As schools across the Chicago region get ready to re-open their doors, many students are packing up their book bags and choosing their First Day outfits. At Association House High School in Humboldt Park, some students are not only getting themselves ready to go back to school but their children, too. 

The high school, run by Association House, a United Way community partner, enrolls approximately 30 young parents who need childcare, a flexible schedule and additional services to support their learning. Teachers also work with students who may have slipped through the cracks at traditional public schools for a variety of reasons, including homelessness, chronic truancy, needing to work to provide for their families and substance use, said David Pieper, the school’s principal.

“We’re focused on reengaging at-risk and out-of-school youth,” David said. “These students come to us through word of mouth and referrals from other neighborhood agencies where there is a need for a wraparound service or there’s some sort of deficiency or lack of resource that needs to get fixed in order for that student to continue moving towards their high school diploma.”

Like traditional schools, Association House High School educates 150 students in math, English and history, among other studies. The school boasts a 90 percent graduation rate and is rated Level 1 by Chicago Public Schools.

But Association House teachers go beyond academics to address their students’ social and emotional needs outside of the classroom, like connecting them to childcare, housing, employment opportunities, and mental health services.

“[During the enrollment process], every student will come in before they even step foot in the school and sit down with a counselor that says ‘Alright, what’s going on in your life? Let’s set a plan. Let’s identify where you might have barriers,’” David said. “If we don’t do that immediately, we will lose those students.”

Read more of this story here.