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Brief History of the Kelvyn Park Social Justice Academy

In the fall of 2004, Kelvyn Park High School teachers Jesse Senechal and Maura Nugent launched the Social Justice Academy, an experimental program within the English Department. The Social Justice Academy was developed in response to the popularity of the ROTC program at Kelvyn Park. Based on discussions with students, Mr. Senechal and Ms. Nugent found that the ROTC program appeals to students for its leadership development, opportunities for students of all academic abilities to succeed, and provision of a viable post-secondary option, enlistment. The Social Justice Academy aims to meet similar needs for students, while providing hands-on academic enrichment.

During its first year, the Social Justice Academy targeted a random selection of 50 freshman students at all ability levels, supporting them with an English 1 and Reading 1 curriculum based on Social Justice and Community Leadership. The two central goals to this model are to develop an advisory model to support students emotionally, socially, and academically through the freshman year of high school, and to offer students an academically rigorous curriculum that integrates themes of social justice and actively trains them for leadership in their school and community.

The curriculum for this program is designed to develop the skills students need to be critical and empowered participants in a democratic society, and the central anchor for this curriculum is a service-learning component with ongoing projects as part of the coursework. Curriculum integration with service learning projects provides for an ongoing dynamic of reflection and action. In addition, it enables students to see a real life relationship between what happens in the classroom and what happens in the world outside of school.

door knocking

Kelvyn Park High School students and Monroe Parent Mentors worked together to tell neighbors about "Yes-Yes-No" campaign

During the first year, the KP Social Justice Academy collaborated with LSNA in producing a booklet of Parent Mentor interviews conducted and written by students.  Then, through the generous support of LISC, the Kelvyn Park Social Justice Academy has  collaborated with LSNA on several exciting projects during its second year, including the "Yes-Yes-No" 35th Ward referenda campaign, and an in-depth inquiry into gentrification in Logan Square.