CHICAGO — Break out the Pokémon backpacks and board your helicopter: School is back in session.
Chicago Public Schools started the 2017-18 school year Tuesday, and some students really got to ride in style. At Wells Community Academy in West Town, a select number of upperclassmen got to ride in helicopters and sports cars for their first day back in school.
"Seeing the skyline from above was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for anybody," said Rufus Burk, a senior at Wells Community Academy. "Even though I'm scared of heights, it was a really good experience and made me feel good that I'm doing something right."
As one of the five honor roll students to ride in a helicopter Tuesday, Burk's advice to eligible younger students is to "do anything to get it."
Six other Wells students who earned over a 3.0 grade point average were picked up from their homes and chauffeured to the school at 936 N. Ashland Ave. in sports cars.
Both the helicopters and sports cars were arranged by The Annex, a marketing firm that has taken the West Town high school under its wing.
"Let's shift the perception of school. No more gold stars, a real activation, a really cool experience for students who might not know that the whole community is behind them," said David Muniz, an art director at The Annex.
Meanwhile, in Brighton Park, students joined educators and activists outside Thomas Kelly High School to protest $1.5 million in cuts to the international baccalaureate school.
On the far South Side, top CPS officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel participated in Safe Passage walks to Harold Washington Elementary School.
Emanuel later spoke to Solorio Academy students in Gage Park and to the broader Chicago community to offer reassurances after news Tuesday morning that President Donald Trump would rescind an Obama-era program that issues work permits to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children.
"This is your home, and you have nothing to worry about," Emanuel said of Chicago. "I want you to come to school, but more than just come to school, pursue your dreams."
Emanuel also touted the city's community colleges, which offer free tuition to students who graduate high school with a B-grade average — including the "Dreamers" of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.