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Sullivan High Representing City Schools in Quest for $10M Rebuilding Grant

By Linze Rice | December 16, 2015 4:48am
 With a $10 million grant, Principal Chad Adams said he'd like to give his students the technology tools they need to successfully learn in the 21st century.
With a $10 million grant, Principal Chad Adams said he'd like to give his students the technology tools they need to successfully learn in the 21st century.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice

ROGERS PARK — What would you do with $10 million to completely redesign your neighborhood school?

That's the question Sullivan High School's Principal Chad Adams is happily facing now as his Rogers Park school was selected to represent the entire city in a national contest sponsored by Project XQ.

The grant requires a rigorous, multi-step application process, but in August five winning schools across the country will find out if they'll receive $2 million a year for five years to help re-imagine their facilities in way that meets the needs of the "21st century student."

"When I was in school, you know we read the chapter and memorized the bold faced words — that doesn't work in the modern world," Adams said.

Adams said a few weeks ago Chicago Public Schools officials began completing the leg work of visiting schools across the district that could benefit from the grant. After careful vetting, Adams said he got word on Friday Sullivan was the stand-out school that would represent CPS in the contest.

The grant would mean his students and staff could better access the tools they need to truly adapt to learning in the technology age.

Adams said an update from the nearly 90-year-old school would challenge his students to think more critically about real-world problems, while having the amenities they'd need to synthesize data and apply their findings in meaningful ways.

It's the type of creativity and determination he said he already sees in his students daily, and part of the reason why he thinks Sullivan was ultimately chosen as a competitor.

"We have to start to realize that the phone is a computer and to deny technology in school is not what these kids need for the future; they have to learn how to manage technology," Adams said. "So what does it look like to use your technology as an asset to your learning?"

Twice this year alone, Sullivan has partnered with community organizations like City Year and Rogers Park Builders Group to update classrooms and learning spaces.

With the grant, he said he'd like to work with "the best of the best" when it comes to education in the U.S. to figure out ways to best serve his students and community.

They could build a network of interconnected technology classrooms, or arrange curriculum that requires students to master computer courses, among other ideas, Adams said.

He's open-minded, he said, but knows he wants to find ways to enhance personalized learning.

He's even started surveying his students and building profiles to better understand his school's unique  needs and what types of learners his students identify with most.

And he's currently working on the second phase of the application process, which is due in February.

The grant money would be life-changing for the Sullivan community, Adams said, but even if he's not selected in the end, he said the consideration has already provided access to opportunities that can have a positive impact on his school.

"Even if we don't receive the grant in the end, the greatest thing is the city and the Mayor's office and CPS has really got all the heavy-hitters as far as education in the city of Chicago behind us," he said.

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