The word “community” broken down to its roots is simply the union of the two words, “common unity.” From this quite literal delineation of the word, it is easy to see that the real definition of a community is a group of people that have a particular characteristic in common.
One may then ask themselves: what makes successful and dynamic communities? Contrary to what you may think, the answer is actually quite simple. Education. More specifically, quality public education—open to all of the community’s members—powers prosperous communities.
In Chicago—a city of neighborhoods—neighborhood schools not only serve as anchor institutions in their communities, but they also serve the cornerstones of democracy, providing opportunities for students of all backgrounds and walks of life. In order for any community to truly flourish and maintain prosperity, there must be top-quality public education.
Neighborhood schools not only serve as anchor institutions in their communities, but they also serve the cornerstones of democracy.
Here are 4 ways highly effective neighborhood public high schools power vibrant community life:
1. Strong schools attract families and businesses boosting the local economy and driving population growth.
Strong neighborhood schools attract families looking for an affordable, top-quality education for their children. With the increased enrollment in these schools and the subsequent population increase in the neighborhood, businesses soon follow, boosting the local economy.
2. Families build more and better relationships with other families in their community, building neighborhood cohesion and trust.
Families become interwoven through their strong neighborhood public schools. As the students begin to develop life-long relationships through their neighborhood schools, the parents will also develop strong relationships. The relationships developed in school will create stronger family ties within the neighborhood, ultimately leading to an environment of communal cohesion and trust.
3. When students attend a school near their home, families can more easily connect with teachers and contribute as school volunteers and leaders.
The closer a student lives to their school, the more access the parents have to the resources at that school. Families who did not previously have the time or resources to travel to their children’s distant schools, now have the ability to participate in their education. With increased access to the schools, parents will become more involved. Studies have shown that parent involvement in their children’s education has been proven to yield higher grades and test scores, enroll in higher-level programs, pass their classes and earn credits, attend school regularly and have better social skills among many other benefits.
4. More and more, high schools are functioning like community centers, offering opportunities that build the health and wellbeing of residents nearby.
Strong neighborhood schools attract positive attention from all over the community. They serve as the centers of their community by hosting various sporting events, theater performances, and community-directed events. Neighborhood public schools have the potential to be the centers of their community, to be the driving force of a prosperous community. The key to a successful community starts with top-quality public education.
Sanchir Avirmed is a student at the University of Chicago and an intern with Generation All, a citywide initiative to unite Chicagoans in revitalizing neighborhood public high schools so all students experience high quality learning opportunities both in and outside the classroom with the support of the wider community.