Their commitment to educating students on the importance of citizenship and democracy has designated John Hancock College Prep High School as an Illinois Democracy School for 2013.
A project of the McCormick Foundation, the Democracy Schools Initiative seeks to recognize and deepen school wide commitments to educating for democracy. One of only five Illinois schools to receive the honor this year, Hancock is the first CPS school to be designated a democracy school since the program’s inception in 2006.
“It’s very exciting,” said Dr. Karen Boran, principal at Hancock. “Our school is a hotbed of student activism, and this will give us the support we need to keep that spirit alive.”
Hancock was recognized for a curriculum that incorporates social justice, as well as like-minded extracurricular activities and its mature service learning program.
“This school has one of the most top-notch staff and leadership teams I’ve seen in my work,” said Sean Healy of the McCormick Foundation. “Hancock teachers are not afraid to take on the controversial issues, and they’ve learned to successfully leverage the many great resources available to them in the community. We’re excited to have them as part of the Democracy Schools Network.”
Hancock offers such activities as the Environmental Science and Conservation Club, the Social Justice Club, and the Voice Committee – a group of students who meet regularly with Principal Boran to give her their perspective on what is going well in school and what students still need.
“Our most important clients are our 940 students and their families,” said Principal Boran. “My conversations with them are critical, and thanks to our designation as a Democracy School, their faculty sponsor will be able to receive training on how to better facilitate those discussions.”
Hancock also conducts more than 25 service learning projects per year, all of which spring from the eagerness of students and staff to become involved in the community.
“Our goal as educators should include not only preparing students for post-secondary options, but also for a life of engaged citizenship,” said Heather Pavona, Service Learning Coordinator at Hancock. “Service learning allows students the opportunity to apply the skills they are learning in the classroom to a real world situation and experience the power they have as individuals to effect change in their communities.”
As part of their designation as an Illinois Democracy School, Hancock will receive funding from the McCormick Foundation to help further initiatives that are focused on democracy and social justice.
Hancock will also become part of the Democracy Schools Network, which is made up of 22 schools from throughout Illinois, all of whom act as resources for one another as they further develop their programs.
“Fostering civic skills and engagement among high school students is important work,” said Donald Davis, Chair of the Social Studies Department at Hancock. “We look forward to collaborating with these other Democracy Schools on best practices, sharing our strengths and learning from them about areas where we can do better.”
Above all, Principal Karen Boran hopes that Hancock’s designation as a Democracy School will validate for her teachers that the socially-motivated activities they build into their curriculum are part of a greater good.
“Our democracy could use a heavy influx of young leaders,” she said. “Being a Democracy School will only help us further our mission of fully preparing our students for that role.”