ROSELAND — High school senior Zaporah W. Price has her near future planned out: Harvard University after graduation and Northwestern University for law school.
And now the Class of 2019 president at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep Academy can tell her future classmates she hails from a National Blue Ribbon Award-winning high school.
The Roseland high school was honored this week with national award, one of 349 schools in the country to be recognized for overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student groups.
“I just love Brooks because of all the opportunities we have here,” said Price, a National Honor Society member. “I believe this is just a stride for the South Side. I believe this will show who we are as Chicagoans, as people from the South Side.”
Gwendolyn Brooks at 250 E. 111th St. is one of 24 schools in Illinois and just two Chicago Public Schools to be recognized by the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program this year. Edison Regional Gifted Center at 4929 North Sawyer Ave. was also honored.
Last year, Edgar Allan Poe Classical Elementary School, 10538 S. Langley Ave., was another Roseland-Pullman area school recognized as a National Blue Ribbon Award school.
Shannae Jackson, the principal at Brooks, has served at the school for seven years, starting as an assistant principal for her first four years. Seven years ago, Brooks only offered eight advanced placement courses, she said. Today, that number has ballooned to 18, including seven dual credit courses.
The Class of 2018 HAS earned a combined $36 million in scholarships, SHE SAID.
“Today is about the journey as to what Brooks has become and will continue to be,” Jackson said. “This award is the result of the hard work of our teachers, local school council, parents, students and staff.”
Janice Jackson, chief executive officer for Chicago Public Schools, called Brooks a model school for the country. She said when she looks at the school’s students, she sees black and brown excellence.
“Of Chicago schools that received this award, only less than a handful are predominantly African-American and Latino students,” Jackson said during a speech in the high school auditorium Monday.
“I just want you to know when we see this type of excellence it does show your ability. You have to stand up and continue to prove people wrong because people do need to be proven wrong about what African-American and Latino kids can do,” she said.
The financial investments into Brooks over the years has been significant. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), whose ward contains both Brooks and Edgar Allan Poe Classical Elementary School, said more than $60 million has been put into Brooks in recent years, not including funds to renovate the school’s now blue turf football field.
He called Brooks one of the best in Chicago and the state and said investing in the youth has made all the difference.
“We’re real proud of what we accomplished here and what the kids accomplished and so we’re really excited about what’s going to be coming out of this because our next leaders will be graduating,” Beale said. “They are laying the foundation for some really good things that will be coming to our community.”
Jackson highlighted William Reed, one of Brooks’ stellar teachers. Now in his fifth year at Brooks, Reed, a science, math and engineering teacher, was recently recognized by the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program. He said it’s important to promote the excellence Brooks represents.
“One of the things I hope this [award] means is that [a student’s] diplomas leaving here is a little bit more prestigious. And I hope we can use this as a recruitment tool to continue to attract the best and brightest on the South Side and hopefully beyond,” Reed said.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.