Young Women's Leadership Charter School in Bronzeville empowers African-American women

In 1999, a group of women business and civic leaders founded the Young Women's Leadership Charter School.

February 8, 2013 3:02:12 PM PST
Empowering African-American women to be the best is what a charter school in Bronzeville is all about.

In 1999, a group of women business and civic leaders founded the Young Women's Leadership Charter School. They were concerned over low graduation rates and the lack of success for inner-city students.

ABC7'S Theresa Gutierrez has more on this unique school and a recent experiment that was eye-opening for many of the young women.

As part of an experiment for Black History Month, the students at the Young Women's Leadership Charter School did a project separating the girls into two categories: Those wearing red ribbons were treated as minorities; those wearing pink were treated as majority.

The stairwells, water fountains and bathrooms were segregated. This way they could experience what it was like to go to school during the segregation era.

Senior Shontoria Pratt wore pink and was treated favorably.

"I received special treatment to go use the bathrooms," said Pratt. "I had unlimited access, I got to go first in the lunch line and choose where I sat."

"Not being able to get the same things as the pink made me understand the challenges that they went through," said student Alexas Beard.

"This generation needs to know more about where they came from," said teacher Nikki Rucker.

The Young Women's Leadership Charter School is the only all-girls public charter school in the city. Their mission is to empower young women to have a voice.

The school serves nearly 350 urban girls in the 7th through 12th grades. Many come from households with low family incomes. And many arrive academically unprepared.

"Our teachers focus more on our needs as much as academics," said student Ashley Allen.

"We give them the skills and the opportunities they need to share and transform their own lives through an education," said assistant principal Erika Lynn Whitehead.

Students are challenged to draw pictures of themselves and write expressions of what they represent as part of a project to increase their self-confidence.

All of the senior students have been accepted into colleges and universities.