Sullivan High School received some great news last Friday. The school was informed it had advanced to the next phase of a major national funding competition, and is now in the running for a $10 million grant from XQ: The Super School Project to reimagine American high schools.
The Super School Project is a $50 million national challenge sponsored by the XQ Institute, which announced a national competition for new ideas on how high school instruction should work in the 21st century global economy. At the end of the XQ Challenge, five schools across the country will receive $10 million each to implement their ideas and be recognized as an example of innovation and effectiveness for other schools to emulate.
By selecting Sullivan as a semi-finalist, the XQ Institute recognized the high school as a national leader in revolutionizing how students learn and then applying their knowledge and skills in the real world.
With the strong support of his staff, teachers and the Rogers Park community, Sullivan Principal Chad Adams (left) partnered with Thrive Chicago, a collective of nearly 200 child and youth-serving organizations, to develop Sullivan’s XQ application. The application will serve as a roadmap for the school for years to come.
Sullivan is one of the most diverse schools in Chicago. Its student body is 41% Hispanic, 39% African American, and 13% Asian. Ninety-three percent of Sullivan’s students come from low income households and 24% of the students require special education needs. Most remarkably, fully one-third of Sullivan students are recent immigrants who come from more than 35 countries, many as refugees fleeing war and poverty in their native lands. Over 20 different languages are spoken in Sullivan’s halls. This diversity is wonderful, but it also it poses some unique challenges to Sullivan’s educators.
Sullivan’s latest accomplishment demonstrates that strong leadership and innovative thinking can change a student’s destiny, even in the most challenging circumstances. The school has created a flexible learning environment where students are able to grow according to their own personalized learning plans that are tailored to their needs. This flexible environment allows students to embrace new educational methods, such as digital and project-based learning, which are designed to solve real world problems affecting their community.
Sullivan proposes a curriculum that would provide incoming freshmen with time to focus on themselves. In their sophomore year, students would be asked to contribute their ideas and time to performing local community service and problem solving. The students would then be asked to apply their ideas and service at a national level in their junior year and a global level during their senior year.
Sullivan’s efforts were recently recognized in a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed that praises Sullivan and Principal Adams for their proposal and the inclusive process they employed in developing it.
If chosen as a recipient of the $10 million grant (paid over five years), Sullivan plans to expand its offerings and further develop its community support programs to give students the professional skills necessary to obtain careers based on their choice, rather than their circumstances.
The XQ Institute plans to announce the winners of the $10 million competition in August.
I will keep you posted.