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Chicago Gets A New Alternative High School

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After attending a Tuesday open house for the Magic Johnson Bridgescape school in the Roseland community Alderman Latasha Thomas (17th), who chairs the Chicago City Council’s Education Committee, said she would like to see a campus open in her South Side ward.

“I would definitely welcome a campus in my ward,” Thomas, whose ward covers the Auburn Gresham community, told Examiner.com. “These types of schools are needed all over the city because not all kids do well in traditional schools. And because all kids learn differently there should be different schools available for them to attend.”

The Magic Johnson Bridgescape opened its first South Side campus in November at 10928 S. Halsted St. It is the second Chicago campus for the alternative high school, which has campuses nationally including one on the West Side at 3222 W. Roosevelt Road.

Currently the school is full to capacity with 150 students and a waiting list with an additional 150 prospects, said Brittany Bennett, a manager at the Roseland campus.

Students attend one of two sessions at Magic Johnson Bridgescape. The morning session is from 7:30-11:30 a.m. and the afternoon session is from noon-4 p.m.

And while students do not have to wear uniforms, they must adhere to a strict attendance policy.
“If a student misses three days without notifying us that could lead to them being put on probation,” Bennett said. “We are here to help them complete their education, and in order for that to happen they must be here every day.”

Chicago Public Schools officials said the Magic Johnson school is part of the school district’s new Alternative Learning Opportunity Program, which provides options for out-of-school and off-track students seeking to re-engage and graduate.

Parents, residents, prospective students, and even elected officials attended the school’s open house to learn more about the school operated by Ervin “Magic” Johnson. The NBA Hall of Famer had attended a September open house for the West Side campus in the North Lawndale community.

In a statement, Johnson said education has always been a priority to him.

“My purpose for opening these schools are to help youths in black and brown communities who want to learn,” Johnson said. “This is not a pilot program, either. Our schools offer hope for youths who may have experienced hard times and need a helping hand to get back in school and back on track.”

Secretary of State Jesse White was the keynote speaker at the open house.

“When someone tells that you cannot achieve, you tell them ‘watch me.’ And then make sure you soar even higher in life,” White told students. “You are our future so you must succeed by climbing up until you surpass the ‘glass ceiling’ that has been placed on you. The only time we (society) want you looking down is when you need to tie your shoe.”

White was introduced by student Khalil Hodges, 17, who had attended Oswego East High School for three years before moving to Roseland to live with his father. After he graduates next year Hodges said he plans to go to college to study engineering.

“I like it here a whole lot. Classes are smaller and the day goes by faster. Yes, I miss going to sporting events and stuff like that but I do not care,” Hodges said. “As long as I get a good education here at Magic Johnson I am fine with the transition.”

Alderman Carrie Austin (34th), whose ward includes the Roseland campus, said the campus is a good fit for her ward.

“I am glad that I got it. These kids are not bad. They chose to go back to school. This is not an alternative high school but an optional school,” Austin said.

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