Former CPS students explore new academic options

Maia Schwallie, staff reporter

Marking the end of summer’s perpetual pleasure and bliss, the school year is notoriously dreaded by most students around the world. However, for students who transfer from Chicago Public Schools (CPS), like junior Amani Walker, the first day of school is more than just a surrender of freedom: it evokes a mixture of anxiety and anticipation for new opportunities.

Before moving to Glenview in the fourth grade, Walker says she attended a Chicago Public School, Robert A. Black Magnet Elementary School. While Walker says she is grateful that her grade school provided her with the motivation to reach her goals and gave her positive relationships with teachers, she welcomed the chance to transfer to Pleasant Ridge Elementary School in Glenview.

“I was very happy [to transfer schools],” Walker said. “I didn’t have too many friends at Robert A. Black, so I saw it as an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I really like the feeling of being somewhere new, somewhere different.”

Adjusting to a suburban lifestyle was not a challenging task, according to Walker. Besides being able to make friends easily, Walker states how she was grateful for Pleasant Ridges’ modern resources, unlike Robert A. Black’s outdated textbooks, small library and nonexistent gyms.

“There were some little things that I didn’t realize until I got to Glenview,” Walker said. “Some of our bathrooms didn’t have stalls and occasionally didn’t have soap.”

After transferring from Grover Cleveland in the eighth grade, sophomore Sarai Teruel states the hardest part of leaving Grover Cleveland was abandoning the close knit community she loved being a part of.

“[At my old school], we got more of a human connection to other students,” Teruel said. “At CPS, everyone knew each other.”

Upon arriving to Springman Middle School, Teruel says she noticed a striking difference between the friends she left behind in Grover Cleveland, and the new friends she has been able to make.

“There’s a big difference between suburban kids and kids from Chicago,” Teruel said. “I sometimes wouldn’t know how to approach them. I wasn’t used to people who are preppy.”

However, Gerald Fogarty, social studies teacher – who taught at the Whitney Young Magnet High School from 1988 to 1992 – states that in many ways the students he taught 30 years ago were not so different from the suburban kids he teaches now.

“Wherever you go in the United States, there are certain patterns that high school students have,” Fogarty said. “In terms of openness, in terms of curiosity and in terms of just being psychologically and emotionally open to new ideas. I experienced that with students at Whitney Young and I experience that with the students here.”

The academic rigor at Whitney Young Magnet High School matched the intensity of South’s, despite the difficult life experiences many of his students endured at Whitney Young, according to Fogarty. Fogarty says he was sometimes amazed at how the intelligence of his students transcended from their underprivileged lives at home.

“Obviously kids from an urban environment are going to have different life experiences,” Fogarty said. “I’m not so sure that makes them different.”

Sophomore Kaitlyn Ravury describes her first day away from Edison Park Elementary, the school she attended before transferring to South her freshman year, as confusing due to the larger student population. Ravury states that Edison Park Elementary taught 547 students, unlike South’s 3,142 total student population, according to Student Services.

Despite the difficulty of navigating South’s unfamiliar hallways, Ravury says she still found friends among the  foreign faces.

“It was kind of easy to talk to people,” Ravury said. “I saw people who also looked kind of lost.”

Ravury says she is thankful she transferred to South because it allowed her to join after school activities not offered at Edison Park, like Key Club, Med Chapter Club and Art Club.

Freshman Elizabeth Malek attended Jamieson Elementary School for eight years before transferring to Springman Middle School in the eighth grade. Despite her initial fears, Malek says making new friends at South was easy, and adjusting to the rigorous focus on academics was a refreshing change.

“I feel like I’m really learning, and there is a reason to come to school,” Malek said.