By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Dionne Terry, the parent of three children who dropped out of the Chicago Public School system, was excited when she heard the news about Little Black Pearl and Prologue Alternative School’s plans to open the Joshua Johnston School of the Arts this fall but was soon disheartened by the news that her children did not qualify for the program.
Terry, who is a Bronzeville resident, said she is looking for a school for her 19-year-old son, who has a learning disability and attended Meridian High School in Mounds, Ill., before coming back to Chicago; her 18-year-old daughter, who attended U. of C. Woodlawn Charter but dropped out once she got pregnant; and her 16-year-old son, who she pulled out of Dyett and then Bowen high schools because he was continuously confronted and assaulted when traveling to and from school.
Because Prologue is an alternative school and the Little Black Pearl has a long history of providing arts programs to alternative schools, both institutions have received calls from parents whose children have dropped out but want to attend Joshua Johnston.
“Joshua Johnston is not an alternative school. It is a charter school,” said Monica Haslip, executive director of Little Black Pearl at 1960 E. 47th St., which is where the school will be located until a larger school building is found.
Terry and the other parents who have called were challenged by the fact that their school-aged children could not apply for the program.
“My teens are well-versed in visual arts and drawing and have dreams of attending college to get into the field of art, music and media,” Terry said. “They were crushed to learn this program was for those who hadn’t left their primary school yet.”
Joshua Johnston, which is named after the first known African American slave to become an artist, will serve youth between the ages of 16 and 21 who are at risk of dropping out of school. The school will focus on fine arts and design, academics and entreprenurial education.
“Joshua Johnston will target students who are academically behind their graduating cohorts and have truancy problems,” said Nancy Jackson, executive director of Prologue, who said she has been referring parents of dropouts that call in about the charter school to Prologue’s alternative schools.
Jackson said the Joshua Johnston has received referrals of students who would be good fits for the school from 10 high schools on the South Side including Kenwood Academy and will consider applicants from all over the city.
For questions about applying to Joshua Johnston, call Doris Campbell at 773-935-9925.