Community and school step up to support teen denied Kalamazoo Promise scholarship for being homeless

Community and school step up to support teen denied Kalamazoo Promise scholarship for being homeless


By Fox 17

A Kalamazoo teen who learned just before graduation that she wouldn’t be eligible for the Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship is getting some support today.

Wednesday, Fox 17 told you about Zaviona Woodruff, who due to her family becoming homeless in 2016, moved out of Kalamazoo, even though she continued to attend Kalamazoo Public Schools. The Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship promises college tuition for students who graduate from the Kalamazoo Public Schools after attending from kindergarten through 12th grade and live in the city.

Woodruff had a 3.57 GPA and was an all-star on the bowling team. She had recently toured Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan and loved it.


Illinois House approves required $40,000 salary for teachers

Illinois House approves required $40,000 salary for teachers

By Benjamin Yount, Illinois News Network

Some Illinois lawmakers are on board with a plan to require school boards to pay starting teachers $40,000 a year without providing additional funding for districts.

The Illinois House on Thursday narrowly approved the plan, House Bill 5175, to require local schools to pay new teachers in the state at least $40,000 annually. The vote was 61-38, mostly along party lines, in the House. State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, is driving the plan. He said it’s about fairness.

“Let’s set a mark that we in this General Assembly are going to try and address the shortage of teachers in Illinois,” Hoffman said. “And that we’re going to pay them a decent wage.”


NAACP calls on Gary for community engagement in action

NAACP calls on Gary for community engagement in action

By Erick Johnson, Gary Crusader

With race relations and civil rights issues boiling in America, the Gary chapter of the NAACP is calling on residents to take action and become more active in their community engagements more than ever before.

The call comes as the branch prepares to hold its Annual Life Membership Banquet at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 2 at the Genesis Convention Center.

Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the first Black woman to ever hold the position, will be among several distinguished guests to speak.

Lynch will share the guest speaker role with the Honorable Gonzalo P. Curiel, District Judge for the U.S. District Court of Southern California. Branch President Stephen Mays, and Indiana State Senator Eddie Melton, who serves as Honorary Chairman will also be in attendance. Dorothy R. Leavell, also an Honorary Chairperson and publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group (Gary and Chicago) and Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), also will attend.

Making this banquet a Who’s Who event will be the President and CEO of NNPA, Benjamin F. Chavis. Earlier this year the NAACP and the NNPA made an unprecedented move to work together and pool their resources to step up the fight to advance and defend the interests of Black America.

The rights of Blacks and minorities in Gary and across the country are imperiled under President Donald Trump, whose populist message “Make America Great Again” has reignited racial tensions and threatened to roll back the civil rights gains that Black America has achieved in the past decades. With the heated mid-term elections in November, the new rules governing the U.S. Census count, the plight of Gary Schools and the state joining a lawsuit against Gary as a welcoming city, NAACP leaders are urging Blacks everywhere to turn up their involvement in politics, education and social issues that have torn apart the Black community in recent years.

With all 435 seats in the U.S. House up for reelection in November, Black voter suppression remains a serious concern in the wake of numerous reports of Russia spreading fake news in the Black community and meddling in the 2016 elections to help elect President Trump. The arrest of two Black men at Starbucks in Philadelphia has sparked a wave of 911 calls on people of color who are unsuspecting victims of racial profiling in restaurants, parks and schools.

“Now is the time to fight. We have come too far to allow decades of hard work, sweat and bloodshed to be vain,” said Leavell. “The Black Press stands by the nation’s oldest civil rights organization in calling on Black America to take their community activism and engagement to the next level. The future of Black America is at stake.”

“The NAACP must remain steadfast, unmovable and never silent about the things that matter,” said Stephen Mays, president of the Gary branch of the NAACP.

At the annual Life Membership Banquet, Lynch and Curiel are expected to address civil rights, immigration and other legal challenges the country is facing under President Donald Trump. Lynch became the nation’s most powerful attorney after her predecessor Eric Holder, the first Black U.S. Attorney General, stepped down in 2015. She was nominated to the position by former President Barack Obama.

Like Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Lynch has a bachelors and J.D. degree from Harvard University.

As head of the U.S. Justice Department, Lynch investigated the practices at several police departments across the country that were accused of racial profiling and police brutality. Days before she left the department in January 2017, Lynch’s department released a scathing report on the Chicago Police Department for its treatment of minorities in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case. Lynch also made headlines after she opposed then FBI Director James Comey, who called for an investigation into the personal emails of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton 11 days before the presidential election in November 2016.

