Dyett High School hosts Civic Engagement Week

Staff Writer

Dyett High School for the Arts, 555 E. 51st St., hosted a civic engagement event last week exposing students and parents to local causes and organizations within the community.

On Monday and Tuesday, parents through Parent University (Bronzeville Campus) and students participated in separate activities centered on community engagement.

“We are agents and champions of side-by-side learning,” said Kimeco Roberson, 21st Century Learning Specialist at CPS. “The 21st Century is all about civic engagement, civic leadership and how to be a citizen and how to model that behavior for others.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched the Parent University program for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2015, with the mission to “engage and support parents.”

“Parent University is an innovative neighborhood-based program that uses a combination of in-person and online learning to help parents get more information about educational opportunities that can drive success for both them and their children,” said CPS in a written release.

The Parent University at Dyett High School is a part of the Dyett Innovation Hub.

On Monday, students met with Maze Jackson, political commentator at WVON AM 1690, for a TED talk style presentation where he discussed his background and career.

A small cohort of parents met with Parent University staffers and participated in a Story Slam, a community storytelling activity. Participants, following icebreaker activities, shared their own stories when they were challenged and how they overcame those issues.

“Storytelling is a powerful way…for people to get to know one another to establish community and trust,” Roberson said.

This is the first year that the school and the Parent University hosted a Civic Engagement Week.

The following day was a day of service for both the students and parents.

“Everybody in the building will be participating in school-wide service learning projects,” said Beulah McLoyd, principal at Dyett on Monday. She followed up later by saying students getting involved “strengthens the learning that happens in the classroom and it creates an impact in the community.”

Sophomore students went to a couple of different locations in the city including elementary schools, nursing homes, World Vision and more to volunteer.

At elementary schools, students painted murals and read to younger students.

First-year students worked alongside Na-Tae’ Thompson, founder of the True Star Foundation, a non-profit media company that is run under the direction of young people.

Students helped Thompson assemble bags with food and supplies to help those in need.

Parents on Tuesday stood outside the school with signs displaying words of encouragement for students as they embarked on their service projects and for the community at large as they walked or drove by the school.

Wednesday was a day for advocacy where both sides intersected with activities. The school’s Black Box Theatre displayed the film, On the Front Line: Gangs, Guns & Violence” with a discussion following the movie screening.

On Thursday, Ald. Sophia King (4th), Michael Strautmanis, vice president of Civic Engagement at the Obama Foundation and Illinois State Rep. Juliana Stratton (D-5), visited the school. King and Stratton discussed their career path and what types of activities young people can engage in, McLoyd said.

Strautmanis’ remarks were on civic engagement, the Obama Foundation, and the plans forthcoming Barack Obama Presidential Center and how students can get involved.

Also featured on Thursday was “THE KWAN” a community talk show series developed by the 21st Century Learning department and powered by the Office of Leadership and Learning at CPS.

The series highlights Chicago talent, performers, and intellectuals in the community.

“One of the major goals for me as a principal is to ensure that students are making connections between what’s happening in the classroom and what happens in their community,” McLoyd said.

The school last week also collected bottled water for people impacted by Hurricane Maria. The school will partner with an organization in Humboldt Park to deliver the items.

Dyett High School reopened last year with a focus on the arts and community innovation lab component based upon the desires of the community.