Culture Matters: Alain Locke Charter School Graduates Are Ready for the Future
I had the honor of speaking at Alain Locke Charter School’s 2017 commencement in June. The school has been a big part of my life since SWC partnered with ALCS in 2011, and seeing the excited 8th graders walk across the stage to accept their diplomas and begin a new chapter in their lives was a special moment for me personally.
Alain Locke Charter School was founded in 1999 to provide world-class educational opportunities to children in high-poverty, high-crime areas of Chicago. SWC began its partnership with the school in 2011. Our first big project helped update their computer lab and existing infrastructure in order to provide a foundation for expanded access to technology at the school. Since then, we’ve helped ALCS achieve its goal of providing computer access to each and every student. Ensuring students are able to keep pace with technology is critical to their future success – whether it’s taking placement testing, which is now all computer-based, doing research for a class, or completing high school, college and job applications.
While our initial work with ALCS focused on technology, we saw greater opportunity for both the students, faculty and our employees. We partnered to create a Robotics Club, organized annual book drives, tutored students, participated in reading programs and hosted office visits to SWC and Microsoft. The ability to engage directly with students and share experiences on both sides has been a gratifying and mutually rewarding experience.
Before graduation, I met with the students and asked them about their career aspirations. Many had very clear ideas about their future goals and what they needed to do to achieve them. It was inspiring to me, and frankly, I was envious. When I was their age, I could not have so easily answered that question.
It’s not surprising to me that the students of Alain Locke are so ready for the future. The education they have received, beyond just what they’ve learned from reading books and taking tests, has broadened their exposure to the world beyond their community and shown them opportunities available across many different fields. Some of the students have been at Alain Locke since pre-K or Kindergarten. They are about to enter a whole new world of high school, away from the routine and comfort of the walls that they’ve known for the past 8-10 years. It’s exciting and scary, but as I shared with them on commencement day, doing things that make you uncomfortable is how you grow. It makes you stronger and more confident, both personally and professionally.
Even after many years in business, I am still stretching myself to take on new challenges and grow. And yes, it still feels scary at times. But if I look back on my own career, each time I was challenged or asked to take on a new responsibility, I always signed up. Accepting challenges always pays off one way or another – you either succeed or you learn.
This belief is a big part of SWC’s company culture as well. As a team, we’re curious, we innovate, we strive to work smarter. I would say that the people at SWC who make the largest impact are those who fill the gap. They identify a problem and suggest real, tangible solutions. They come prepared and go the extra mile to get the job done. It’s this same culture that has been ingrained within the students of Alain Locke from a very early age, and it’s these traits that will take them far in life.
During commencement, I shared a quote by Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science and artificial intelligence who worked as code cracker in WWII.
Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do things that no one can imagine.
I’ve done a lot during my 14 years at SWC, and working with Alain Locke Charter School has by far been among the most rewarding. The world can be an uncertain place, but there are tremendous hope and promise that is carried by young people, graduating from one phase of their life and enthusiastically entering another. We need to support that hope – and learn from it ourselves.
Every year SWC organizes a book and coat drive for the school and strives to find ways to support the students. I invite others to invest in the future success of these students by donating to Alain Locke here.
About Alain Locke Charter School
Alain Locke Charter School is the #1 performing charter school in Chicago and in the top 10% of all Chicago elementary schools, outperforming the majority of schools across the country in reading and math. Since 2006, the school has been named a Spotlight School by the Illinois State Board of Education, a distinction which his given to schools severing a population of at least 505 low-income students with 85% passing state reading and mathematics tests. In 2007, the school was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as 1 of 7 schools in the United States “Best Closing the Achievement Gap.”