By AARON GETTINGER
The University of Chicago Charter School celebrated its new campus in Woodlawn (UCW), 6300 S. University Ave., last Wednesday with speakers and a student talent showcase. School administrators and city officials expressed their optimism about the new campus.
“Our mission at the University of Chicago Charter School is to prepare 100 percent of our students for college acceptance and graduation through a pre-K to 12 superhighway, which cultivates culturally aware critical thinkers and leaders,” said Charter School CEO Tanika Island Childress. “This new space is already helping us to advance that mission and open up so many new possibilities for our students.”
The school serves 630 students grades six through 12 and is one of four U. of C. Charter School campuses on the South Side.
“This is a great day in the neighborhood, isn’t it?” asked Ald. Willie Cochran (20th). He lauded UCW’s teachers for their students’ outcomes. “When we start talking about 100 percent graduation, that is a lot. And that’s the way it should be.”
Cochran called the event one of his proudest achievements as an alderman and community member. He thanked U. of C. President Robert Zimmer, adding, “It means a lot when you can have an institution, leaders and people who have become successful demonstrate to our community what it is to support community growth.”
Cochran said, “This school will serve this community for years to come,” calling UCW a “support mechanism” for Woodlawn.
Cochran referred to the neighborhood’s receipt of funding from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which supports blighted communities, saying it attracted commitments from the city and the U. of C. that led to UCW. He called the school a part of President Barack Obama’s legacy.
“Government money and investment in large degrees makes a big difference as to how communities evolve,” said Cochran.
Childress said school construction began two years ago and that the school opened for students on Jan. 11. She thanked her predecessor, Shane Evans, U. of C. leaders and trustees and the school’s advisory council, donors, directors, teachers, students and families. “We would not be here today without you,” she said.
Childress additionally thanked the Woodlawn neighborhood, saying its support “ allows us to foster the academic achievement, educational attainment and social–emotional development of our students that will continue through years to come.”
The percentage of students who continue on past the first year of college after graduating from Woodlawn has improved from 76 percent in 2014 to 85 percent last year, according to Childress, which ranked UCW second in college persistence among all non-selectively enrolled Chicago Public Schools high schools and the highest among CPS charter schools.
“I think what the University of Chicago stands for is both inquiry and impact,” said U. of C. Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Deputy Provost Darren Reisberg, there representing President Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier. “The Charter School really embodies both those components.”
He said the U. of C. Urban Education Institute, which operates the Charter School, supports quality, research-based education and credited the Woodlawn community for its support of UCW.
A student arts showcase followed the remarks.