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More Than You Think Possible

Students in EL Education schools achieve more than they think possible.


- What if students went to school with a mission? Not just to get smart, but also to become a better person and contribute to a better world. School could be a place of compassion and courage. A place of hope. My name is Ameerah Rollins, and I am a high school student in Chicago. My neighborhood has challenges. Poverty and violence make life difficult for many families. But I have a privileged life. My privilege does not come from money or safe streets. My privilege comes from having attended a school with a different vision of what is possible. Our test scores are good, but that’s not the most important thing. Our work is beautiful, but even that’s not the most important thing. This is what is most important. We work together to get smart for a purpose. To make our community and the world a better place. Let me share with a story of what that looks like. It began in seventh grade with an in depth study of the U.S. Constitution. At first when we read We the People we didn’t connect it to ourselves. But over time we realized that in a democracy, a government by the people for the people meant us. We were the people. If we did not stand up for what we believe, who is gonna do this for us? My classmates and I worked with our teachers and school leaders to take on a serious problem in our community. Gun violence. Hundreds of incidents of gun violence occurred right in our school neighborhood. And 96% of students in my school personally knew a victim. What can a group of middle school kids do to address such a serious problem? More than you might think. We met with families, community leaders, legislatures, clergy and police. We researched the lives of local peace keepers. Members of all these groups who dedicated their lives to keeping or spreading peace. We celebrated those life stories in a book we wrote ourselves, professionally published and shared nationally. We created public service announcements that were shown on television and viewed by leaders of Chicago.

- I wanna be a professional dancer when I grow up.

- I wanna be a doctor when I grow up.

- When I grow up I wanna be police officer.

- We organized a city-wide day of peace. On this weekend day we asked the people of Chicago to put their guns down and work together in a sweep and greet. Meet your neighbors, clean up your street, share music and food. Did we succeed in creating a full city-wide day of no violence? We did not. But our part of the city, a good portion of Chicago, had zero violence the entire day. Perhaps for the first time in history. I’m in high school now. But the middle school students of Polaris Charter Academy are keeping up this work. And here is something hopeful. Polaris is a part of a national movement. The EL Education Network includes over 150 public schools across the country. Just like Polaris these schools create high achievement, build character and produce quality work. Students and teachers in these schools are working together as part of a crew to make the world a better place. Solving problems to contribute to their communities. Many EL Education public high schools working in low income communities, have been getting 100% of their graduates to college every year. EL Education is sharing the best ideas from EL schools like Polaris to improve education from millions of students across America. The movement is growing. Is it really possible to make better schools in a better world? More possible than we all imagine. Join us in this work.

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