The latest season of Last Chance High is currently airing Tuesdays on VICELAND.
School's back in session, which means that for a lot of the country's underserved, underfunded public school systems, the stress of how to manage kids over the summer gives way to the stress of how properly educate them the rest of the year, despite lacking the resources to do so. The Chicago Public School system has gained notoriety as among the most embattled and least supported. This year, though, a source of relief to that stress has arrived in the form of Chance The Rapper and his youth-empowerment charity, SocialWorks.
Earlier this month, the Grammy-winner announced he'd be divvying up the funds his non-profit raised over the last six months between 20 of Chicago's public schools, to the tune of $100,000 per school, to be used in support of arts programs over the next three years. This comes after he donated $1 million earlier this year, which he supplemented with 30,000 backpacks -- all full of school supplies. To date, SocialWorks has raised more than $2.2 million for Chicago's public schools.
The donations also draw greater attention to the dire problems CPS still exhibits. The 24-year-old recording artist said he chose the recipients based on how badly they'd been affected by budget cuts, but also by how determined their principals were to cultivate a vibrant arts program.
If you're searching for ways to support the students most in need of resources, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better cause than Derek Brown's North Lawndale boxing league. You might remember Brown from Last Chance High -- he's the former Vice Lord who teaches neighborhood kids to box as a way of keeping them out of gang life.
Chance said when he announced the recent donations that he hoped thriving arts programs could give students safety from, and an alternative to, the violence that still plagues many Chicago communities of color. Brown is on the same mission with his boxing league. They still need access to a gym so they can stop practicing in his driveway. You can also get more information about how to help similarly vital after-school programs across the country.
A lot of Chicago Public School employees have been affected by budget cuts, but one for whom you can make a tangible difference, today, is Coach Williams, the beloved mentor and former basketball coach who was laid off from the Montefiore school, or "Last Chance High," after 17 years. Williams made such an impact as a mentor that students and their families still keep in touch and speak highly of him even years after his teaching career ended. But without work, Williams is now going into debt trying to cover the costs of his sons recent heart surgery -- the community has rallied around him, but their support alone isn't enough to cover the overwhelming medical expenses. You can read more about Williams and contribute to his GoFundMe campaign to help out.
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And if you're looking for an educator with a vision, the man you should be looking at is Troy LaRaviere, the former principal of Chicago's James. G. Blaine elementary. LaRaviere has spent his career fighting for underserved students of color to have access to the same resources and advances curricula that CPS has reserved for those who are affluent and/or white. You can read more about his story, and make sure to get updates about how you can support his ongoing work.
Got any ideas for how they should help next? Tweet them @SocialWorks_Chi with the hashtag #SupportCPS or give us a shout at @VICEImpact.