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Jennifer Hudson Elementary? Star Asked to Help Stop Yale's Closure

By Wendell Hutson | April 30, 2013 6:28am | Updated on April 30, 2013 8:43am

ENGLEWOOD — A South Side nonprofit fighting to keep Elihu Yale Elementary School open has proposed naming the school after Yale alumna and actress Jennifer Hudson — and has asked the Oscar winner to help in the fight to save the school.

Yvette Moyo, executive director of Real Men Charities, said the group sent a letter last week to Hudson's publicity firm, WKT Public Relations in Los Angeles.

Hudson "attended Yale, and her family home is around the corner from the school, so it would be a shame if she stood by and did nothing," Moyo said. "I know Jennifer cares about the community where she came from, and we are hoping she has the time and interest in saving this school."

Yale is among more than 50 Chicago Public Schools slated to close in June due to underutilization.

Whether Hudson would get involved was unclear Monday. Marla Farrell, vice president of WKT Public Relations, said her agency just learned of the request. Farrell said the request would be delivered to Hudson and left to her to decide. 

In the letter, the charity proposed changing the school's focus to urban agriculture and renaming it after its famous alumna.

"I wanted to bring to your attention to the fact that your alma mater, Yale Elementary School, will be shut down by Chicago Public Schools. We’re requesting that you lead the campaign for the transformation of the new Yale/Hudson School with our team of seasoned, culturally competent teachers and administrators committed to educational innovation," the letter stated.

"The Yale/Hudson School [would boast] a garden, a collaborative effort between Angelic Organics Learning Center and Real Men Charities, Inc. Class sizes will be limited to 15 students per room, allowing us to keep current students and teachers in place, fortifying the staff with new life and the energy necessary for the study of math and science, and life associated with urban agriculture."

Moyo said in her letter to Hudson, 32, that its summer gardening program for kids may be discontinued if Yale closes. The organization runs a garden next to the school.

"I’m the co-founder of Real Men Cook, and we’ve stopped planning the curriculum for the summer camp that includes Real Men Building Healthy Kids in our outdoor classroom," the letter stated. "The camp begins in a few months — our third year, but only with the resource of water to the garden from Yale school, and only with the classrooms for our wonderful Family Camp curriculum. We are looking for a miracle, and you Ms. Hudson, have a track record as a miracle-maker."

Robyn Zeigler, a spokeswoman for CPS, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Yale Principal Rae Brunson Webb was unavailable for comment.

Some Yale students said it would be cool if Hudson got involved.

"She's from the 'hood so she knows how it is around here. She sings good, and is cute, too," said James Woods, a 12-year-old fifth-grader at Yale. "If the school do close, I won't be going to Harvard. They don't like us, and we don't like them either."

Juan Davis is a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Yale headed to Simeon Career Academy High School this fall.

"Even though I won't be here next year, I don't want to see the school close," Davis said. "This is the only school I know. I have been here since pre-K."

In 2008, Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson; brother, Jason, and 7-year-old nephew, Julian King; were murdered at her family's Englewood home by her former brother-in-law, William Balfour. He was sentenced last year to three life terms in prison.