School District Engage Students And Creates Career Pathways
By Tia Carol Jones
The Rich Township High School District 227 has been focused on getting a handle on the climate and culture of the district in the last two years. Located in the South Suburbs, Rich Township High School District 227 serves eight communities there, with a 92% African American student population. Students have been involved in activities that have enabled them to be fully engaged in the community.
“We’re really proud of the work they’ve been doing over the last two years,” Rich Township High School District 227 Superintendent Dr. Johnnie Thomas said.
District 227 has been exposing students to advanced careers and postsecondary opportunities, which has resulted in them being actively engaged in learning and making them an active participant in their education.
In figuring out how to educate the students and how to connect with them as individuals, the district made a commitment to feeding one million students, faculty and community members. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the school’s food service department served more than 2 million meals to families in the community. Recently, the district partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to open a food kitchen that helps to provide food to families in the community.
“Our students take the orders, they pack the groceries, they serve the people who have that need and it gives them a greater sense of what their value is in the community, from a positive standpoint,” Thomas said.
The Rich Township High School District 227 has two campuses: The STEM campus and the Fine Arts and Communications Campus. At the Fine Arts and Communications Campus, there is a television studio. It has enabled the students to actively engage in a communications pathway and create content. They can create podcasts, newscasts and movies, using the virtual green screen. Thomas said it is amazing to watch the students push the boundaries, and having access to that kind of educational environment has helped engage the students in a way that is meaningful to them.
Amazon has been a partner to the school district, helping the district to create a distribution and manufacturing course. It also has donated to the school district’s fine arts programs. Pepper Construction has also engaged the students with educational opportunities. Thomas said it is important for the students to see success in the communities where they live, and it allows the district to expand the classroom beyond the walls.
Rich Township School District 227 launched Black Male Speaks in 2023, where Black men spoke with the male students in the district There also was an Enterprising Women’s Seminar, where women entrepreneurs from all over the region engaged the young women in the district during seminars. Thomas hopes to bring it back next year. This year, the school district will host Black Woman Speaks. Thomas said there are always opportunities for people to come and speak to the students.
Rich Township School District 227 is adding an urban agriculture program. It has started construction on the agriculture wing of the school. There also will be electric vehicle, construction and skilled trades pathways for the students. The district has an Associate Degree partnership with Prairie State College. The students can receive their high school diploma and their Associate’s Degree.
The school district has robots that mow lawns, stripe football fields and clean the restrooms. The goal is to give the students experience using these technologies early. For more information about Rich Township High School District 227, visit www.rich227.org.
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