[Education In Chicago]: Progress For Some Students And a Setback For Others

Fourteen year old expecting graduate, Thessalonika Arzu-Embry holds a medal in her cap and gown.
Thessalonika Arzu-Embry, fourteen year old expecting graduate,holds a medal in her cap and gown.

Right now, the average fourteen year old is clothes shopping with her friends to prepare for her new look as a sophomore in high school, but Thessalonika Arzu-Embry will be  receiving her college degree. At just fourteen she is finishing up summer classes to graduate on Aug. 30 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Chicago State University.

Embry, who resides in Great Lakes Naval Station near North Chicago, was home schooled by her mother, a navy veteran, Wonder Embry from ages 8 to 11. In her last year she received the equivalent of a high school diploma.  Now, the mother daughter duo are both students anticipating a degree- the mother of the overachiever teen is working towards a graduate degree in clinical psychology.

Embry maintained a presence on campus with involvement in the School’s Honor program and as student senator while holding a 3.9 GPA. When it comes to a social life and parties, Embry is not affected by her inability to attend the 18+ clubs. She believes that a college experience is what one makes of it, which for her means studying hard and helping others (Embry often helped her colleagues study).

“My college experience is a traditional college experience for me — it is just that I have completed it faster,” says Embry. “I am very excited about joining others in having the opportunity to contribute to society in a significant way.”

Embry plans to take a graduate program for clinical psychology at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago or Stanford University. As home schooling proves to be a positive way of education for this student, Chicago’s public schooling system has taken a negative turn.

While public high school graduation rate has increased to 63 percent, there are still four in ten students that drop out, and the rumored budget deficit has led to huge cuts. In late July, city mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the closings of 50 public schools, the majority of them in low income neighborhoods.

According to Emmanuel, the Chicago Public School’s $1 billion deficit led to the closings. This deficit also has led to layoffs of nearly 850 employees so far, which will play a vast role in the classroom and overall school teachings. Chicago’s school system is funded by property taxes, which means an abundance of resources for wealthy schools and fewer resources for poorer schools. While we admire Embry’s success story, inquiring minds ponder on what is the future of  education for other Chicago kids.

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