A small school on Chicago's South Side, Team Englewood Community Academy honored its inaugural graduating class of 2011 at the Ambassadors for Christ Ministries Saturday afternoon. The first graduating class of 75 seniors has accumulated $1.5 million in scholarships , and 74 of the students will be heading to universities and colleges.
Team Englewood, named for its team approach to educating the children of Englewood, opened its doors in September of 2007 as a part of Mayor Richard Daley's Renaissance 2010 Small Schools Initiative.
The entire senior class of Collins Academy graduated and they are all going to college.
Also on Saturday, all 88 seniors at Collins Academy High School, another Renaissance 2010 school, attended graduation ceremony. All 88 will be heading to college. The graduates stood tall and showed how proud they are of their accomplishments, including the valedictorian Talonda Williams.
"Thank you not only for your friendship, kindness, pushes on the back, but more importantly, for your helping me to discover my own ability to strive for excellence," Williams said.
"Thank you for providing us with the support that has made today a reality," said salutatorian Erica Allen, a Collins Academy Class of 2011 graduate.
Even Mayor Rahm Emanuel had something to say to the graduates: "Nothing means more to me in my professional life of public service than seeing 88 kids graduate and 88 kids go to college. This is the face of Chicago."
Joshua Cook, who dropped out of school, decided to return to complete his education. "I went through so much, it's ridiculous. And to get to this point, it's only a stepping stone because there's more to come," Cook said.
The new Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools Jean-Claude Brizard discussed the challenges ahead for Chicago Public Schools during his interview on ABC7's "Newsviews:" "We have one major goal, and that is to make sure every student who graduates school in Chicago are ready for what comes after high school. We're talking college, we are talking the world of work that really has to be the fundamental goal," Brizard said.
The academy's 2011 graduates understand the importance of a higher education. In the fall they will all be off to college, and their parents are proud.
"I'm so happy I made it," said Rovanda Crawford, a Collins Academy class of 2011 graduate.
You can see the entire interview with CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard on "Newsviews," which airs during Sunday morning's news broadcast beginning at 8 a.m.