Orr Academy High School Art teacher and Service-Learning Coach Jeanne Walker understands that her westside students are the knowledge experts of their own situations and thus, potentially, the solutions. She believes that if students are given a chance to deliberate about community issues and potential solutions in their classrooms, they will tell you what they need and develop courses of action.
In Walker's Hope4Change service-learning project, students first encounter Willie Perdomo's poem, Where I'm From, a piece illustrating the struggles of the poet's community. Students are asked to write their own Where I'm From poem to investigate their own block and neighborhood and then paint the poem on a silhouette of themselves. With guidance from Mikva's Issues to Action curriculum, Walker then leads her students through a brainstorming session to identify the biggest needs of the community which have emerged from their writing.
With the needs identified, students formed committees to address job training, communication among peers, and family involvement. Committees meet during weekly advisory sessions to work on their solutions. With support from Youth Guidance and Chicago Jobs for Youth, the Job Training Committee investigates ways to include more vocational training at Orr. Alternatives, Inc. is training the Communication Committee to become Peer Mediators to run sessions during advisory periods and lunch hours. The Family Involvement Committee decided the most appealing way to bring families together is through monthly family events. With support from organizations within the school and teachers, they will be running seasonal and educational activities one Saturday a month. The Spartans' Hope 4 Change has become real change in their community.