Curiel gained national attention while presiding over two class action lawsuits against Trump University. The president’s university was accused of making “tens of millions” of dollars off its students who were promised a legitimate education and services. Both cases were eventually settled out of court for $25 million.

During his campaign for the White House, Trump repeatedly called Curiel a “hater” and described him as “Spanish” or “Mexican,” suggesting that Curiel was biased because of Mr. Trump’s calls to build a wall along the border to prevent illegal immigration.

Curiel was born in East Chicago, Indiana, the youngest of four children. His parents emigrated from Mascota, a small Mexican town near Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco. Curiel received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University in 1976 and his Juris Doctor from the Indiana University School of Law in 1979.

The NAACP is the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the country. The Gary chapter is one of the largest branches in Indiana.

The annual Life Membership Banquet is a premier event in the community and is expected to attract over 450 business, political, educational, civic and religious leaders in the region.

Democrats invite students affected by gun violence to intern for the summer

Democrats invite students affected by gun violence to intern for the summer

By Isabella Gomez and Justin Lear, CNN

House Democrats are inviting students affected by school shootings to participate in an internship program on Capitol Hill, where they will work on issues related to violence prevention.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley from New York announced the Gun Safety Internship Program on Thursday.

“My colleagues and I are thrilled to invite these young men and women to intern on Capitol Hill this summer and bring their energy and dedication to Congress,” he tweeted.

The Congressman is working with Vice Chair Linda Sánchez from California, Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Mike Thompson from California and Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida to lead the effort.


LeVar Burton: America has sold its soul to special interests, and the Parkland students know it

LeVar Burton: America has sold its soul to special interests, and the Parkland students know it

By LaVar Burton for NBC News

I believe that it is possible that, in the annals of time — should our republic survive this period in history — America will be revealed to be the hollow, shallow shell of what the experiment was meant to be. The kids from Parkland, Florida are proving that it was and should always be the government of the people, by the people, for the people, and not the people with the most money.

But I think that America stopped being that place when we refused to acknowledge that this country was built on the backs of slave labor, and we decided that there would be no accountability for that. We stopped living up to that ideal when we began to delude ourselves that this nation had a manifest destiny to lead the world, but there would be no repercussions for slavery. That lie we told ourselves — that no accountability was and no repercussions were necessary — was the beginning of the downward slide to where we are now.


ComEd focuses on STEM education

ComEd focuses on STEM education

In February ComEd launched its Solar Spotlight program, designed to expose African American high school students to opportunities in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as part of its annual Black History Month celebration.

During ComEd’s Solar Spotlight, more than 60 high school students participated in the two-day educational sessions where they interacted with STEM professionals, including ComEd engineers and executives, and learned more about solar energy, famous African American STEM leaders and careers.

The Solar Spotlight curriculum includes live solar demonstrations and new this year, the students helped assemble portable solar suitcases in conjunction with the team from We Share Solar. The portable suitcases included solar cells that generate energy and can become a back-up power source during emergencies for lights, cell phones and computers. The suitcases assembled by the students will be sent to local community centers and some will be sent beyond Illinois’ borders to locations like Haiti and Puerto Rico, which have been impacted by hurricanes that caused massive power outages.

MELISSA WASHINGTON, VP of External Affairs and Large Customer Services (center) and the entire ComEd Solar Spotlight Black History Month team celebrated with students from across Chicago for a job well done after they assembled Solar Suitcases to be sent to places like Puerto Rico, Haiti and Uganda to provide lights to people in need.

The Solar Spotlight educational events took place on February 10 at the ComEd Training Center in Bridgeport, and on February 17, students visited the Illinois Tech’s (IIT) campus. While at IIT, Solar Spotlight students were given a tour of the facility and introduced to current IIT students.

Anne Pramaggiore, President and CEO of ComEd noted that the company was “ honored to celebrate Black History Month and help African-American students in our communities learn more about career options that could make positive impact on their future.” She said “In the next 10 years, the workforce will need 1 million additional STEM jobs and these jobs are growing faster in terms of opportunity and pay. It’s critical that we create awareness of these career opportunities and help to build a diverse workforce of the future. My hope is that one day these students will return to join the ComEd team.”

