StoryCorps Door-to-Door recently visited North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School on Chicago’s West Side, where, unlike at other local schools, students are not greeted with metal detectors or police. Instead, they’re chased in a playful game of tag, called “running bases.”
“We’re somewhat crazy at our place,” says Administration President and tag instigator John Horan.
Horan goes on to describe the philosophy behind a typical morning at North Lawndale:
How do you greet people when they come to your house? You smile, hug, ask them if they want something to drink. It’s a joyous occasion rather than getting wanded, rather than getting x-rayed, patted down, which is a horrible way of being greeted. So, at 7:45 it is not the sound of the walking dead but it’s kid’s laughter. They love kookiness. They love adults being kooky. What a way to start the day. It beats Starbucks.
Some of North Lawndale’s students face incredible odds for success. Poverty, homelessness, and gang violence are just a few of those challenges, but the school has endured and succeeded despite the road blocks. High academic standards and a commitment to Dr. Martin Luther King’s philosophies on non violence play a role in North Lawndale’s success, but the school makes a special effort to nurture and support students beyond graduation.
“Hey, congratulations! You got your high school degree. Good luck!” Horan says with just a touch of sarcasm. “We have to continue supporting kids as they make their way through college graduation,” he explains. “It’s an absolute necessity. You’ve spent four years connecting deeply with kids and their families. Why back off there? That’s why our college graduation numbers are so outrageous.”
North Lawndale recently sent out 150 care packages to school alums who are now freshmen in college. Inside, they’ll find items like, ramen noodles, free phone cards, laundry detergent, candy, post-it notes, and deodorant. The care packages give the students, many of whom are first-generation college attendees, the boost they’ll need to keep growing and stay the course. And, Horan delightfully adds, “for a hot minute they’re the most popular kid in the dorm.”
Read more about our visit to North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School here, where John Horan interviews one of the school’s alums, Tierra S. Jackson.