March 26, 2015 marked the grand opening of the Parent University at Clemente High School, something the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) and the Community as a Campus initiative (CAAC) have been working on bringing to fruition for quite some time now. A new concept in education, the Parent University at Clemente in Humboldt Park is the very first of its kind, serving as a model for other programs with similar objectives. As the Master of Ceremonies of today’s grand kickoff, Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) Dr. Shaun Jackson introduced a video showing Parent University participants hard at work, followed by speeches by Professor José E. Lopez and CEO of Chicago Public Schools Ms. Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
Also addressing the media and the crowd in attendance were Jose Rico of United Way, Sybil Madison Boyd of the Digital Youth Network at De Paul University, and Matthew Summy of Comcast, all important partners working in collaboration with CPS, the PRCC, and the Parent University at Clemente. Also presiding over the event was Clemente principal Marcey Sorenson, without whom the Parent University at Clemente would not be able to function.
In attendance were such noted guests as Amy Rule, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s wife, Alderman Roberto Maldonado, former Alderman Billy Ocasio, as well as over a hundred community partners, participants, and guests. As the speeches concluded guests were given intimate tours of each Parent University classroom, with each classroom spotlighting a particular Parent University course. Among the courses presented were Erie House’s manufacturing bridge program, Grace media’s digital video mini-course, a culinary arts mini-course, and an African drumming mini-course.
In addition, as the inauguration of the very first Parent University in the city was getting set to begin, guests were served delicious hors d’oeuvres made by Clemente students participating in Clemente’s amazing culinary arts program. While guests tasted the delicacies made by Clemente students, they were also treated to a feast of the eyes. In addition to the beautifully presented photos of Safe Passage parent participants, Puerto Rican art from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies from the Hunter College art collection was on display.
As the very first program of it’s kind, Humboldt Park’s Clemente Community Academy’s Parent University is a remarkable model. Married to the Safe Passage Program at Clemente and Wells High schools, and founded on the concept of community as a campus and in tandem with the Parent Popular Initiative, it is sure to be a model followed by other educational institutions and community organizations across Chicago and beyond.
By Michael Kurshan Emmer, Safe Passage staff, PRCC