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About Us: Success Stories

Sara*, Class of 2008
Sara took the train everyday from the far north side near Harlem to 45th Place and Wentworth to attend Innovations High School (I.H.S.) for two years and was hardly ever late or absent. As a ward of the state Sara had seen more than her fair share of disappointment and struggle, but she was determined to accomplish her goal of completing high school. Sara participated in the Youth Skills Development and Training Program at I.H.S., which targets students who are in the custody of the state, and was able to receive cultural enrichment, academic tutoring and personalized mentoring with a trained professional familiar with her challenges and needs. During her senior year Sara was respectful, studious and active in the Student Council. These traits, coupled with her persistence and nearly perfect attendance, and great attitude earned her the Student of the Year award. As of March 2010, Sara is employed, a new mom, and a pre-nursing student at one of the 7 City Colleges of Chicago.

Celeste*, Class of 2006
Celeste became a mother by the age of 15, by the age of 18 she was a mother of two, yet she was determined not to be another statistic. Celeste came to Innovations from Simeon High School. She had been kicked out for attendance after having a baby. Celeste found her childcare issue to be challenging and struggled to maintain her attendance during her first year at Innovations. As a result, she had to sit out of school for another year. At the age of 18 Celeste was determined to complete her high school diploma and give it another try at Innovations. She enrolled again in the fall of 2004 and began a new chapter in her journey. While attending I.H.S., Celeste became involved in the Senior Leaders Club at Innovations High School, and sought out support from her teachers and mentors for her life’s challenges. She became a peer leader and contributed tremendously to a variety of activities that created school spirit among the student body. Celeste took advantage of job assistance opportunities while still a student at Innovations High School and was able to become a nurse's assistant, even before she graduated. Her job opportunities became a support for her as she began her studies at Loyola University. As of July 2010, Celeste graduated from Loyola University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. We are so proud of her.

Shaniqua*, Class of 2010
Shaniqua was a shy, intelligent young woman commuting to Von Steuben High School on Chicago’s north side to participate in their Honors Program. After her first year in the program as the only African-American student, she discovered that all of her friends who had started the program with her had dropped out or moved to the general education program. Discouraged, lonely and unmotivated Shaniqua’s attendance and grades began to slip. One day as she completed her long commute home she noticed a group of uniformed high school students walking towards the train. She inquired about their school and soon made an application. Shaniqua was accepted and began as a student at I.H.S. in the fall of 2008. While overcoming her shyness and making friends with other IHS students, she became involved with the poetry team, student leadership groups, and was a peer leader and tutor. Shaniqua graduated from I.H.S. in January 2010 with acceptance and partial scholarships to Pursue Calumet University and St. Xavier University. Shaniqua is now a freshman at Perdue Calumet University.

Paul*, Class of 2004
Paul* came to Innovations as a Bronzeville Academic Center student in 2003 having attended Dunbar High School. Paul was a well behaved student and became involved in the first year of the school’s student poetry program. He performed his poetic masterpiece at the first community poetry event held at the Soul Poetry Café in the spring of 2005. Paul was given the opportunity to attend a school sponsored national HBCU college tour in his senior year which sparked a curiosity about the world and life beyond Chicago. Paul had caught the traveling bug. Since his graduation Paul has spent 3 years in Southern Africa, immersing himself in the languages and history of several African countries, and has visited several other countries including France, Germany, and England. Paul is now a staff member at I.H.S. in the mentoring department who enjoys educating youth about the world, and inspiring and challenging them to persevere and succeed in high school.

Sonia*, Class of 2009
Sonia* came to Innovations High School from Hyde Park Community Academy. She dropped out of school and had been at home for nearly a year. Sonia enrolled into IHS as a new student with only six weeks left before the end of the school year. Sonia was immediately placed on a credit-recovery track that would allow her to earn high school credits using an online program. Though it was difficult, Sonia stuck with her online classes and was able to earn credits in that short period of time. Sonia’s determination and focus caught the attention of her instructor who recommended her as a candidate for a summer opportunity working with the local alderman’s office. Sonia had a great summer in 2008 working for the alderman’s office and returned to school with a boosted sense of confidence. In the fall of 2008 Sonia became active in student leadership clubs and by the end of the year had been accepted to Southern Illinois University. During her 1st semester at SIU in the fall of 2009, Sonia wrote a Facebook message to the I.H.S. science teacher thanking him for laying such a good science foundation in her biology class. She explained that while other students struggled in her college biology class, she was able to breeze through because of the knowledge she gained in her I.H.S. biology class. Sonia is now completing her 1st year as a psychology major at Southern Illinois University and is looking forward to returning in the fall as a sophomore college student.

