In July 2016, the Chicago Public School budget for the upcoming year revealed that a whopping two-thirds of the district’s schools would lose funds, one of those 443 schools was Reavis Elementary located in Kenwood. The nearly four percent funding decrease cut sports programs and teacher supplies. Reavis students were determined to not let budget cuts be the end of one of their beloved teachers.
Weeks after the budget cuts took effect, students attended a presentation on making choices by one of CIS of Chicago’s community partners, Kareem “KWOE” Wells. Kareem asked the students how they would spend money given to them, starting with $20, then $40, then more, all the way up to $800. He stepped out of the room to let them come up with ideas. When he returned to the room, he learned that the students wanted more than a pizza party or a dance party – the kinds of answers he had expected. Instead, they wanted to bring back one of their beloved teacher’s aide, Mr. Holland Minkins, who had been laid off due to budget cuts.
School staff revealed that the students were having a difficult time with Mr. Minkins’ unexpected departure. He was a pillar in the school community, teaching sports and assisting with recess and classes. Principal Gail King shared that she never experienced students having such a strong emotional reaction the departure of a faculty member.
The students, determined to bring their teacher back, began working with Kareem and his K.W.O.E. Hope Foundation to develop a “Save Mr. Minkins” campaign. Kareem agreed to help the students raise the necessary funds for bringing Mr. Minkins back to Reavis and to cover the costs of the other things lost to a tightened budget. He tasked the students with creating ideas and organizing for a fundraising event that could raise a portion of the funds; he would solicit donors for the rest.
As Kareem and students made videos to support their cause and worked with caring adults at their school to put together their event, they learned that per district policy they were unable to raise money for faculty salaries. They also learned that their Mr. Minkins had accepted a job in a nearby state. Needing to support his family, he had to move on.
While the Reavis students were not able to actualize their hopes to return their beloved teacher’s aide back to their hallways, they did learn valuable lessons in making good choices and collaboration.