Friday, August 19, 2011


General Colin Powell and Mayor Rahm Emanuel each visited Bethune School of Excellence and both were extremely impressed with what they saw. They met students working diligently to succeed at a school making great strides in academics, the arts, and sports. Students and teachers are proud of their accomplishments – and it shows!
Named for African American scholar and educator Mary McLeod Bethune, the school at 3030 West Arthington Street was failing two years ago. The Chicago Board of Education mandated Bethune a Turnaround School and transferred management to the Academy of Urban School Leadership in 2009 with orders to stabilize the enrollment, build academic performance, close the achievement gap, and move students to not just meet state standards, but to exceed them. Bethune needed an image makeover to change neighborhood perceptions about school safety and security.
The Academy of Urban School Leadership has proven itself to be expert at turning around failing schools, changing the atmosphere from accepting failure as natural to expecting excellence, improving the physical structures of the schools they manage, and selecting the best administrators and teachers who bring out the best in their students.
At Bethune, the Academy of Urban School Leadership began its work as it does with all of the turnaround schools it manages: replacing the administration and faculty with the most dynamic principal and finest teachers available. AUSL trains teachers and administrators at Dodge Training Academy and places them in their schools working as Residents under Mentor Teachers and Senior Administrators. They bring to their schools an understanding of both the challenges they face and the best methods for surmounting those challenges to inspire their students and build an expectation of success among everyone associated with the school and its children. Ziporah Hightower is the outstanding Principal at Bethune School of Excellence.
A new faculty was selected for Bethune comprising teachers who all believe in the ability of every Bethune student to reach the highest potential. Teachers at AUSL schools don’t strive for excellence – they expect it. The motto for students and teachers at AUSL schools is No Excuses! Students at Bethune are partners in their academic progress, understanding the roadmap and tracking their journeys on charts outside their classrooms showing each child’s grades and test scores so they know where they are excelling and where they need to work harder.
Finally, the school building itself was repaired, cleaned and beautified because its condition reflects the pride the staff has in the students and the students deserve to have in themselves.
Last year, Bethune had a total enrollment of 379 students in Head Start through 8th grade in a building that accommodates 600 students. A bright note for the future is that Bethune has a waiting list for Head Start.
Ms Hightower proudly points to programs and support services offered by Bethune that are rarely found in larger schools in wealthier neighborhoods. Bethune offers Chef in the Classroom and Urban Initiatives’ Common Threads Culinary Arts Program, Chicago Runs, Aikido, a drum line, an after-school graffiti art program, drama classes, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. The library doesn’t just have shelves full of books; it is a full-fledged Media Center serving today’s multi-media generation. Bethune is the recipient of Community In Schools grants.
Bethune has a teaching staff of 30 outstanding instructors. Although Bethune is managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, it remains a Chicago Public School – not a charter school – and all faculty are members of the Chicago Teachers Union.
Principal Hightower points out innovations like a Study Island for 2nd graders, a fully equipped modern Science Lab available to all classes, and a Music Lab that was a gift to the school from AUSL founder Mike Koldyke. Bethune offers a fully-stocked Teaching Resource Center so instructors can easily select reading support materials for their students. Bethune received a grant of 65 computers from the University of Phoenix, equipping a modern student Computer Lab.
Teachers prepared individualized Summer Reading Lists for students so they could continue their intellectual growth during vacation and not lose academic gains achieved during the regular school year.
Ms Hightower describes her role as “advocate, mother, supporter of families.” She said her first job at Bethune was to set the appropriate tone and establish an orderly atmosphere for learning. When she arrived, children routinely roamed the halls, were loud and boisterous when passing to classes, lunch, or recess. If students became angry or upset, they just left the building and went home.
“We reestablished order in the classrooms and hallways by emphasizing respect and enforcing regulations for behavior and conduct,” Ms Hightower explains. “It didn’t take long for the students to respond positively. We have high expectations for student behavior.”
Ms Hightower bristles at the popular notion that schools cannot recruit parent involvement and that students can be expected to fail if they are from homes without strong support for education. “That is just not true and I hate hearing it,” she declares. “It is our job as teachers to reach out in whatever way necessary to involve parents in the education process and to inspire every child to learn at his or her highest potential. That is what we are trained to do and it can be done. Every child can learn and excel!”
To learn about course offerings at Bethune School of Excellence and to enroll a child, call Ziporah Hightower at 773/534-6890.


A New Job Corps Intern Hits the Voice!

Joshua Bunch is our latest Protege

What’s your name and where are you from?

My name is Joshua Bunch and I come all the way from Kansas City, Kansas.

What brings you out to Chicago?

