‘My school wants a home of its own’

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Noble Academy students attend a May 21 public hearing during which officials debated whether to move the school from its present location in the Loop to 640 W. Irving Park Road.

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When my grandfather died in 7th grade, I decided higher education wasn’t in my future. Why should it be? No one else in my family had attended college. My grandfather was my biggest college advocate and he was gone. I didn’t have high aspirations for my future.

When I started high school at The Noble Academy, like a great majority of incoming freshmen, I was unsure of what to expect. I was scared that I would not fit in, and I was especially scared that I would not be able to succeed. My thinking has changed this year through the support of my teachers, who helped turn my negative mindset into a positive one. Now I’m moving forward to my new goal of graduating college.

That mindset didn’t happen overnight.

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I think a lot of my success has to do with Noble’s use of the Harkness method. We basically learn through discussing topics with each other, rather than from a teacher all the time. It made me feel in charge of my own education. The Harkness method taught me that I could take charge of things even as a freshman.

My first experience with Harkness started over the summer in a reading class. We were discussing the meaning behind two poems. Others in the class shared their thoughts about the meaning, which was different from my own conclusion. To my surprise, after sharing my opinion, everyone sat quietly and thought about what I had said. Then they agreed that I had changed their whole perspective on the poems.

This approach of dialogue taught me that by speaking up, I could change people’s perspectives. It made me feel empowered and excited. I felt like I could help shape the world around me. In turn, it made me realize that I have a responsibility to be prepared and make sure I am giving the best input possible.

At the Academy, there is a lot of responsibility involved in terms of completing more than three hours of homework every night, so we can be prepared in class. There has also been the responsibility of getting to and from school as I travel to downtown each day. It is a beautiful place to walk through and explore, but we don’t have a permanent home there. Our school downtown is temporary, which puts a lot of stress on us. We are cramped into a small space and are constantly wishing we had our own campus. I find myself wondering – if Noble is a public school, why can’t we have a campus like my friends at other public schools?

When I learned that there were people who opposed moving the Academy to the North Side, I was initially disheartened. Since I learned in my English class that words are powerful, and I can create change, I felt it was important to say something. Similar to how I changed my peers’ minds about the poems we read in class, my hope is to change people’s minds about the Academy moving to the North Side, especially after hearing about the impact it has had on me.

I started this year sure that my academic career would end the second I graduated high school. Now I believe college is a very real possibility for me. I believe I can take my higher education and come back to make a positive impact in my community. Without Noble I would not have such great confidence or a positive mindset.

As the city considers whether to approve a new home for the Academy on the North Side, I hope they can think about students like me who get so much out of Noble, whose lives are changed because of it, and who want a place of our own.

Elizabeth Loma, 15, is a freshman at The Noble Academy, where she plays soccer.

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