CPS runs Consuella B. York Alternative School, a school located inside the jail at 26th and California. I was there to visit an art class and write a story about it for the Chicago Educator, a newspaper that CPS started when Mayor Richard M. Daley first took control of the school system and named Paul Vallas as its first CEO.
The students at York are not guilty of anything. They are awaiting “adjudication” on an arrest charge. Some are there for a couple days, others much longer.
I felt out of place. First of all, it was an art class involving papier-mâché. I don’t have an artistic cell in my body (not to mention that I’ve always had a thing against papier-mâché because of its pretentious, “Hey, look at me!” spelling). Second of all, I was pretty much an alien to the guys in the class—a creature from a very pale planet that prides itself on lame haircuts.
But 10 minutes in, we were just a bunch of guys hanging out, doing papie…um, an art project, and talking about Michael Jordan, school, movies, and whatever else came up. They were smart, funny, friendly, and great company (not to mention, very forgiving of my hair).