I’ve traveled to Chicago to attend the Paul Simon Job Corps Center in order to pick up a trade in Graphic Design. I’ve been in the program for about 8 months now. In the time that I’ve been here I have become certified in HTML, XHTML, and Photoshop.

What is the most difficult part about being here?

The hardest part about being here is the fact that I have no family here. There are moments when I miss my family more then other times. The stress sometimes can build up and make it much more difficult to continue on through the program.

What motivates you to keep going?

I am actually the second generation of the family to attend Job Corps. My dad learned his bricklaying trade through Job Corps. I feel that I must carry the tradition and complete this program just as he did. I know that my family is proud of me.

What do you plan to do after you have completed the program?

After I have completed this program I plan on traveling back home to attend college and earn a degree in photography and business. I also plan on working to build more experience. These plans are really just the beginning of what I really want to do. If I’m reaching for the stars, I might as well grab one!


The Cook County State’s Attorney’s West Side Community Justice Center, 2 Chicago Avenue in Oak Park, recently held an Open House to celebrate its first anniversary. The Open House on Wednesday, July 13, also welcomed the 25th Chicago Police District as the newest members of the CJC.
“The Community Justice Centers give residents a physical place in the community where they can go and talk to our staff to work together to problem-solve and develop crime prevention strategies,” explains Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. “I am very proud of the staff at all the Community Justice Centers for the hard work they do to help improve the neighborhoods they serve.”
During the Open House, individuals from Oak Park and Chicago’s 15th Police District who have served on the West Side CJC’s Steering Committee were presented with certificates and thanked for their service.



Responding to increasingly impatient complaints from residents and businesspeople in the vicinity of North Avenue & Austin Boulevard, the Chicago Police Narcotics Unit conducted a 3-month investigation culminating on August 4 in a sweep arresting nine offenders, including Darron Thomas, 28, identified as a Chicago Police Area 5 Top Ten Target. Three other offenders were arrested on felony drug charges, four on misdemeanor narcotics charges, and a 16-year-old juvenile was taken into custody on drug charges as part of the criminal conspiracy. Two other targets are being sought, but their names were not made public.
In addition to the arrests, officers seized two MAC-10 submachine guns with extended clips, a grenade, a sawed-off shotgun, two semi-automatic handguns, and a rifle.
Members of Chicago Police Narcotics Squads E-3 and E-1 initiated surveillance of the area in early May after evaluating complaints received from outraged community residents, business owners, and elected officials. Over the course of three months, officers identified the eleven targets responsible for illegal narcotics activity in the neighborhood and obtained quantities of contraband in controlled narcotics purchases.
On August 4, Narcotics Unit officers working in tandem with 25th District Tactical officers apprehended 9 of the 11 identified targets in the investigation. One of the arrestees, Darron Thomas, is identified as an Area 5 Top Ten Target in connection with other crimes. He is suspected of shooting a local resident in his car at North & Mayfield last year. When he was subsequently arrested, however, the State’s Attorney declined to prosecute when an eyewitness in the car with the victim refused to positively identify Thomas, even though the victim identified Thomas as his shooter.
This sweep occurred in the area of two illegal private clubs that 25th District police refused to close down last year until reports by THE AUSTIN VOICE inflamed the community, finally forcing police to act.


Tony Allen, guard for the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team, returned to his old neighborhood to hold a free youth basketball camp at Major Adams Youth Center, 125 North Hoyne in West Haven. Allen is a proud graduate of Crane High School and grew up just blocks from the Major Adams Center. This is the first time Allen has sponsored a basketball camp and he says it is his way of giving back to the community that made him successful.
Allen says his camp also gives him the chance to talk to local young people and let them know there is more to life than basketball and they have to be preparing themselves. He notes that he earned a BA from Oklahoma State University.
Tony told teenagers that he knows he has a reputation for being wild, but he has a serious side, too. He emphasizes that he takes the game of basketball very seriously because it is his profession. He also recognizes that it is a business and he is a part of that business. He told the youths that they need to get their educations and learn about the business side of their lives.
He says he is ready for the opening of the basketball season and stays in good condition all year long. When it comes to the labor negotiations threatening the coming season, Allen says he isn’t involved in that and leaves the business affairs of the NBA to the experts. But, he says he does believe that the team owners are making good money.
Allen says he is looking forward to an exciting year with the emergence of teams that were written off last year but were contenders in the playoffs – teams like his Grizzlies and the Oklahoma Thunder, who surprised everyone.
Johnny Harris, Executive Director of the Major Adams Center, hosted the week-long camp, arranged and promoted with the assistance of Christi With An Eye Public Relations.