Stacie*, Class of 2006
Stacie* attended Kenwood Academy prior to enrolling at Innovations High School. She moved out of her parents home at the age of 15 and had been working and making ends meet living independently with her boyfriend for a couple of years. Upon enrolling in Innovations High School Stacie became immediately involved in Student Council and the Senior Leaders Club. She was instrumental in mobilizing other students to become involved in school clubs and activities like the Homecoming Dance, club fundraisers and education funding rallies. Stacie was presented with an opportunity to apply for a special summer program with a new community education partner, Northeastern Illinois University. Realizing the value of the opportunity, Stacie completed the application and was enrolled in the college bridges summer program in the summer of 2005 following her graduation from Innovations. Stacie is now in her third year at Northeastern Illinois University pursuing a Bachelors degree in Communications.

Jason*, Class of 2006
Jason* was a quiet kid with a great smile. He attended Dunbar High School prior to enrolling at Innovations High School. Once enrolled it was clear that Jason had an eye for art because he was never without his sketch pad. As a Junior, Jason became involved with the basketball team as the score keeper, and eventually joined the student council and the poetry team, designing the team’s competition t-shirts. His dedication to the I.H.S. Poetry Team of 2006 helped lead the team to a city-wide Contest Victory. He was the kind of student whose consistency and participation lifted the level of awareness and contribution of many students around him. Jason graduated in 2006 at the top of his graduating class as a Jim Stone Scholarship winner and went on to attend DeVry with a major in video game design. Jason continues to pursue his degree in video game design at DeVry in Texas with his new wife and child.

Shonda*, Class of 2007
Shonda* was a very articulate young woman who had a way with words. In addition to being articulate, Shonda was generally loud and noticeably aggressive in her language. Shonda also began to experiment with some very destructive and harmful personal choices. She knew that she felt out of control and needed help. Shonda felt comfortable enough with a staff member to confide in her about her personal crisis. Together they approached another staff member to request assistance with the personal and family problems she was experiencing. Thanks to a Family Counseling Grant and qualified staff, Shonda was able to receive the professional, supportive counseling she needed to address her aggressive and destructive behavior. Shonda began to get involved in the Student Council and the Poetry Team and began to emerge as a leader among her peers. Shonda continued counseling for several months and the destructive behavior decreased. She used poetry to give a voice to the pain of her past which had fueled her aggression, becoming a vocal advocate for women’s health issues. Shonda completed her high school program in 2007 and went on to attend Hampton University.

Ray*, Class of 2007
Ray* was a tall and at times awkward kid who occasionally stuttered and found it hard to get his thoughts out. For a long time, Ray struggled with his educational development. His reading and comprehension skills were poor and as a 20 year old high school senior he was feeling as though he was running out of time. Ray’s home life was unstable; he was finding it increasingly more difficult to stay motivated, and his attendance began to slip. However, with the help of a dedicated Dean of Students who relentlessly kept in touch with Ray, a reading coach and teachers who were available to stay after school to work with him, and encouraging staff mentors, Ray found the courage to stick it out. Ray graduated and received his high school diploma in the spring of 2007. He is currently doing very well as a Communications major at Kennedy King College.

Lance*, Class of 2005
Lance* was a quiet student who was always well behaved and well-mannered. He began working a job in the fall of his senior year in order to afford his school transportation and other expenses. Near the middle of the year Lance experienced a tragic car accident that took the lives of four of his co-worker friends. Lance survived the accident with just a few scrapes. In the months following the accident, Lance refused to stop working his job even at the pleas of his mother to take a break. Lance found himself unable to sleep at night after work due to his flashbacks of the tragic car accident. His sleepless nights began to affect his ability to perform in school. Lance would arrive at school on time each day, only to fall asleep in each class. After pulling Lance aside and discussing the problem, Lance’s teachers and support staff at I.H.S. were able to work with Lance to support him in coping with the tragic loss and the rigors of completing academic coursework to meet the graduation requirements. Lance persevered and graduated in the spring of 2005.

* = indicates alias name for privacy protection

Last update: September 20, 2012

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