SponsorAd

Categorized | NEWS

Gordon Parks High School celebrates 10th anniversary in March

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Gordon Parks High School (GPHS) plans to celebrate its 10th anniversary in March with a week of special events.

GPHS is the largest of seven alternative day school programs in the St. Paul Public Schools district. Founded in 1991, the school was originally called the St. Paul Area Learning Center. It was renamed the Unidale Alternative Learning Center after the local strip mall it operated in. When the rented space became too small, the district constructed a new $7.5 million, 34,000-square-foot facility.

“We re-named ourselves from Unidale to Gordon Parks High School after moving from the corner of University and Dale to 1212 University,” recalled GPHS Curriculum and Media Arts Coordinator Paul Creager.

The new school was dedicated on March 6, 2008, just one day and two years after school namesake Gordon Parks died at age 93.

“Our interest in naming the school Gordon Parks was built around his legacy of living in St. Paul, and using the arts to transform his life and fight against racism and classism,” explained Creager.

“Since that time, our staff has led internal reform to create a brand of alternative instruction that attempts to reinvest student interest in lifelong learning. After a decade of this work, we have many more miles to go to reach our goal, but we want to recognize accomplishments.”

Carrying on the legacy of Gordon Parks
St. Paul native Gordon Parks’ life and work as a photographer, film-maker, writer, and civil rights activist provides the school with a model for the thoughtful, active, and successful citizens staff are dedicated to helping students become, according to the 10th-anniversary website gordonparks10.blogspot.com.

The school offers flexible programming, media-infused courses and curriculum, a supportive advisory program to help keep students on track for graduation, and a host of community partnerships, internships, and job support activities that use Gordon Parks’ life as an inspiration and guide.

As a small, orderly, and friendly school, staff work to make it impossible for students to be invisible or to get lost in the shuffle.

Gordon Parks High School is proud to carry on Parks’ legacy by infusing media activism and the arts into core subject areas. Like Parks himself, the staff strives to help students choose the most effective intellectual “weapons” that will transform their prospects and the world.

Students can fulfill state and district graduation standards requirements in many ways—from studying documentary film and nonfiction writing with the English department, to hands-on applied experiences in algebra and chemistry and community-based art, social studies, and environmental studies programs.

At Gordon Parks, students are expected to practice thinking in real ways as a part of their daily school experience. They are expected to be full participants in their own educations and to take themselves and their possibilities seriously.

GPHS offers a range of programs that meet the needs of about 200 students between the ages of 16 and 21, regardless of their current level of academic progress or educational achievement.

The school offers an 8:30am start time, with flexible, year-round, academic programs. Since implementing a three-week grading and curriculum cycle, attendance increased by 100 percent although daily attendance is about 50 percent.

To meet student needs the school has social workers, counselors, special education teachers, educational assistants, and on-the-job training.

This wide range of support services encourages lifelong learning while taking into account family situations, parenting concerns, employment schedules, and housing issues.

The school is also home to an evening high school and offers online classes to accommodate full-time and dual-enrolled students, as well as students who are working.

The school is geared towards students who are pregnant or parents; struggling with chemical dependency, mental health problems, or abuse; behind a grade level or two; limited in English proficiency; or homeless.

“We’re not bad kids,” remarked 17-year-old LaDavia Allcorn, who is a senior at GPHS. “People learn different ways. People don’t all learn by sitting in a little box and writing all the time. For me, I can’t sit there.” Instead, Allcorn has gotten involved in the various projects at the school, including creating a park next door to the school, and also serves on the leadership team. She appreciates how school staff has encouraged her to get involved.

She’ll graduate later this year, but she knows she’ll be back. “I’m not done,” said Allcorn. “I’m coming back to help this school.”

Celebration week events
Tues., Mar. 6 is slated as Gordon Parks Legacy Day at GPHS. The day will include comments from the Parks family, as well as showing of “Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks.”

On Wed., Mar. 7, “The Learning Tree Day,” students are encouraged to create art projects that will be displayed at a gala on Friday. “The Learning Tree,” a film written and directed by Gordon Parks in 1969, will be shown several times throughout the day. Community guests are welcome from 3-6:30pm.

Civic Engaged Storytelling Day is set for Thur., Mar. 8 with activities from 12:30-3pm. Mario Sprouse, Gordon Parks’ personal music arranger for 25 years, will be among the special guests that day. Presentations will focus on the intersection of civic engagement, storytelling, and curriculum. History of GPHS curriculum about Parks’ autobiography, “A Choice of Weapons,” will be given.

Gordon Parks Gala at the St. Paul Hotel will take place on Fri., Mar. 10, 6-9:30pm. It will include a three-course meal, silent auction, live music, a vibrant student-led showcase of projects and performances, as well as curriculum highlights from the last ten years. Special guests include Mario Sprouse and Gordon Park’s son David Parks. The evening features acclaimed Twin Cities actor and playwright Ronald Collier, who will read selections of Parks’ literary works.

Individuals tickets for the gala are $100. Or sponsor a table for $1,000; this includes five tickets for your organization and five tickets for students. Purchase tickets at spps.org/gordonparks-tickets.

Learn how community members, local businesses, and students can be involved in the celebration by contacting principal Traci Gauer at 651-744-1212.