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Glenbard D-87 partners with DuPage NAACP to increase inclusion, student achievement

Gilda Ross knows it takes more than a school district to help a child succeed.

The Glenbard Township High School District 87 student and community projects coordinator says success requires student effort and parent involvement, as well as some help from the community.

With that in mind, the District has partnered with the DuPage County NAACP to create an inclusive environment where every family feels comfortable and all students are encouraged to do their best.

“We want all families at the table,” Ross said.

A few years ago, District 87’s popular Glenbard Parent Series expanded to include special Saturday programming to increase its outreach to minority families.

About 8 percent of students in the district are African-American, while about 20 percent are Latino, according to District 87’s 2012 report card.

Offered in both English and Spanish, the Saturday programs focus on preparing families for college and feature breakout sessions that discuss specific topics such as historic African-American colleges, Ross said.

This year, the DuPage NAACP began sponsoring the Saturday Glenbard Parent Series. President Mario Lambert said that decision had a lot to do with how impressed the organization has been with both the series and with Ross’s efforts.

For District 87, having a large organization such as the DuPage NAACP serve as a sponsor helps to increase the reach of the series, which is open to anyone in the community.

“We’ve always felt strongly about doing outreach to our minority parents, and when we partner with the NAACP, this is another great way to get the word out,” Ross said.

One DuPage NAACP program that Glenbard District 87 has especially promoted with its students is ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics), which engages African-American high schoolers in a year-long academic project.

As part of DuPage ACT-SO, participating students complete a project in one of 26 categories in science, the humanities, business or performing and visual arts with the guidance of a mentor in the field. The students then present their work at an annual competition.

Partnerships with school districts are important to DuPage ACT-SO because the help of schools is needed to close the academic achievement gap, said Cynthia Johnson, one of the chairs of DuPage ACT-SO.

While the number of Glenbard students who participate in DuPage ACT-SO has varied over the last decade, Ross is continually encouraging more students to be part of the program because she says the numbers aren’t where she’d like them to be.

Glenbard East and West high schools have ACT-SO clubs to prepare students to take on the challenge of the program, which requires a large commitment of time and effort from students and their families.

The dedication of Glenbard District 87 in promoting ACT-SO recently was recognized in the naming of Superintendent David Larson as an honorary board member of DuPage ACT-SO.

Ross, too, has been honored for her efforts. Last year, she received the Above and Beyond Community Leadership Award from the DuPage NAACP.

“We’re committed to growing that relationship,” Lambert said.

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