After leaving newspapers I began to teach and work with young people as the Digital Media Coordinator in the Youth Options Unlimited program at Erie Neighborhood house. These are some of my favorite projects from those 8 years
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) closed 49 schools in May, 2013, the largest number of school closings by a single school district ever. The school closings represent loss in a multitude of ways. Children lost the constant that their school homes provided, neighborhoods lost their epicenters, and Chicago lost strength in public infrastructure.
The closings also represent a historical loss for the people that the schools were named for. While many new Chicago schools are named for the neighborhoods they reside in, or for the specialty curriculum they offer, school nomenclature in the past memorialized public figures of significance. Public education was so highly regarded, that school names were reserved for notable inventors, scientists, activists, elected officials and renowned athletes. And while the people that the schools were meant to eternalize were lost to the ages, their names found new meaning as the place where generations of Chicago youth aspired for better lives through education. The daily mention of the name ensured that some shred of legacy remained in the collective conscious. These names, like the school communities they came to represent, will be forgotten.
The goals of the So Close to Ghost (SCtG) project are to bear witness to the loss of the closed schools, to preserve the people that the schools were named for, and to give voice to the school communities that the names came to represent. SCtG focused on four schools in 2014: Louis Armstrong Elementary in the Austin neighborhood, Nathan Goldblatt Elementary in the West Garfield Park neighborhood, Anthony Overton Elementary in the Bronzeville/Grand Boulevard neighborhood, and Arna Bontemps Elementary in the West Englewood neighborhood. In 2015 we revisited Overton and Bontemps, and added Pope Elementary in Douglas Park and Von Humboldt in Humboldt Park.
To learn more about the project click here