Young Women's Leadership Charter School
In 1999, my Mom was approached by a group of female lawyers in Chicago with some alarming statistics - most young women stop learning math, science and technology around the age of 14. Girls are left behind as boys take over classroom time, raise their hands, grab the mouse or the bunsen burner and go at it themselves. Women comprise as fewer than 5% of the country's computer scientists and only 16% of scientists.
These women wanted to form a school modelled after New York's Young Women's Leadership School in east Harlem - a single-sex math and science focused school for disadvantaged young ladies. Mom joined up as the chairwoman of the board, helping them raise money and navigating the complicated task of building up a school.
In 2000, they submitted a charter school application to the city of Chicago. The application was around 3 inches thick, with studies, plans, budgets. They won out in the competitive charter application process, meaning around $5000 per pupil, and some services and support from the Chicago Public School board. IIT (the Illinois Institue of Technology) agreed to host the school on its grounds.
The Young Women's Leadership Charter School opened its doors in September 2000, taking in 75 sixth graders, and 75 ninth graders. Their facilities were a mix of modern and aged - they have a sophisticated Windows 2000 network and big Sun server; all the classroom chairs are old rolling conference room chairs donated by Earnst & Young.
My Mom works as the Chairperson of the board of the school, raising money, making plans.
I visited the school in the winter and the spring. Each time I came by, there was some astonishing personal art - these girls had made wild masks, or their own musical instruments, or models of body parts, or clay topographical maps of Africa - the walls ooze energy. I spoke to a ninth grade technology class, and I found a room full of smart engaged active girl minds.