“For most of us students, West Pullman is the only school we’ve known since pre-K, and I think it’s totally unfair for you guys to close our school instead of working with us to make this school a better place. West Pullman is my home, and I feel as if my home is being broken up. My entire family graduated from West Pullman, including my mother with the Class of 1995. If my school is closed, it will leave me with no place to call my own, with no way to follow in my mother’s footsteps. I also wanted to add that several teachers are constantly staying after school voluntarily to work with those students in need of help. They’re staying on their own time and dime, absolutely free, and yet you’re going to fire them? Sounds stupid if ask you me. If you guys give up on us, we’ll give up on ourselves. Closing down our school means closing down millions of futures for us. It is imperative that we keep our school open.” —Jahari Johnson, West Pullman sixth grader
West Pullman was established in 1894. The building’s auditorium has two historic Works Progress Administration murals painted by the artist Ralph Christian Henricksen. The mural was restored as part of the Chicago Public Schools mural restoration project.
In a community area in the bottom third of Chicago’s 77 community areas in terms of percent poverty and percent unemployment, West Pullman provides many vital community resources to its students and the surrounding neighborhood. The school is a new Boys and Girls Club school-based site, and, in particular, a 21st Century site, which is funded in part by a grant from the State of Illinois which covers a paid staff professional for the next five years. The Boys and Girls Club program only started in January and a month later was serving 25% of the student population.
“When Boys & Girls Clubs partner with local schools, everyone wins,” said BGCC President and CEO James Keane. “We get to bring our programs and services to more young people without having the costs of real estate. Schools get to bring valuable and life-changing after-school programs to their students and young people get more hope and opportunity in their lives.”
At West Pullman, the BGC is not only “a safe haven for our kids every day from the violence out in the streets but academic enrichment, life skills, drugs and gang violence,” in addition to sports and fitness programs and a partnership food program with the school, “so that our kids are not walking home hungry,” according to Paul Lew of BGCC.
They are also a Fresh Moves mobile produce market site. And they are part of the Communities in Schools (CIS) program which helps schools partner with a large array of crucial community services. (CIS connects hospitals, universities, theaters, community-based nonprofits, government agencies, museums, corporations and individuals to schools that need the programs they offer.) The Whitney Young Dolphins Making a Difference have a mentoring program at West Pullman. The school is also a participant in Columbia College’s Science Institute.
Students at West Pullman are being sent to Haley next year, a school .8 mile away. West Pullman community area is 11 and 12 out of the 77 community areas in Chicago for violent crimes and quality of life crimes per capita, respectively, bringing the safety of such a long walk in question:
“Our babies walk through a war zone as it is with abandoned buildings and vacant lots. Why make them go through more war zones to get to a school when they can stay at the place that they can call home since […] preschool? I’ve seen these babies grow, and I want to continue to see them grow. I want to see their children. I want to see their children come to West Pullman.” —Erica Fox, Assistant Principal