SCHOOLS, STUDENTS | June 11, 2020
Two Friends from Brooks College Prep whose Interest in Chicago’s Diverse Communities Helped Shape their Next Steps
Traveling from Beverly to Roseland every morning helped soon-to-be Brooks College Prep graduate Kayla Baldwin appreciate Black culture in a new way. While both neighborhoods are on the South Side, she says analyzing the similarities and differences between them helped her see that there are many different sides to what it means to be Black and live in Chicago. Maia Lee, her classmate and friend, learned this lesson from the Brooks student body.
“Going to Brooks ended up being one of the best things that has ever happened to me because the community there is on a whole different level,” said Maia. “Even though Brooks is predominately Black, I’ve been exposed to so many different people who have totally different backgrounds. There’s just a lot of support and a lot of love at Brooks.”
Kayla’s interest in examining how people interact with the spaces that they live in has grown ever since taking AP Human Geography her freshman year. Along with the community service work she’s done as part of the National Honor Society and through the ACE Mentor program, her academic interests have propelled her toward a career directly helping communities grow and thrive. She’ll be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to major in urban planning, and, as a self-proclaimed “city girl,” she’s interested to see how she adapts to living in a different part of the state.
“Going from Chicago to a more rural part of the state helps you see how different areas need to be developed,” said Kayla. “Not everything is built the way that Chicago is, so I think the change in environment will help me see how other places function and that you can’t do everything, everywhere.”
Maia will also be leaving Chicago to attend Cornell University as a Posse Scholar. She’ll never forget the day she was told she received the scholarship, which covers her tuition for all four years of college. A few weeks before she expected to hear from Posse, she received a phone call from them during a choir practice. After nervously answering their questions, thinking she was having to prove parts of her application, she was told she was a Posse recipient as her friends jumped and screamed around her. Having enjoyed AP Psychology this year, she’s planning to major in either psychology or government.
Both Kayla and Maia have grown into student leaders over their four years at Brooks. Maia has focused on helping new freshmen acclimate to the school community as a student ambassador. Kayla has worked closely with school administration as the President of the Principal Student Advisory Council to plan and promote school-wide events and activities. Even though this school year hasn’t gone exactly as planned, Kayla still says she learned a lot about persistence and gained a lifelong supporter in Principal Shannae Jackson.
“I’ll always remember the words of encouragement and academic support that Principal Jackson gave me,” said Kayla. “As a member of the varsity basketball team, it was great that she always showed up to our games. It’s the extra things that she did that made our relationship a little more personal.”
As they head off to college and prepare to say farewell to their mentors, families, and Chicago itself for the time being, Kayla and Maia say that growing up in Chicago has given them the confidence they need to know that their hard work will pay off in countless ways. They both have a special connection to the city that will always be there.
“Chicago has a special feel to it. There’s a certain type of bond that everybody in Chicago has,” said Maia. “All of my friends know somebody that I know, and it’s an absolutely beautiful city. Things as small as sitting by the lakefront I know I’m really going to miss.”