Tirrell Taylor – I Was One of You
Camelot Education’s teachers, administrators and support staff are a committed organization of people dedicated to changing the lives of the young men and women entrusted to them. Tirrell Taylor, a Team Leader at Excel Academy of South Shore Chicago isn’t only enthusiastic about his important work in the often challenging field of education; he sees it as his purpose in life.
Why, because Taylor was like his students when he was their age. As he tells many of them, “I was you.”
“I was one of these students. I was talented but misguided. My family was supportive but like many teenagers, I had to learn things the hard way. I was able to get involved in a program similar to South Shore and it really helped me. I was able to visit different college campuses, I was in mentoring programs and for a kid who had never been out of his neighborhood it really helped me to see greater possibilities for my life. That’s the core of what we do here at South Shore. We meet the students where they’re at.”
Excel Academy at South Shore is an accelerated school of choice for students who are 15-21 years old and are behind in their studies. The program offers an extended day, where students can earn up to 5 credits per semester and 10 credits per year. This allows students to graduate in 2.5 years or less. Excel Academy is dedicated to creating a challenging, academically rigorous, and safe environment for all students.
“Most of the students who come here already have some credits and don’t have to be here for the full two and a half years unless they have no credits,” he said. “We get in tune with them and learn what their aspirations are. Then we use all our resources to put them in touch with professionals in that area so they can see there are more possibilities for their lives than they previously thought.”
As a Team Leader, Taylor is responsible for the school culture and climate. That means establishing norms for the school, interacting with staff and students and often encouraging the students not to be afraid to make mistakes. They’re taught to learn from their mistakes and gain encouragement in the school’s structured environment. He also takes the lead for Post-Secondary & extracurricular activities for the school’s camps.
“We have only one sports team right now, which is basketball and I’m the coach. We had a good season, went to the playoffs but lost in the second game. Our other after-school programs include arts and crafts, fitness classes, board games, and we have a music teacher who teaches the students how to record music. It gives them a taste of what it’s like to work in that industry.”
Taylor started his career at Camelot’s Excel Academy of Englewood. He sees his position at South Shore as a mission.
“I came from the same kind of environment as my students,” he said. “You have to interact with these young people all of the time. Some of them might have had a bad night. They might not have eaten dinner and the meals they get from us might be all they get that day. They might be sleeping in a home where the lights or heat is off. We have to show them that whatever that situation is, it’s temporary, no matter how tough it might be, it’s temporary. From eight to four we have them and they’re safe, we can keep them off the streets and out of trouble and give them the tools they need to make better lives for themselves. There’s so much in Chicago that they can get into to deter them from that. Our mission is to help them see past that stuff. I let them know that if I can make it, they can.”