LINCOLN PARK — The more things change, the more they stay the same, even in a community as rapidly evolving as Lincoln Park — at least, according to a teacher at Oscar Mayer Magnet School.
Drama teacher Roxy Roth, who appeared as a teenager in the 1974 documentary "Now We Live on Clifton," discussed the changes in the neighborhood since then at a "Filmmaking in Lincoln Park" program at DePaul University Thursday night.
"It's very funny that Mayer still looks the same as in the film," Roth said. And for all the changes the neighborhood has gone through, she added, it remains very much the same.
"The neighborhood is still really vibrant, with lots of fantastic families. So that is the same," she said. "There's a lot of very different houses, and the landscape is different, but I think in terms of the arts that are going on and the activities that are going on in the neighborhood, I think there still are a lot of similarities, and clearly the neighborhood feels very comfortable to me."
"Now We Live on Clifton" is a Kartemquin Films production focusing on gentrification in Lincoln Park in the mid-'70s as experienced by Roth's younger siblings, Pam and Sam Taylor. The property they lived at on Clifton, just down the street from Oscar Mayer, at 2250 N. Clifton Ave., is now occupied by what many people would describe as a "McMansion," and the odd thing about that, Roth said, is that the kids who live in that house now attend the same school.
"It's different," she allowed. "It is diverse. It's a little less diverse, but it's definitely a diverse population" that attends the school today.
While figures from 1974 weren't immediately available, the school is now 68 percent white, 16 percent hispanic and 9 percent black. Nearly 16 percent of students come from low-income families.
According to Roth, who now lives in Andersonville, while the surface elements might have changed, the character of Lincoln Park around DePaul has remained remarkably consistent.
"I think of it as a really stable neighborhood," Roth said, adding that it feels "very positive, because there's still a lot of good, progressive action going on in this neighborhood."
Part of that is due to DePaul itself. "DePaul is just expanding in great ways," she said. "I think the energy and the vibrancy of the kids, that's going to come through in lots of great ways."
In fact, she added, it already has. "A lot of the kids who go to DePaul, go to the teachers' college, actually teach at Mayer," Roth said. "Probably 75 percent of our teachers are from DePaul. They're progressive, and we see ourselves as activists."
Another element that has contributed to neighborhood consistency in recent years, she added, is that Mayer is drawing more from local students.
"It's back to becoming more of a neighborhood school," Roth said. "Really, the magnet cluster concept is sort of over now.
"I think it's great that Mayer is back to being a neighborhood school again. We're really excited about that."
Yet the one thing she said has kept the school the same is that kids, essentially, don't change. The stereotype might be that kids in the 21st century are devoted to video games and social media and are shut off from the outdoors and a little healthy tussling, as seen in "Now We Live on Clifton," but according to Roth that public perception is inaccurate.
"They're still really scrappy and tough," she said. "You should come and check out our recesses sometime.
"Our kids are still very scrappy and tough, and very innovative," Roth added. "I think kids are more similar than dissimilar, no matter what background they come from."
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