COMED MENTORS AND Students from across Chicago got hands on experience building Solar Suitcases that will be deployed to places like Puerto Rico, Haiti and Uganda to provide lights to people in need.

The educational events are part of ComEd’s effort to cultivate the next wave of STEM talent and create the workforce of the future. While African-Americans make up 14 percent of college students, they represent only 8 percent of general engineering, 7 percent of mathematics and 5 percent of computer engineering majors. To urge the students toward STEM careers, ComEd engineers, employees and members of the Exelon African-American Resource Alliance (EAARA) serve as the students’ mentors for the programming.

To help ensure the Solar Spotlight program is engaging and memorable for its high school participants, ComEd has also enlisted the support of local organizations like Blue Studios, who are committed to building STEM pathways for kids of every age and background, and music personalities J Niice of B96 and DJ OddCouple. For more information about ComEd’s Solar Spotlight program, visit

Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), the nation’s leading competitive energy provider, with approximately 10 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Bill to weaken Gary School Board passes Senate

Bill to weaken Gary School Board passes Senate

Crusader Staff Report

Gary School Board members are on high alert as a bill aimed at weakening the board’s authority has cleared another hurdle in the Indiana General Assembly.

On Tuesday, March 6, the Senate passed the bill with a 35-14 vote, two months after it passed the Indiana House. The bill now goes to Governor Eric Holcomb who will most likely approve the bill by signing it into legislation.

The Senate Appropriations Committee in February heard testimony for more than four hours on the bill, which could reduce the Gary School Board to an advisory committee that would meet just four times a year.

Representative Tim Brown

The bill’s sponsor, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, believes the bill would give struggling school districts more clarity to avoid pitfalls that struck Gary and the Muncie Community Schools, which also has been taken over by the state.

Once the bill becomes a state law, Gary Schools Emergency Manager Peggy Hinckley would no longer be required to meet with the board or receive input from its members. The new law would require her to hold monthly public meetings to update citizens on her actions. Current school board members would remain until their terms expire. They could also elect their own officers and replace members who resign.

Last August, the state takeover law stripped the superintendent and school board of their authority. The board was limited to meeting just once per month. Since then, multiple board members have criticized Hinckley and expressed disappointment of their reduced role. Former Board President Rosie Washington resigned in December and School Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt’s last day was February 2.

The bill also affects Muncie Community Schools, another troubled school district that was taken over by the state. Under the bill, that district will be operated by Ball State University.

Under Hinckley, Gary Schools is struggling to reduce debts totaling over $100 million. Since Hinckley was appointed last July, she has been at odds with board members and some parents who don’t agree with her decisions as emergency manager. Hinckley says cuts are necessary to keep the district afloat.

Last month, Hinckley decided to close the 79-year old Wirt-Emerson School of Visual and Performing Arts in the Miller neighborhood. The Indiana State Board of Education approved the decision on March 2, making this year’s graduating class the last one in Wirt-Emerson’s history. Some 225 students are enrolled at Wirt-Emerson.

In a letter, Miller Citizens Corp. President George Rogge said the closing won’t represent a savings if students decide not to attend West Side or the recommended middle school, Bailly.

Hinckley said she is considering closing Gary’s storied Roosevelt College and Career Academy, which is managed by EdisonLearning Inc.

Last January, Hinckley appointed veteran member Nellie Moore as president of the Gary School Board, over the protests of three other board members, who walked out of the meeting.

Local Chicago area students selected to attend Disney Dreamers Academy

Local Chicago area students selected to attend Disney Dreamers Academy

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader

“I’m Going to Disney World!’’

Four Chicago-Area Teens Selected to Participate in Mentoring Trip to Disney Dreamers Academy

Four Chicago-area teens are among the 100 extraordinary youths from across the nation announced by Disney to participate in its immersive, transformational four-day program, March 8-11, at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The program, which is entering its 11th year with a new “Be100’’ campaign, and is hosted by entertainer Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine, highlights Walt Disney World Resort’s continued commitment to the next generation of teens by inspiring them at a critical time in their development to make a difference in their lives and to relentlessly pursue and realize their dreams.

“Each of these 100 girls and boys has proven themselves to be exceptional as students and as human beings, so it’s an honor to have them join us at Walt Disney World Resort,’’ said Tracey D. Powell, Walt Disney World Resort vice president of commercial management – resorts and Disney Dreamers Academy executive champion. “It is our hope that this potentially life-changing program will help create the next generation of great dreamers and achievers.’’

