Imran Khan motivates students to aim high

Getting students from Harper High School motivated to go to class can be an uphill battle.<br>
<br>
"It's really challenging because of the violence," said Imran Khan, an English teacher at the West Englewood high school. "More of my students know people in jail than they know people in college."<br>
<br>
Khan decided to organize trips to take his students outside of their neighborhood to see if it would make a difference.<br>
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"Most of the kids had never been downtown," Khan said. "They didn't know what <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PLCUL000188" title="Millennium Park" href="/topic/travel/tourism-leisure/millennium-park-PLCUL000188.topic">Millennium Park</a> looked like. One student literally didn't even know there was a lake. He'd never seen Lake Michigan. We're talking about a 17-year-old!"<br>
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After taking a group to the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="OREDU0000151" title="University of Chicago" href="/topic/education/colleges-universities/university-of-chicago-OREDU0000151.topic">University of Chicago</a>, Khan noticed the students were far more motivated to stay in school.<br>
<br>
"It was a huge experience for them," said Khan. "They were asking me, 'What do I need to do? I want to go there.' For years I'd been fighting this battle in the classroom, but I realized this is a war that requires moving outside the classroom. If we are going to win, we have to show these kids what's available to them and get them connected to their community."<br>
<br>
Khan decided to expand the field trips into a nonprofit program that provides cultural, artistic and culinary experiences for students. EMBARC Chicago (which stands for "Empowering Minds, Building Achievement and Reconnecting Communities") is approaching its one-year anniversary, and the cultural and educational exposure is building enthusiasm among the Harper students.<br>
<br>
"We have more students getting scholarships to colleges this year than we did last year," said Khan, who is also EMBARC's executive director. "When I started doing the field trips, I had a tough time convincing even five students to come to the city. Now I have 120 applicants and counting. I just got six in today."<br>
<br>
Khan said plans are in motion to have EMBARC programs available in four more Chicago public schools within the next five years.<br>
<br>
"We've created a model that can expand easily to other schools," Khan said. "I'm getting approached by principals and administrators from <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORGOV000081" title="Chicago Public Schools" href="/topic/education/schools/chicago-public-schools-ORGOV000081.topic">Chicago Public Schools</a>. We've partnered with businesses and restaurants and the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORCUL000045" title="Joffrey Ballet" href="/topic/entertainment/dance/joffrey-ballet-ORCUL000045.topic">Joffrey Ballet</a> &#8212; all of those relationships are really culminating. We want people to say, 'We're excited to help. We want to work with kids.' "<br>
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To learn more about the programs or to get involved, visit <a href="http://www.embarcchicago.org">http://www.embarcchicago.org</a>.<br>
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(Added Nov. 10, 2011)

( Photo by Christina Noel )

Getting students from Harper High School motivated to go to class can be an uphill battle.

"It's really challenging because of the violence," said Imran Khan, an English teacher at the West Englewood high school. "More of my students know people in jail than they know people in college."

Khan decided to organize trips to take his students outside of their neighborhood to see if it would make a difference.

"Most of the kids had never been downtown," Khan said. "They didn't know what Millennium Park looked like. One student literally didn't even know there was a lake. He'd never seen Lake Michigan. We're talking about a 17-year-old!"

After taking a group to the University of Chicago, Khan noticed the students were far more motivated to stay in school.

"It was a huge experience for them," said Khan. "They were asking me, 'What do I need to do? I want to go there.' For years I'd been fighting this battle in the classroom, but I realized this is a war that requires moving outside the classroom. If we are going to win, we have to show these kids what's available to them and get them connected to their community."

Khan decided to expand the field trips into a nonprofit program that provides cultural, artistic and culinary experiences for students. EMBARC Chicago (which stands for "Empowering Minds, Building Achievement and Reconnecting Communities") is approaching its one-year anniversary, and the cultural and educational exposure is building enthusiasm among the Harper students.

"We have more students getting scholarships to colleges this year than we did last year," said Khan, who is also EMBARC's executive director. "When I started doing the field trips, I had a tough time convincing even five students to come to the city. Now I have 120 applicants and counting. I just got six in today."

Khan said plans are in motion to have EMBARC programs available in four more Chicago public schools within the next five years.

"We've created a model that can expand easily to other schools," Khan said. "I'm getting approached by principals and administrators from Chicago Public Schools. We've partnered with businesses and restaurants and the Joffrey Ballet — all of those relationships are really culminating. We want people to say, 'We're excited to help. We want to work with kids.' "

To learn more about the programs or to get involved, visit http://www.embarcchicago.org.

(Added Nov. 10, 2011)

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