Camelot Education’s Excel Academy of Roseland’s Black Empowerment Week Makes a Major Impression
Black History Month is always a special time for the students of Camelot Education’s network of schools. This year at Excel Academy of Roseland in Chicago the teachers and staff combined educational learning with group-guided interaction to demonstrate to students what it means to be Black in America beyond the media stereotypes and what they may experience in their communities.
The school kicked off the month with a Black Empowerment Week under the theme “We Take Pride.” From Feb. 1 through Feb. 4, students were encouraged to attend the different presentations and discussions provided by business entrepreneurs of all ages and local community organizations to display how each generation learns and teaches from each other. The presenters included My Block My Hood My City, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, Fresh Films Chicago, Metropolitan Family Services, Youth Build Speaker Shymane Robinson and WIOA Works Illinois.
“The entire week was a special event put together by our amazing staff,” said Colby Chapman, Director of Student Services. “We creatively merged the discussions with several subject areas such as financial literacy, post-secondary development, mental health and soft and hard skills. The speakers provided many perspectives about their roles in society and how students can learn from their experiences.”
The presenters covered many educational topics each day that supported the overall theme of the week, including a financial aid presentation, a review of social media culture, Black cinema and Black history. All topics celebrated the achievements of African Americans and a time for recognizing their crucial role in the history of the United States.
“We discussed the origins of the Pan-African flag one day,” said Elizabeth Landig, principal of Excel Academy of Roseland. “They were engaged with this discussion because our History Department regularly integrates African American history, with the history of the United States.”
Students knew the red, black and green stripes of the flag was adopted by Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) at a conference in New York City in 1920, after the organization called on the need for a black liberation flag.
In addition, students and staff coordinated dress attire throughout the week to represent the historical symbolization through the Pan-African flag. On Monday, everyone wore red to symbolize the blood that was shed for liberation and what unites all people. On Tuesday, everyone wore green to symbolize the fertility and wealth of Africa and on Wednesday it was black to show the unity of Black people.
“It started with about 21 kids and every day the participation steadily increased,” said Kandace Stallings, Counselor. “Seventy-seven students showed up one day and once we got started, the students really opened up. One boy, who was normally very reserved, rapped. We had spoken word pieces. The students enthusiastically participated. It’s exactly what we wanted to see from our students. It became a forum where they feel confident and would open up. That’s a major component of our approach to education.”
The Excel Academy of Roseland is an accelerated school of choice for students that are 15 to 21 years old in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The program is dedicated to creating a challenging, academically rigorous, and safe environment for all students. It was recently recognized by CPS for the impact of its authentically integrated trauma-informed social-emotional learning (SEL) framework, which fosters a culture of belonging to empower the city’s most vulnerable students to fully engage in their classrooms and schools.
“Black Empowerment Week was a real trigger for the students who didn’t feel comfortable expressing themselves,” said Ashley Coleman, Director of Career Education. “They know they can be who they are, and this helps us move forward with them.”
Coleman continued, “The entire dialog for the week was geared toward and around them. It wasn’t just academic discussions of our history. It was like a family reunion where everyone is showing love to each other. That benefits all of our students, some of whom don’t have a family atmosphere at home. Black Empowerment Week represents what happens when we share knowledge.”