When my husband and I decided to buy a house, we never really considered leaving the city. Chicago has been my home for two decades, and I can’t imagine wanting to move. Even though a little extra room and quiet are tempting, we thought it was important that we raise our children in the city for many reasons.
We are a mixed race family, and the thought of our child being the only kid who was different in a sea of homogeneous faces bothered me. I want Fiona to feel like she is special and unique, but not weird or unusual. I want her to know there is a big world with a ton of people from different backgrounds and perspectives, and our exposure to each other only enhances and enriches our city. I want her to grow up seeing a cross-section of our society, rich and poor, every race, and from different cultures. I feel like this will not only add to her educational experience, but it will also help her grow into an empathetic, caring individual. I personally have first-hand experience in enduring taunts and feeling threatened in an environment where you are supposed to be welcomed, feel safe, and most important, learn. It is hard to thrive in that type of place, and I did not want that for my kid.
If every family who has the means leaves the city, we will be stripping Chicago schools of bright kids and future community leaders. It may take a bit more navigation and effort in neighborhood and school selection, but it is well worth it to reinvest in our city’s brain trust. After all, we can’t strengthen city schools if we abandon them altogether. Part of strengthening our urban communities is investing our time and energy in our schools, reinforcing a sense of community among parents, students and teachers.
Finding support in navigating the system has given us the confidence that a great start to her education is possible and that staying in Chicago Public Schools will enrich her life and ours. If CPS makes it easier for families to understand and access their choices in such a vast pool of options, more families will stay in the city, and we have the potential to surpass other surrounding school systems and shake off the antiquated stigma that an urban public school system is inferior.
As with all choices for schooling your children, there will be obstacles. But we look forward to our child’s development and our growth as a family through this process.
— Jennifer Greene, Chicago
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