- 1/2 a dozen security officers on the inside
- Heavy Police presence around the building
- 12 police officers on the outside
- Squad Cars and SUV’s
- Police Helicopters
- Community Activists
- Veteran Volunteers from “leave no Veteran Behind”
This description could easily be describing a recent crime scene or natural disaster. But it’s not. That’s just what it looks like after school from the outside. Imagine what it feels like from the inside, from the eyes of an incoming 9th grade boy. Thomas Trotter knows what it feels like. He grew up in this neighborhood, and says, ” I didn’t exactly have a silver spoon in my mouth, if you know what I mean. I encountered many of the same things my students do today, single family home, neighborhood plagued with drugs, poverty, violence and gangs.” But Trotter, a star student-athlete, went on to get a scholarship to University of Wisconson Parkside, and subsequently did his Masters work at Northeastern Illinois University.
He returned to his community as an educator because, “I knew these students would be able to relate to me. I’ve seen what they have, and felt what they have. I needed to teach them, however, that the world opens up once you leave Englewood and Woodlawn, and there are great opportunities out there for each of you.”
When we contacted Hyde Park Academy, we had a hunch that despite the concerning statistics about drop out rates, gang involvement and violence in the areas surrounding the school, there were some silent heroes in their building, both young and old. We found one in Visible Man Thomas Trotter along the way.
Principal Trotter’s voice lifted when we asked him to tell us about some of the success stories and accomplishments of his students inside the building: “Where do I begin? I’ve got a straight A student who’s been accepted to 2 top schools in the last month, a kid going to West Point, and dozens more who will be enrolled in colleges and vocational schools after graduation.” Mr Trotter went on to describe the accomplishments of his debate team, and that he has 50 juniors who faithfully and enthusiastically attend the Princeton Review Course. He states he’d have more if the budget could support it. He has exceptional student-athletes who are learning important life lessons about teamwork, punctuality, responsibility, victory and defeat. There are artists, technology experts, history buff’s and more. Hyde Park has kids who have seen more trauma and hardship than many American adults could ever fathom, and yet most of them show up on time to school every single day. Success.
Thomas is keenly aware of the psychosocial needs of his students, the skill set of his faculty, and the resources and programs required to improve student outcomes, but also the unique educational strengths and challenges many of his students present with. Ninety percent of his students receive free lunch and are living in poverty. “I truly believe, that each child can and will learn. Some may not learn fast, some may not learn yet, but eventually if we work hard enough, they will get it. My staff and I operate from a position of strength and urgency.”
If you want to know about resiliency, pause, and think about the kids walking by the squad cars and security officers, the drug addicts and gang members on their way home from school. Think about them, in the midst of that landscape, thinking about their Princeton Review course, college, and beyond.
Thank you, Thomas Trotter, and the silent heroes of Hyde Park Academy. And, congratulations.