Uptown Update

Margo Williams In case you didn’t know, Latin leased a building in Uptown last year. It hasn’t gotten very much publicity as of late, so I met with Ms. Bunger to get an update on what the space has been used for and what the vision is for its future. When the the Uptown partnership started in 2012, it was mostly about service. According to Ms. Bunger, the goal was to “make service more meaningful by working with one community, so [Latin students] can see the benefits, over the course of time, in the community changing, and so the Uptown community could feel the impact of an entire school focusing on serving them.” “Within a year and a half it just blew up and it was [no longer] just about service” she said. Latin’s relationship with Uptown expanded to become mutually beneficial, with students doing various Project Weeks in the neighborhood and learning alongside Uptown students. In February 2014, Mr. Dunn proposed that Latin get a physical space in Uptown and put our money where our mouth is. Ms. Bunger then met with the Alderman’s aids and made a preliminary proposal. They were ecstatic. That following fall, Mr. Graff, Mr. Dunn, and Alderman Osterman took tours of seven buildings in Uptown. Before getting the space they had to figure out who was going to be there and who was going to use it, so Ms. Bunger reached out to the principals of schools in Uptown. At first they weren’t sure; having students on their own campus is the easiest way to ensure that students are safe and accounted for. Then, at the beginning of 2016, budget cuts all throughout CPS virtually wiped out after school programming, creating a new need for after school activity, spaces, and resources. The circumstances got the principals on board with Latin’s idea. The property is on the corner of Argyle and Sheridan, which is 0.1 miles from the McCutcheon school, so teachers and parents can watch their kids walk the entire way from school to the community space. The property is also 0.3 miles from the Goudy School, so it’s walkable, but there was some concern about the safety of the middle school age kids walking to the space alone at 4:30pm in the dark. Alderman Osterman is so dedicated to the success of Latin’s community space, however, that he said, if they need to, they’ll get a “walking school bus” i.e. staff to walk students from Goudy to the community space to ensure their safety. Latin has committed to leasing the space for two years and has renovated it with new floors, new paint, a security system, and internet. Latin charges no money for people to participate in activities, classes, or services happening in the Uptown building, and anyone that teaches a class or leads a group in the space does so as a volunteer. The first thing the space was used for was the Middle School Hackathon in May. The computer science teachers from Goudy, Courtenay, McCutcheon, and Latin Schools were all present, and there was equal participation from each of the schools except for McCutcheon, which only recently established its computer science program. Jennifer Nguyen, a senior at Latin and a participant in the Hackathon, said it was “great seeing folks from my old schools Goudy and McCutcheon working together with Latin students, [and] it was one of the times I truly felt like we had a partnership… with Uptown. I hope we have more opportunities to do hackathons again, not only to bring Computer Science to more students but to also work collaboratively for the good of both communities.” The space was also used Monday through Friday all this summer for a program called Territory, which teaches urban planning and design to high school students. While Latin students were invited to participate, none did. Students from Uptown worked on projects for Uptown, and their ideas varied from public benches beside power outlets to creative seating areas with shade from the sun. The community space is currently being used on Mondays through Thursdays by the Chinese Mutual Aid Association for ESL (English as a Second Language) classes; on alternating Fridays the Latin Robotics team goes to the space and works with the Boys and Girls Club on projects together; and the woman that works for Alderman Osterman and runs the space is looking to start classes for middle school girls. Additionally, Joy Repella (Lindley and Logan McCutcheon’s mom) connected the State’s Attorney’s Office to use the space for two hours on the first and third Fridays of every month as a Community Justice Center, a place for people in the neighborhood, primarily immigrants and refugees, to access free legal services. The space is clearly multifaceted, but the primary intent is constant: to provide students, both from Uptown schools and from Latin, with a space to combine their resources and work together to learn and play, most often at the same time. It’s important to note the distinction between a partnership, where both parties clearly benefit, and service, where one party is seen as only receiving and the other is seen as only giving. Ms. Bunger said she “jumped at the chance to do something that wasn’t just service, but was real partnership” The Uptown building is not meant to be a place for service opportunities to be created, but rather for things such as a community open mic night, or a book club. The [Uptown] schools don’t need us to serve them, but we can create more opportunities for both students from Latin and students in Uptown by having a mutual space there and making meaningful, mutually beneficial connections. The long term goal is getting the Latin community and Uptown community as equally combined as possible. As it is, there are many more participants from Uptown than from Latin at the community space, “and that makes sense because it’s in Uptown, and the after school stuff for Latin we do here or in Lincoln Park, but [Ms. Bunger] would like to see how much we can shift up there in the future.” For students looking to create something in the Latin’s community space in Uptown, Ms. Bunger is the one to talk to, and, as she said, “the sky’s the limit… anything is up for grabs, and anything that’s already happening there is open to [all Latin students].”]]>