Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama's words lift audience at a troubled school

Chi-Town Daily News:
“I truly believe that all students should be watching it,” said Stansberry Butler.

One Harper student actually traveled to Washington to attend the inauguration, along with a few teachers.

At around 10:30, the rest of the school community traveled to the auditorium and the cafeteria to witness history together.

Inside the lunchroom, packed tables of teenagers acted, well, like kids in a lunchroom.

They joked, laughed and talked together loudly.

Soon, however, a sense of wonder began to creep into the room.

It started when the two Obama girls, beaming, took their seats on the platform in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Once Michelle Obama appeared, the room fell largely silent.

Kids watched as President George W. Bush entered to “Hail to the Chief” for the last time.

Then, a roar, as Barack Obama’s tall visage approached the top of the Capitol steps. The room erupted again as Obama was introduced and a third time as he placed his hand on Lincoln’s inaugural bible, took his oath, and became the country's 44th president.

The crowd at Harper grew quiet as Obama began his address.

"This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

As the President spoke these words near the end of his address, Natasha Champion, clad in a red Harper t-shirt and a black apron, nodded her head.

“There’s no words that can express how happy I am,” said Champion, who works the school’s lunch line.

She said she was sure her mother was watching on TV at home, most likely with tears rolling down her cheeks.

 “Took us a long time to get here. And I’m glad we’re finally here. This is just the beginning, though.”
Harper High School seems a bit bleak though:
Many at Harper, a struggling school that enrolls more than 1,000 students, do not continue on to college. Only a third of freshmen are on track to graduate in five years and just four percent of Harper students meet or exceed state standards.

These and other longstanding struggles moved Chicago Public Schools to launch an ambitious plan last year to overhaul the school.

Harper is what’s known in Chicago these days as a turnaround school.

Among other things, there’s more support from the Board of Education, including efforts to strengthen the curriculum and an emphasis on creating a culture of discipline and responsibility.
I can only hope that if Obama's election might help these students realize their potential!

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