Nora Sullivan ‘19 grew up right next door to Chicago in Oak Park, but it wasn’t until her first year at the University that she really began to get to know the city. Now, after volunteering in South Side classrooms as a UChicago student, she’s planning to make a career as a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher.
Sullivan has wanted to be a teacher “forever,” she says, so in the Chicago Bound pre-orientation week dedicated to community awareness and civic engagement, she gravitated immediately to Jumpstart, an initiative of the Neighborhood Schools Program (NSP). Jumpstart places UChicago student employees in pre-K classrooms on the South Side to help get kids ready for kindergarten; she landed in the classroom of Nykela Nixon, a longtime educator at Wadsworth Elementary in Woodlawn who’s now a cherished mentor. “I want to be just like her,” says Sullivan, who plans to return to Chicago and teach after completing a one-year master’s degree/certification program.
A comparative human development major, Sullivan also earned a certificate in Chicago Studies that was deeply informed by her NSP experience, giving her “a better and deeper understanding of neighborhood structures and features and how they relate to education — and how the executive branch of CPS functions within the city.” Her capstone project and BA thesis examined the way shuttered CPS school buildings have (and haven’t) been repurposed, and the impact of those decisions on communities.