Upscale Hair Salon with Austin Heritage

Upscale Hair Salon with Austin Heritage
Welcome to Sew What! Salon Centre.
“Although looking good is the ultimate destination, feeling good should be apart of the journey.” –William Black, Founder
Chicago, IL. Sew What! Salon Centre is a hip upscale hair-care concept conveniently-situated on the Westside of Chicago (829 North California Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60622).
Founded in 2009 by owner and Austin resident, William Black, Sew What! Salon Centre is one of the fastest growing urban hair salons in the city. “When I decided to get into the beautification business, my wish list was stacked,” explains Black. “I wanted to solve problems.”
“Shop conditions, noise levels, offensive language and situations, uninhibited personnel and foot traffic, amenities or lack thereof and overall safety concerns for both clients and stylists were noted problems that have perpetually afflicted urban hair-care service environments for years,” states Black.
In addition, the urban hair-care environment is continuously changing. Why should other nationalities have all the fun? There is no shortage of pricey upscale Caucasian and Latino hair salons. You can find them downtown and in trendy pockets across the city. But, what about the upscale African-American hair salon? And what about affordability?
Well, thanks to Black’s unconventional vision and subsequent entry into the industry, we now have an upscale salon to call our own!
“Though, we’re considered upscale,” continues Black, “Sew What! Salon is somewhat paradoxical. For example: Complimentary items are offered to every client, every time. Clients can even watch their very own flat-screen TV while being serviced. Yet, clients pay the same, if not less, for services with us. And on the other side of the spectrum, we offer stylists more (including: free business cards, promotional apparel, towel care and so on), yet our booth rate is considerably less than over 95% of the beauty shops across the city.”
“And, this is what makes Sew What! Salon such an amazing concept,” Black affirms. “Sew What! Salon merges posh with possible. Sew What! Salon Centre is where exclusivity meets affordability.”
“And, we’re very proud of that achievement,” Black concludes.
So, now you’re probably wondering: all that’s cool but what about the stylists themselves – can they actually do hair?
In a word: Yes!
Sew What! Salon’s established stylists: Erica Satisfield, Kristan Johnson and Laura Buck have over 20years of collective experience in hair design, perpetual health and management. Erica, Kristan and Laura are considered Sew-In Specialists, hence the name Sew What! Salon Centre, but they also offer a large array of other popular urban styles including: Natural Hair, African-Braiding, Interlocks, Short-Cuts, Weaves, Twists, Invisibles, Relaxers, Color, Dreads, Braids of all types, Crochets and much, much more. And, with cost-saving weekly specials (available for viewing on Sew What Salon’s website: www.SewWhatSalon.Com) and regular prices starting as low as: $25, they can surely accommodate virtually any budget.
Client appointments can be made online: SewWhatSalon.Com and over the phone: (773) 227-4337. To learn more about Sew What! Salon Centre and to view Stylists’ profiles, service types and portfolios, please visit: SewWhatSalon.Com.
Sew What! are you waiting for?
Call or click today!
Note: In celebration of Sew What! Salon Centre’s 2nd year anniversary, Sew What! Salon will be donating FREE hair services to over 25 young ladies going back to grammar school this fall. Appointments must be made online by the Parent(s) or Legal Guardian(s) of each client. Please visit: SewWhatSalon.Com or SWSCCaresAbout.Me for the event date, appointment times and additional terms and conditions.





Believer Mitchell is a young man who has written and self-published a book of inspirational poems and essays outlining his life’s victories and struggles, and how these have increased his faith, bringing him closer to God. He held a book signing for These Poems These Times This God at First Baptist Church in North Lawndale.
Persons interested in purchasing the book should call Believer Mitchell at 773/647-4434 or e-mail him at


A girl is delivering a baby by Caesarian Section on her computer and then removing the placenta. Two boys are hard at work editing their story on the health dangers of marijuana, while a fellow student is writing her entertainment report on the hot boys singing group Mindless Behavior for What’s Up Magazine.
Meanwhile, down the hall, students are forming Chelsea Bank and learning the operating principles of financial institutions. Across the hall, students are running a television newscast, writing and broadcasting news, sports, and weather, with fellow students acting as newsmakers.
All of this is part of the unique Keep Kids Learning Program at Oscar DePriest Elementary School, 139 South Parkside Avenue. And learning has never been so much fun for the 100 participants wearing their UpGrade T-shirts. The mornings are reserved for reinforcing academics, and the afternoons turn the 4th, 5th, 6th & 7th graders into magazine and TV news reporters, doctors, and bankers. The program is free, with lunch and field trips, plus arts & crafts.
DePriest teachers facilitating the Keep Kids Learning Summer Camp are: Myrtle Harris, 7th & 8th grade science teacher; Kilah Bacon, intern from the University of Missouri; Deborah Butler; Donnell White, middle school math teacher; Clara Williams, 6th grade teacher & math coach; and Lisa Smith, Head Start teacher. DePriest’s Principal is Minnie Watson.