Participating students, known as “Disney Dreamers,” embark on a journey throughout the Disney theme parks and behind the scenes, turning the vacation destination into a vibrant classroom for students to discover new careers, pursue their dreams and interact with Harvey and other motivational speakers and celebrities. Among the celebrities who have participated in the past are singers Patti LaBelle and Mary J. Blige, NBA legend and business mogul Magic Johnson, gospel music star Yolanda Adams, NFL superstar Cam Newton, plus TV personalities such as “The Chew’’ co-host Carla Hall, “Good Morning America’’ co-anchor Michael Strahan and ABC correspondent T.J. Holmes.

Additionally, students participate in hands-on, immersive career-oriented workshops, ranging from animation to zoology. Each student is given important tools such as effective communication techniques, leadership skills and networking strategies.

“Inspiring our youth to dream big and chase those dreams is a personal mission,” said Harvey. “Having a dream is one of the most important things in life. That is why engaging with these students is an annual highlight for me, and the 2018 Disney Dreamers Academy will be no exception.”

The four Chicago­-area students are: Mariah Barnett from Aurora; Tabitha Willis from Country Club Hills; Tamela Trimuel from Harvey  and Jayvion Rice from Riverdale.

Since 2008, Walt Disney World Resort has provided all-expenses-paid trips to more than 1,000 students, plus a parent or guardian, to participate in the annual Dreamers Academy.  The students are selected from thousands of applicants who answered a series of essay questions about their personal stories and dreams for the future.

“At ESSENCE, we are committed to impacting the leaders of tomorrow,” said Michelle Ebanks, president of ESSENCE Communications. “Every year, we continue to be impressed by the exceptional students selected for Disney Dreamers Academy, and it is our privilege to play a role in encouraging them to achieve their goals.’’

For more information, visit

Applications Now Open for Chicago High School Teens Seeking Apprenticeship and Internship Programs with After School Matters®

Applications Now Open for Chicago High School Teens Seeking Apprenticeship and Internship Programs with After School Matters®

CHICAGO CRUSADER — After School Matters® is now accepting teen applications for its Spring 2018 program session. More than 400 programs in the arts, communications and leadership, sports and STEM will be offered at nearly 150 Chicago public high schools, as well as Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library and community organization locations throughout the city. Programs will continue to be offered downtown at Gallery 37 Center for the Arts and at The Michael and Karyn Lutz Center for After School Matters in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. Teens can search and apply for spring programs online at The online application is also available entirely in Spanish.

In total, more than 7,000 paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities will be available to Chicago high school teens this spring through After School Matters. Participating teens will be eligible to earn a stipend of up to $425 (depending on the program level), and interns can earn up to $10.50 per hour.

“After School Matters is committed to providing teens with inspiring and engaging opportunities to explore their interests,” said Mary Ellen Caron, chief executive officer of After School Matters. “Through our programs, teens are able to further develop their passions and expand their skill sets, which we know will help them succeed in college, careers and beyond.”

After School Matters’ unique programs offer teens an opportunity to develop their current skills while incorporating critical 21st Century skills like collaboration, problem solving, social awareness and more. Multiple independent studies and data have confirmed that teens who participate in After School Matters programs have higher Freshmen On-Track rates, improved school-day attendance and higher high school graduation rates than their peers.

A few of the exciting programs offered throughout the city this spring include:

Kelvyn Park Bikes – Sports

Location: Kelvyn Park High School, Hermosa

This program offers teens the opportunity to explore the biking industry. Teens will develop hands-on mechanic skills, organize community events and participate in weekly field trips. Upon successful completion of the program, teens are eligible for summer employment with the Chicago Park District and West Town Bikes.

Museum 44 – STEM

Location: National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, Pullman

Using pop culture, various media and professional mentors, teens will produce a television show in this program. Teens will learn about music production, film production, marketing, promotions and media from industry professionals while working on a film that can improve their communities. 

Teatro Americano – Arts

Location: OPEN Center for the Arts, South Lawndale

In this program, teens explore different aspects of theater production and performance including acting, movement, voice, improvisation, writing, marketing, costuming, and stage management. At the conclusion of the program, teens present a full-length play in a professional theater setting.

