“Our kids don’t just come here because they want to pass an algebra class and learn single-variable equations. They need to see that next step. They need to see that postsecondary opportunity. And we need to market it to them and demonstrate it to them with more stability.”

When asked to describe a typical day at YCCS Association House High School, Principal David Pieper quickly settled on a word: chaos.

“Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’ That’s a school day,” said Pieper, who has overseen the Humboldt Park school for three years. “You walk in and you have a goal … and then there are five crises before you get to your office.”

But the hectic environment — the laughter, the meltdowns, the triumphs — is part of what Pieper loves about running the school. “I like to be in the hallways, in the classroom, learning students’ names. … I don’t get to start checking emails and doing paperwork until 3:30.”

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