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No first-day jitters for UIC College Prep

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Students take PE near SEO on the very first day of classes for UIC College Prep
Students take PE near SEO on the very first day of classes for UIC College Prep charter school.

Photo: Kathryn Marchetti

UIC College Prep’s first group of students started their high school careers last week where they’ll likely celebrate them four years from now — the UIC Forum.

Students at UIC College Prep, a new charter school affiliated with the university, will take classes at the Forum until Sept. 2, when renovations to their permanent school are complete, said Martin Gartzman, assistant vice chancellor and executive director for high school development.

“We’re proud that UIC College Prep has started on campus, and we anticipate having the group of students that started in the Forum graduate at the Forum in four years,” he said. “It will be a complete circle.”

About 180 freshmen gathered at the UIC Forum Aug. 18 for the first day of classes. Despite the temporary location, Gartzman said, the day went smoothly.

“It was perfect — the kids showed up on time, they were wearing the appropriate uniform, and they were ready to go,” he said.

“No one anticipated starting the high school at the Forum, but people have really stepped up to make it happen. It was remarkably smooth because of all of the preparation that went on.”

The Forum’s meeting rooms were transformed into eight classrooms to accommodate the school, Gartzman said.

Fitting the school into the UIC Forum wasn’t easy, said facility manager Dawn Collins.

“It was a challenge,” Collins said. “The school worked with us and understood that we really don’t have enough rooms for everything that they wanted, so they combined a few programs.”
Other events were scheduled at the Forum last week, so school and Forum officials had to work around them.

“The school basically was down to the wire in finding out that they needed space in the Forum, so we just had to sit down and see what space we had available,” Collins said.

The school’s permanent location in the former Gladstone Elementary School, 1231 S. Damen Ave., is scheduled to open Sept. 2. The opening was delayed as crews finish building renovations, which include improved flooring and lighting and new whiteboards in classrooms, Gartzman said.

“They’re essentially reconfiguring it so it’s ready to be used as a high school,” he said.

UIC College Prep, a high school with special emphasis on the health sciences, is a collaboration between UIC and the Noble Network of Charter Schools. UIC is developing the school’s curriculum and Noble runs the school’s daily operations.

Oliver Sicat, 2006 Boston Public Schools teacher of the year who developed a college prep program for inner-city students called Emagine, is principal.

The operation of the school is funded by state educational dollars and donations to Noble, and its students were selected by lottery.

Students will be taught traditional high school subjects, but a hallmark of the program will be its emphasis on health sciences, Gartzman said. UIC faculty members are finalizing the curriculum content.

“There’s a lot of work with problem solving, and a heavy career-oriented program so that at the very end, students have a deep understanding of professions in the health sciences field,” he said.

It was the emphasis on health sciences that prompted Phillip Baker to enroll his daughter, Kenya, at UIC College Prep.

“I thought it was a good opportunity for her — she’s interested in the medical profession and that seems to be their specialty,” Baker said.

“I think the plans for the school are well laid out and, if things go according to plan, it’s going to be a very good thing.”

Marilyn Herrera decided to send her daughter, Abigail, to the new charter school because of its connection to college life.

“Their focus is not just graduating high school, it’s graduating college,” she said. “The surroundings will give her a feel of what college life will be like.”

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