The Edward White Elementary Career Academy, known lovingly as just “White” by the community, is a small elementary school in the West Pullman neighborhood of Chicago.
It serves just over 150 students. In the words of Principal Maya Sadder, it is, “the traditional small neighborhood community school.” To her the school is emblematic of the community that surrounds it. “It means a lot to me that parents, grandparents [who attended White] still want their child to graduate from White. It’s like a rite of passage… We are like a family.”
White recently received a grant from the New Chance Arts and Literature Fund to enrich the school’s arts education programs.
When Principal Sadder set out trying to decide how the school would utilize the funds, she turned to her students for guidance. An educator who strives to instill self-advocacy into those whom she teaches, Ms. Sadder distributed a needs assessment to the student body to find out what sort of programs or opportunities they wanted see materialize. Out of that needs assessment arose a songwriting and production program, a drumline program, a guitar program, and a keyboarding program.
Tinaya, now in seventh grade, lit up when talking about the songwriting and production program. “The music group is basically to write songs and make beats. We’re all going to come together and make one song with our own beats we made, all together. Then they’re going to go put it on a CD with tracks, and we’re all going to have our own copies.” Principal Sadder even plays the songs over the school PA system. In addition to fame and the glory of listening to their creations on the morning announcements, students get to enjoy two additional live community performance opportunities a year. White even hosts a breakfast for organizations the school partners with where their partners get to see the students perform live.
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Music teacher at White, Ms. Kassandra Vrown, has perhaps seen the impact of the grant funds most directly. For her, the budget to purchase musical equipment has allowed her to move her educational approach from a largely theoretical approach to a practical one. As she puts it, “I actually get to teach the kids how to do things like play instruments, give them more variety as to what they can do. It makes my job as a lot easier, a lot more fun. Instead of just constantly teaching at them, it gets to be a lot more interactive!” The grant funds have been used to fully stock her classroom with drums, guitars, keyboards, manuscript books, and all the necessary accessories.
You can feel the impact of the grant funding throughout the entire school.
Principal Sadder stresses that not only does musical education enforce skills such as mathematics, but also it helps students holistically and roots them to their education. “It’s another way for our students to say, ‘Yes, I see myself in school. I am a singer. I am a dancer. I am a songwriter.’ School is a place where that can be celebrated.” She says that she sees the boost in morale across the student body, within the teaching staff and parents, and within herself as well. “To go into the classroom and see my students playing the guitar, singing, doing keyboarding, writing music,” she says, “It’s one of those things―and I sincerely mean this―that keeps me going. It does.”
Principal Sadder plans to continue with the needs assessment-based approach to figure out how to best use the grant funds for her students going forward.
She has nothing but positive things to say about the New Chance Arts and Literature Fund, and is grateful for both the assistance and the speedy, smooth delivery of resources to her school. About the program, she says,
“The work that SocialWorks is doing, it is a huge, big deal. It’s not just about kids learning this particular music. It’s their confidence. It’s the way they feel about themselves. It’s the fact that someone recognized them.”
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Date & Time
Friday, November 2nd