I watched America to Me and learned a lot from the courageous students who told their stories. Without exception, their ability to manage the hurdles of this traditionally very large and very white institution depended on (1) involvement in extra-curriculars (in smaller groups), athletics, music, science and math, theater, literature/poetry and arts programs, and (2) access to supportive faculty, staff and each other.
The Imagine Oak Park Committee’s comprehensive research included (hundreds of?) hours of interviews and focus groups with students and faculty/staff with diverse academic and cultural perspectives. The result is a plan that, in addition to classroom improvements, focuses up front on centralized and flexible spaces for all students to access support resources, such as library, tutoring, faculty advisors and each other in group work spaces; and addresses the urgent and critical need for newly designed/re-configured and accessible facilities for athletic and music programming that keeps many, many students motivated and connected to their larger academic and career preparation goals.
If you’ve attended presentations by the Imagine Committee, you will know that the structure of the south “field house” does not allow simple moving of walls, also that each new section is designed to be accessible and adaptable to different programming needs and is not extraordinarily extravagant. Structures like this are inherently expensive, but consider how long the old one has lasted!
These two pieces of a very complex and well-thought-out, long-term plan seem to me to directly address equity needs and should not be delayed. Just “imagine” students using these spaces vs. the experience of a freshman in the first episode of America to Me and you may agree.
Parent of three OPRF graduates and
grandparent to an OPRF sophomore