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Program at South Chicago School Helps Give Young Black Men More Confidence and Academic Success

By: Krystle Crossman

The Gary Comer College Prep school in the South end of Chicago is a school that is focused on giving young African-American men the ability to achieve great things with the help of committed mentors. The school is home to the C.H.A.M.P.S. program which stands for Culturally Helping and Making Positive Success. It is a group of mentors and a group of students at the school who get together every single week and discuss ways that they can make a difference in their community and positive changes that they can inspire others to make. It also helps them in their education and gives them a comfortable social setting with their peers.

Most recently the group was invited to the film festival that was held at the White House. They created a rap video which showed all of the positive things that the C.H.A.M.P.S. program did for the young men. The rapper in the video, Akin Austen, stated that he really enjoyed the time that he got to sit with his fellow classmates every week. He is comfortable sitting and speaking with his peers and getting an education at the same time. They meet for a three-hour meeting every single Sunday. The students are allowed time to focus on their studies with mentors on-hand in the room.

Vondale Singleton, the vice principal of the school, stated that he had made a program that was very similar to this one when he was teaching in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He stated that he saw a lot of the black males slipping behind in their academics but there was no one there to help them when they needed it. He introduced these young men to mentors that would help them with homework, tests, and even personal issues if they have some that they feel they need to speak about. In 2014 Singleton came to Chicago and saw the very same thing happening to the young black males at Gary Comer and so he developed the C.H.A.M.P.S. program. Most of the young men in this program have not been able to venture very far in their lives but the mentors pay for trips out of their own pockets so the students can experience culture and life outside of Chicago. They go to White Sox games, they have been out of state, and they go out for recreational activities such as ice skating. The students are grateful for the program because it helps them prepare for the next step in their education.

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