STUDENTS | July 7, 2021
Isabella, one of Ebinger Elementary School’s recent graduates, can’t sum up her elementary school experience in just one word. Instead, she thinks her time at Ebinger is best described with a phrase—rise to the occasion—that captures all that she and her peers have overcome over the past two school years.
“We always come together as a community and, even through the pandemic, our grade rose to the occasion,” she said. “The relationships at Ebinger are so strong and make this school really great. Along the way, the other kids and the amazing teachers here see you grow up in a way, so you have that connection with them.”
One of the final ways eighth-grade students at Ebinger connect with their peers is through culminating community service projects that cap off several years of hard work within the school’s IB Middle Years Programme (MYP). This rigorous program not only focuses on academic growth but also on developing critical thinking skills and key character traits that enable students to be successful both inside and outside of the classroom.
These projects build these traits by enabling students to choose and explore a relevant issue and develop a potential solution to fill a need that impacts their community. Ebinger Principal Ms. Serena Peterson-Klosa explains that, at the end of the 2020 school year, not many students chose to complete a project because of COVID-19. This year, the students not only met her expectations but exceeded them.
“In particular, this group of students has persevered through a really difficult year that required them to put aside their dreams of what their eighth-grade year would be,” she said. “The pandemic brought many challenges to what traditional community service projects would look like, and I love that they were still able to choose something they were passionate about and build skills that will allow them to persist and be successful in high school.”
Each completed project receives an accolade from the school as a way to acknowledge the students for their hard work and an opportunity to learn from their peers and see how each project contributed to a better future. Isabella partnered with two of her peers, Molly and Shannon, to research underfunded animal shelters in Chicago and create more than 40 toys out of recycled t-shirts to support them. Molly thought their award—the Activist Humanitarian Award—fit their project well because of their commitment to take tangible action to improve an aspect of society.
Two other eighth-graders, Jasmine and Leen, focused on an issue that was based on their own experiences facing xenophobia and Islamophobia. After researching pertinent statistics about racism on a global scale, they created a podcast to bring the stories of their family members to life and received the Passionate Humanitarian Award for their courage in thoughtfully sharing their work on an extremely personal topic.
“Even though we both knew already that racism obviously exists, I didn’t realize that my family had gone through so much and faced so much racism in their own lives,” said Jasmine. “By seeing how people we know have reacted and responded to this, we know how to combat the racism that we face and try to educate others on how to be better and why it’s wrong.”
While it’s easy to focus on the “service” half of community service, the students at Ebinger made sure that the note they ended on also remained rooted in “community,” a word that will be important for them for years to come because of the foundation that has been built at Ebinger.
“The community at Ebinger isn’t just who’s in your class or who’s in your grade,” said Shannon. “Everyone’s involved and there’s always so many fun things that involve the whole school every year. We come together and get stuff done.”
Ebinger isn’t the only school that graduated some fantastic eighth-graders a few weeks ago. Read our profiles of recent graduates from Dewey School of Excellence and Mollison Elementary School on the CPS blog.