This story comes from Stann Champion, a Chicago education advocate who uses music to create important life lessons. His commitment to public service led to his election as a community representative on the Local School Council at Ashe Elementary in Chatham. LSCs are groups made up of parents and community members who provide leadership and support to their neighborhood schools. They help approve school budgets, school improvement plans, and participate in the evaluation and hiring of principals.
I am a product of CPS, and there were some teachers who believed in me. That belief was important because I was a troubled child. Those teachers stuck with me, but I also had a gift that changed my whole outlook.
I picked up the guitar. I just wanted to play it…strum the pain away to occupy my time. In my house, I didn’t have the option to get in trouble. That helped me. I never thought I would use it to do what I do today: play professionally.
When I went to school, music was never at the forefront; education was always number one. Since I finished my education, I have been asked to join committees to work with children. I’ve been doing it since 1978, and I wish someone had done that for me when I was growing up.
I got involved in education work through programs like Principal for a Day. I would show up with my guitar. I could get the attention of all the kids in class. I went there to support whatever they were learning at the time, and I would teach them that music isn’t just music, it is history, science, mathematics, communications. Music is school. Music is something you are already applying to learning.
The work at my Local School Council led me to meet Donna Hardy, the Organizing Manager at Stand for Children. She asked me to volunteer, and I got involved with the Attendance Pledge last fall. I hadn’t been to a first day of school since I was in school myself, so that was great. Attendance matters because when students improve their attendance rates, they improve their academic prospects and chances for graduating.
I can be a positive influence on the LSC while sharing my experiences and what helped me. We are all in this together, and everybody gets to bring their ideas and their passion.
It has been surprising, simply realizing the influence we have on the LSC. It’s my second year, and we are trying to hire another principal, something I’ve never been a part of. We are learning the power we have now, but it’s a process.
I get to be part of the voice. I show up for the students’ graduations. I’m part of the teaching process and know a lot of the teachers. The connection with the teachers and the schools is what counts. I like to be a source of support for the school. If I miss a meeting there, I will hear about it. I have established a good relationship with them, and I would do anything for them.
The gift I have, let me use it in any way I can to help kids get to where they are going. It’s great to see kids in the community. It’s even greater to be approached by parents with positive comments. Those are signs saying that whatever I’m doing is really working and being appreciated.
As long as I’m here I’m going to be doing this.