On Saturday September 28th Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Board of Education evicted Manufacturing Renaissance (MR) from CPS properties and demanded to cease operations immediately. This meant that our Manufacturing Connect services at Austin College & Career Academy (ACCA), Bowen High School and Prosser Career Academy can no longer be continued.
This is the ending of a 14 year partnership. We’ve received no explanation to the motives behind such course of action.
We are now in the process of reorganizing as an afterschool program: we will have a community based program structure, offering services after school and during the day, based on availability. We look forward to what the future may bring us as we're optimistic in our ability to make this transition.
We are working with the Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council, including members Austin Coming Together, West Side Forward, Freedman Seating Company, Jane Addams Resource Corporation (who was also notified from CPS to leave the Austin building) to continue to build the connection between communities, youth and manufacturing companies in the Chicago area.
The closure of Manufacturing Connect as an in-school youth program signals disinvestment in career technical education for the West and South side communities. The most difficult aspect of this sudden eviction is the short-term loss that the schools, its administrations and students will suffer:
$500,000 in program services this school year alone
Active engagement of over 40 manufacturing employers interacting with local high schools
Accreditation by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills and a highly skilled machining instructor at Austin College & Career Academy
Paid work experiences like internships and summer jobs, and many other wrap around services for CPS students to ensure that they get and keep jobs upon graduation
One of our most prominent participants, James, a Senior at ACCA, wrote a letter, in which he described his experience at school as:
"Having the organization abruptly disappear and watching the executives of our school squirm as they cannot find the right answer for why this sudden change has occurred has been nightmarish. As of today that I am typing this, I do not even have a first-period classroom; several seniors in my school have a hole inside of their schedules because of the suddenness of this change. But schedules can be changed; that is the least of my worries. What I worry about most is how this change will affect the future students of ACCA. Without programs like PRIDE to teach us how to act in the workforce, or Job Internships to allow us to bear witness to the innermost structure of the business world, or Work Study to even get us into the business world in the first place, are we expected to pointlessly struggle more than we should?"
To read our full statement and James' letter please read here.
Austin Weekly News also reported on the program's closure.