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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Two Logan, Humboldt Schools Each Win $500,000 Through New Program: ‘I Literally Jumped For Joy’

The grants could be the largest both CPS schools have ever received, according to the principals.

Students at Cameron Elementary in West Humboldt Park.
Courtesy of Cameron Elementary
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LOGAN SQUARE — Two struggling public schools in the area — one in Logan Square and the other in West Humboldt Park — were among 20 CPS schools awarded $500,000 in grant money this week through a new city program.

Leaders at the winning schools — Yates Elementary, 1839 N. Richmond St. and Cameron Elementary, 1234 N. Monticello Ave. — found out late Tuesday evening.

“I could not be more excited. I literally jumped for joy,” Cameron principal Stephen Harden said.

Harden said it’s the largest grant the school has received in his eight-year tenure, and possibly in the school’s history.

“This is something that’s been a dream of mine. … to create a community school that families deserve and not have to worry about financial constraints,” the principal said.

Credit: Courtesy of Yates Elementary
A student at Yates Elementary in Logan Square.

The grants were awarded through a new district program called the Sustainable Community School Initiative. Through the program, the winning schools are each awarded $500,000 and then paired up with the community organizations of their choice to help craft a detailed plan on how to spend the money.

The program is being funded by the Chicago Board of Education, which approved the $10 million allocation in June.

A task force made up of CPS leaders and union officials selected Yates, Cameron and the rest of the schools based on a set list of criteria, according to CPS.

In order to qualify, a school must be open enrollment, located in a low-income community and enroll 81 percent or more students who receive free or reduced lunch. 

Cameron is partnering with the organization Blocks Together, a group the school has been working with for years. The grant will allow the school to expand its after-school and arts programming.

Right now, Harden said, the school is only able to serve 150 students after school, less than third of the student body. With the grant, Cameron could begin to serve up to half of its student body after school.

The grant will also allow the school to hire a restorative justice dean, do more parent outreach and offer trauma support to students, many of whom are dealing with exposure to gun violence, domestic violence or the loss of a parent due to incarceration, Harden said.

The school has been offering bits and pieces of these programs over the years, Harden said, but the lack of funding has made it difficult to sustain them long-term.

“We have a lot of great ideas and we do what we can with the funding we have access to, but it hasn’t been enough to provide the students with what they need,” Harden sad.

The same is true for Yates, which has seen its student population dwindle in recent years, the most of any Logan Square elementary school.

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Yates is also partnering with a group the school has been working with for years, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. With the organization’s help, the school is looking to expand its sports and arts programming as well as offer new classes — cooking, exercise, ESL and more — for both parents and students.

A lot of the new programming at Yates will be centered around family engagement, which is by design, according to principal Israel Perez.

“Our enrollment has dwindled and we’re hoping with [new] programming we can bring in more families,” Perez said.

Yates had roughly $17,000 in budget money to spend on after-school programming last year, according to Perez. 

Like Cameron, Yates hasn’t received a grant this large in years, possibly ever, the principal said.

“It was a shocker. To be one of 20 schools [chosen] out of 600 schools in the city. … That says a lot for us,” Perez said.

Programming funded through the grant is expected to launch in October, according to the district.

The full list of winning schools, and their partner organizations, are below:

CPS School   Lead Partner Agency
Beidler ElementaryBlocks Together
Brighton Park ElementaryBrighton Park Neighborhood Council
Cameron ElementaryBlocks Together
DePriest ElementaryFamily Focus
Drake ElementaryKenwood Oakland Community Organization
Dyett High SchoolKenwood Oakland Community Organization
Farragut High SchoolEnlace Chicago
Fenger High SchoolYouth Guidance
Fort Dearborn ElementaryFamily Focus
Kelly High SchoolBrighton Park Neighborhood Council
McCormick ElementaryEnlace Chicago
Metcalfe ElementaryMetropolitan Family Services
Morrill ElementarySouthwest Organizing Project
Richards High SchoolYouth Guidance
Schurz High SchoolLogan Square Neighborhood Association
Spencer ElementaryYouth Guidance
Steinmetz High SchoolNorthwest Side Housing Center
Stevenson ElementaryMetropolitan Family Services
Uplift High SchoolKuumba Lynx
Yates ElementaryPuerto Rican Cultural Center