Senior Savannah Bradley checks in from Chicago in the latest summer blog series entry from Harvard softball (Courtesy Bradley).
After teaching last summer in Vietnam, I returned to Harvard with a fresh perspective. During the year when I wasn't on the field or in class, I spent some of my afternoons tutoring elementary school students in Boston's South End, a predominantly minority, low-income neighborhood. I got a bird's-eye view of the challenges they faced in the classroom, and how a low-quality education put them at a developmental disadvantage. Upon reflection, I felt that after-school tutoring was merely putting a band-aid on the gaping wound of educational inequality. There are many areas of the education sector in the U.S. that demand improvement, particularly in regards to urban education. So this summer I set my sights on an internship that would allow me to explore some of these issues. I committed to a summer position with the Noble Network of Charter Schools, comprising 17 separate charter public high schools in Chicago and serving over 12,000 students that come from primarily low-income, minority backgrounds.
My day-to-day schedule is quite varied, but my usual activities involve meeting with aldermen and other local government representatives to provide an overview of Noble's performance, and how they can support the Network with resources and/or legislative action. Although Noble schools have proven results - with college enrollment rates that double the average for Chicago Public Schools - parents, leaders, and elected officials in the community quite often actively oppose the Noble schools. It is our mission to diminish these negative opinions, and have a dialogue with individuals who don't believe in our organization. Through Noble I am learning how to be an agent of change even when society might work against you and difficulties seem insurmountable.
While Chicago has lived up to its expectations of being amazing in the summer and offering a multitude of places to explore, I had not been privy to the levels of violence and tension that plague the city. Watching the nightly news is a constant reminder of the struggles that Chicagoans face, as well as a call to action to those who are capable of making a difference here. Hearing about its various crumbling neighborhoods, ridden with unemployment and gang-violence, in turn fuels my passion for education. This summer has reinforced my conviction that education can be the only true equalizer in this country. A high quality education can alter one's predisposed trajectory and place them on a path to success. It could mean the difference between joining a gang or joining the debate team. I am so privileged to have spent a summer with an organization that works tirelessly to give all children of Chicago access to a quality education, and strives to lessen the achievement gap for underprivileged students.
As this summer comes to a close, my only regret is that I did not eat enough deep dish pizza while I had the chance! Other than that, I can say without hesitation that I grew personally from stepping outside of my comfort zone and discovering a new city and its people. I am excited to return to campus more impassioned and expressive than I have ever been. I can't wait to channel my enthusiasm into our team's efforts while we work constantly to reclaim the Ivy title. Being in Chicago has taught me to live every day to the fullest, and to never take anything for granted. I am looking forward to a bright senior year and overcoming its challenges with my teammates, both on and off the field.