SCHOOLS | March 11, 2019
Nicole Spicer, the principal at Bronzeville Classical School — a new school in its first year on the South Side of Chicago — said the community helped shape who she is today.
That’s why she said it’s her mission as principal to give back to it and place the community as the “heart of the school.”
“When I reflect on my life and the different experiences that I’ve had, I always come back to this community,” Spicer said, adding that she went to school in Bronzeville and even got her first job there.
“I realized that I [hadn’t] really given back, so I felt like leading this [school] was my opportunity to do so,” Spicer said.
For both of them, community service is what drives the vision of the school, Spicer said.
“As an act of good faith, and to build relationships with the community, we really believe in service-learning,” she said. “That message begins with our students.”
Students as young as five years old learn the importance of service-learning at Bronzeville Classical.
“As much as we are an academic institution, we really want to take a holistic approach to developing our students’ characters, as well as their minds,” Spicer said.
Students participated in the school’s first service-learning project this past January.
They partnered with Teen Living Programs, a non-profit organization that supports 14-24 years olds, to collect goods for expecting mothers.
The idea came about after Spicer and Patterson-Talley attended a community meeting and learned about the nonprofit. The two decided to launch the school’s first community service project, calling it a ‘Baby-Drive.’
To kick it off, a staff member, also a mother, brought in an extra box of pampers. When it was left on the donation table, the response to contribute was immediate said Patterson-Talley.
“It started with one box of pampers and grew to more than what my car could carry,” she said. “We had strollers, walkers, diapers, wipes, blankets, and formula. Just everything you could imagine from birth to being a toddler.”
Kindergartner, Natalie, said her family donated clothes.
“Some people don’t have any,” said Natalie, “so I brought in two bags of my sister’s clothes that don’t fit her.”
Second-grader Fisayo said she watched the donation table grow and it made her feel “happy” for the children and mothers who would receive it.
“Babies, when they’re born, sometimes they’re homeless,” said Fisayo. “I want to help them. That’s why I was happy for this drive.”
The school collected the goods for two weeks.
On the day of the donation, the reaction of the mothers was “amazing,” said Patterson-Talley.
“It was just very moving to see so many girls and young ladies there,” said Patterson-Talley, adding that seeing the appreciative looks on their faces reinforced the importance of community service for the school.
Spicer said that the baby-drive did more than help mothers. It united parents and students at the school for one “great cause.”
Since then, she said she’s noticed students, even the younger ones, wanting to give back and help those around them.
Raina, a second-grader who donated baby wipes, said she’s still thinking of ways to help people.
“I think that maybe I should take the thing I don’t use and put them into Goodwill,” she said.
Although the school hasn’t yet decided on the next community service project, Patterson-Talley said she hopes students will continue to believe that they can help change their community.
“I’m really excited to see how our students will evolve over the years,” she said. “What excites me the most is seeing their social-emotional development and how that will strengthen and build who they are as a person and what they are inspired to do for the community and the world.”