courses in Wood Products Manufacturing and Shipping & Receiving in Greater West Town’s state-of-the-art, high-tech Vocational Training Program, housed in the same facility as the Academy. 

  • Assistance with transition to employment, advanced technical training, or college is a key part of the Academy’s comprehensive support services for our students.