Students to adopt Chicago school

Sheila Burt

Students at Talcott Elementary School in Chicago’s West Town might hear a different version of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairy tale at school this year:

Could Goldilocks — who entered the bears’ home, slept in their beds and ate their food — be charged with breaking and entering?

Talcott students will probe this question this year at a mock trial with Northwestern law students. The partnership is one component of the Law School’s new public service strategy program.

The program, developed last year, encourages law students to complete 40 hours of community service before graduation. For one of the first initiatives, the Law School will adopt Talcott, a school which serves predominantly Latino and low- to middle-income students, with the Chicago Public Schools’ Futures Exchange Program.

“Part of our education mission is to teach students that they have an obligation to give back,” said Maureen Stratton, Law ’84 and public service coordinator for the Law School.

“We really want to make this a part of the culture of the school.”

Although details of the program have yet to be established, Stratton said she hopes 20 to 30 law students will work with the elementary students to perform mock trials and also will develop pen-pal partnerships and tutoring programs to help eighthgraders study for the Constitution test and improve their English skills.

The law students will work with a student organization, Student Effort to Rejuvenate Volunteering, Stratton said. And the Information Technology department will help with Talcott’s Web site.

She said she hopes these efforts will help “fill some gaps and help improve the education” at the school.

Law School administrators and students will participate in Chicago’s “Principal for A Day” program Wednesday to meet with Talcott students and teachers, and they also will visit the school on Halloween dressed in costumes to treat the kids to bags of candy.

“Law students are just an incredibly bright, energetic group of students who would be great role models and mentors,” Stratton said. “I think it would be great to show young kids, ‘This is where you can go, (and) you can succeed if you study hard and work hard.'”

Talcott serves about 700 students from 3 to 16 years old and strives to involve students and the community with the school’s initiatives, said Marcella Richman, Talcott’s principal for 40 years.

She said she welcomes the Law School’s effort because it will enable Talcott students to interact with people in higher education who can be role models and help improve students’ math and English test scores.

“With all they can give us, the school can only improve in every possible way,” she said.

There are about 200 school partnerships with Chicago’s Futures Exchange Program and an additional 150 citywide programs that involve a number of schools, said Susan Marks, coordinator of the Department of External Resources and Partnerships for the Chicago Public Schools.

Marks, Education ’93, said she believes these programs, which pair schools with corporations and universities to provide resources for Chicago schools, have affected the schools “enormously.”

“I think people underestimate how much they can make a difference, how much they can give and how much it means for the kids to see them — to see that people care about coming in and working with them,” Marks said. “It’s really a win-win situation for both the schools and the corporation. Our students are tomorrow’s law students and bank employees.”

Stratton said she hopes the partnership will be a several-year commitment that will have an impact on a nearby school.

“We would like to help students in our community succeed educationally,” Stratton said. “But also from our perspective at Northwestern, it’s a way for our community to come together and service (the people).”

Talcott Elementary School and NU Law School’s upcoming collaborations: Oct. 29 — Chicago Public Schools’ “Principal for A Day” program

  • Law School administrators and students meet with school teachers and children. Oct. 31 — Halloween treats delivery
  • Law students dress in costumes to hand out Halloween goodies to schoolchildren.

    For more information or to get involved, Law students should contact Maureen Stratton at [email protected]