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Parents Protest CPS Turn-Arounds

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Walter H Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., which is slated to be closed under a new plan announced by the Chicago Public Schools. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

A South Side community group “fed up” with the Chicago Public Schools closing and turn-around process in low-income areas of color brought their protest to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office this week.

“CPS’ top-down school actions in North Kenwood and the Greater Bronzeville community have caused spikes in violence and destabilized schools, and not improved student outcomes,” reads a statement from the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, also known as KOCO.

KOCO members, along with parents from North Kenwood, Oakland and Bronzeville neighborhoods, rallied outside Emanuel’s office on December 1, and called on him to partner with them to implement “The Bronzeville Global Achievers Village,” an alternative school transformation plan they’ve developed over the past 18 months.

KOCO member Shannon Bennett told Residents’ Journal shortly after the protest that members from his organization and several community parents, along with representatives from the Centers for New Horizons and the Grand Boulevard Federation, first met with CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard at their office on November 21 regarding KOCO’s plan to counteract CPS policies concerning school closings, phase-outs and turnarounds. Brizard said he would get back to them but did not, according to Bennett. “So that’s why we have gone around him, and go to his boss,” Bennett explained.

Bennett said members from KOCO delivered a letter to Emanuel through one of his staff members, and added that members of his organization are particularly upset about the phasing out of Walter H. Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St., which KOCO noted in their press release is the only neighborhood high school in Kenwood-Oakland. Sending students to Wendell Phillips Academy High School, 244 E. Pershing Road in the Bronzeville community, will result in increased violence, he argued. In 2005, Bennett said he personally experienced a spike in crime in Kenwood-Oakland after the closing of two schools, the Jackie Robinson and Price elementary schools.

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Altgeld’s New Library

by Alisha Jacobs 

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program class at People for Community Recovery, a not-for-profit organization based in the Altgeld Gardens public housing development.

After fighting for 10 months, Altgeld Gardens finally got a library. There is a door separating Carver Elementary School and the Altgeld Library. It is the first public library to share a Chicago Public Schools building. The library is located right across the street from the Larry Hawkins Chicago International Charter School (CICS) and Carver Primary Elementary school. The library opened April 8, 2011; at this time, it is under-going renovation to install a central air system.

Residents’ Journal interviewed Shante Jackson, the children’s library associate, and Jackson said the library had to close on

The interior of the new library in the Altgeld Gardens community. Photo by Alisha Jacobs.

several of the hottest days of the summer. “We close based on the temperature outside. If it’s too hot, we use a fan or we shut the library down,” Jackson said. “The library is very important to the community. Altgeld needs it more now because there are more residents and schools in the community.”

The library has free wireless internet and 30 computer stations, 20 for children and 10 for adults. There were 25 residents in the library at the time of the RJ interview. Residents were at the computers, searching for books and checking out books. The library is a heavily utilized place in Altgeld.

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My trip to Paris

by Manquaze Allen 

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program class at People for Community Recovery, a not-for-profit organization based in the Altgeld Gardens public housing development. In April 2011, youths from People for Community Recovery traveled to France as part of a photography exchange program with youths from La Courneuve, a community near Paris.

When we first left out, we went to the office for People for Community Recovery (PCR), an environmental study group. I was really sleepy, and we sat for about 15 minutes. Then a truck pulled up; It was good and clean, big and shiny. Then everyone started taking pictures. I took pictures of the front of the truck, then on the side of the truck to show the details and the wheels. I asked my friend Hollis, a fellow resident of Altgeld Gardens, how does he feel about going to Paris? He said, “I’ve been on lots of planes taking trips to see my auntie in Georgia, but I am very excited.”

The Eiffel Tower. Photo by Manquaze Allen.

A limo pulled up. I wasn’t that excited but Hollis, Lanesha, Lakesha and Nakia – also residents of Altgeld Gardens – were yelling, jumping and moving their bags out of the PCR office into the limo. Every one got in the limo and I was the last person to get in. As I said before, I wasn’t that excited. We started singing in the limo on the way to the airport; we were singing an R Kelly song. When we got out at the airport, everyone got their bags and went to the counter. The airport attendants weighed our bags then we went through security, which took forever. After security, I went to sit down. We boarded and I felt so relieved that we were on the plane. I got a massive headache once we were in the air so I fell asleep. I slept the whole way there.

We arrived in Paris and went to the hotel to drop off our bags. When I saw the bathroom, I was amazed. “Where is the shower?” I asked. I then opened the door next to the bathroom and there was the shower. My jaw dropped! It was so small, barely enough space for one person. After putting my bags up, I met back in the lobby with everyone in the group and we went to eat dinner. I had a hamburger made the American way with lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. The fries were out of this world. I tasted all of the seasoning the restaurant put on them. They used salt and pepper. It was great. We walked back to the hotel to go to sleep.

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Altgeld Youth Protest Lack of Library

by Imanie Johnson , Youth reporter from Altgeld Gardens

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by a youth reporter who is a graduate of the Urban Youth International Journalism Program.

“We don’t have a library, we don’t have a school, so Mayor Daley what do you want us to do?”

This is the chant that 26 young, protesting residents of Altgeld Gardens housing development shouted at the Daley Center last winter.

The frustrated residents have been without a library now for over a year and counting. The library was an important resource to the community for various reasons such as researching information, looking for jobs, homework or just a place to surf the web. For most residents, the Altgeld Public Library was the only place to use a computer.

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