Teen Arts Council – Arts

Location: University of Chicago Arts Incubator, Washington Park

The Teen Arts Council collaborates with the University of Chicago Arts + Public Life initiative to develop skills in arts administration, community engagement and event planning, while providing opportunities for other teens to engage with the arts. The Council members work with university staff and local partners to develop projects and public events for various audiences.

Territory Urban Design Team – Communications & Leadership

Location: Roosevelt High School, Albany Park

In this program, teens will work in art, architecture, urban planning, entrepreneurship, community organizing and public health. Teens will have the opportunity to research, design and implement ideas to activate public spaces.

Urban Hardball and Softball – Sports

Location: Columbus Park, Austin

Teens in this program will train to become umpires and coaches by learning the rules of baseball and softball and developing their leadership and communication skills. Teens are able to practice what they learn with little league programs.

Windy City Harvest Youth Farm – STEM

Location: Neighborhood Housing Services, North Lawndale

In the Windy City Harvest Youth Farm North Lawndale program, teens learn what it takes to grow healthy food in the urban environment. Participants grow, harvest, sell and cook more than 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables and showcase their work at a community famer’s market.

Teens can search and apply for Spring 2018 programs at afterschoolmatters.orgAll After School Matters programs are free and open to Chicago teen residents who are at least 14 years of age (16 years of age for internships) and are high school students. As part of the application process, teens interview with program instructors to discuss their interests. Chicago teens are encouraged to apply early, as program opportunities fill up quickly. Application features include an interactive map to help teens search for programs and a full Spanish translation on a mobile-friendly platform. For questions about programs and applications, call 312-742-4182 or email Para mas información en Español llámenos al 312-846-7106 o mándenos un correo electrónico al

For more information, visit

61 percent of Gary students in Charter schools

61 percent of Gary students in Charter schools

Crusader Staff Report

CHICAGO CRUSADER — Gary has lost the greatest amount of its school-aged students to private schools, according to a recent report by the Indiana Department of Education.

The report used data from the start of the 2017-2018 school year. It includes all public schools in Lake County. The report shows most districts lost students to private charter schools, but the district with the greatest loss is Gary. While a majority of students still attend public schools in neighboring cities, Gary students are leaving a district that’s mired in debt and low academic achievement.

This is the first year the department conducted the report.

According to the report, the city had 12,032 school-aged children in the fall, but only 4,681 or 39 percent attended the Gary Community Schools. About 61 percent or 7,354 students attended other schools. Of that amount some 5,466 of those students or 45.4 percent are in charter schools and 1,266 or 10.5 percent are attending public schools outside the city, while 578 attend private schools through state vouchers.

Gary’s biggest enrollment losses stem from elementary schools. Gary has not had a middle school since 2016 when the Williams Annex closed. To boost enrollment, Emergency Manager Peggy Hinckley is exploring the possibility of bringing back a middle school.

The state took over Gary’s public schools after the majority of the district scored an F grade on the Indiana Accountability Report. With over $100 million in debt, Hinckley was given full control to make academic and financial decisions to turn- around the district.

Elsewhere, in East Chicago only 988 of the city’s 5,329 students are in public charter schools and 367 attend private charter schools, according to the report. Approximately 70 percent (3,721) of the 5,329 children who attend school in East Chicago’s public School City District.

The report shows Hammond’s public school system is still preferred over public and private charter schools.

More than 85 percent (12,416) of Hammond’s 14,521 school-aged students remain in the city’s public schools. Approximately 2,109 students attend other schools, but of that group, only 926 are enrolled in a private school through a state voucher. Approximately 809 attend a public charter school.

Of all the school districts in Lake County, Munster and Lake Central had the highest percentage of students in public schools with 98 percent and 97 percent, respectively.

Other cities in Lake County show public districts are keeping a majority of their students. They include River Forest (97 percent), Crown Point (96.7), Tri-Creek (96 percent), Highland Creek (96 percent), Hanover (93.9 percent), Hobart (93.9 percent), Griffith (92.6 percent), Lake Ridge (91.9 percent), Lake Station (81 percent), Merrillville (89 percent), Whiting (88.6 percent).

Public schools in cities in Portage County have also kept a high majority of their students.

“We are pleased to compile and release the 2017-2018 transfer report, providing our schools with even more insight into the individual students they serve,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said in a statement. “Having a great understanding of every aspect of our local districts will allow our educators to make important decisions and better plans.”