Amid a national health crisis and all that these last two years have brought us, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School (PACHS) continually makes strides that center collective care through a holistic approach in which joy, community building, and healing are at the center. The return to in-person learning has been a challenge for all, but there is now a shift — a call for educators to re-imagine education as alternative spaces of learning. With these lessons in liberation, there is an infinite amount of creativity that can be celebrated and that is celebrated at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School — as witnessed recently in our “Week of Self Care”.
The Week of Self Care was curated in collaboration with PACHS staff, along with the community partnered organizations that make up their Care Team. PACHS’ Care Team includes: The Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC), Service Coordination and Navigation for Youth (SCaN), Alternative Schools Network (ASN), Association House, Catholic Charities, and BUILD Chicago. The week was fashioned through the creative efforts of all members involved to serve students and the school community during a time of uncertainty and adversity.
Caring is a direct act of love, and there are a multitude of approaches that demonstrate this great love. PACHS students’ first workshop of the week was a bachata class that was hosted on Monday morning by Karen Romero, Youth Experiencing Success (YES) Mentor. The following day, students partook in crafting their own personalized essential oils with BUILD Members and Science Teacher, Elizabeth Levenda.
When the school day ended for some, the after-school day began for others. They practiced care and autonomy through the Green Thumb Club, which takes place at PACHS’ very own greenhouse led by Science Teacher, Rachel Geetha. As the week progressed, conversations of mindfulness developed among students and BUILD’s Mobile Mental Health Team. Following this was a Candle Making Workshop led by English Language Arts Teacher, Jes Connolly, along with Yoga led by Social Worker, Devin Kelly.
When it comes to care, it is essential to include strategies of harm prevention as well. For this reason, partners PRCC and Trans Health provided free COVID-19, HIV, and STI Testing for students and staff alike.
As the week came to a close, PACHS geared up for its Community Potluck where students, family, and friends came together to nourish each other through shared meals, thoughtful conversations, and restorative laughter. Through the visionary creations of La Familia Support Group and Truancy Mentor, Sandra Sumlin, students engaged in karaoke, a dance competition, and lots of selfie-taking under the holiday themed photo drop with Campos’ very own Santa Claus, who also happens to teach US History and Economics, Josh Cohen.
Among the joy of the potluck, somewhere in a quiet corner was a group of students, staff and faculty who took part in practicing affirmation and vulnerability through a gratitude circle exercise led by SCaN Mentor, Nadia Estrada. Through this activity, members witnessed their impact on others and took a moment to acknowledge those they see everyday who have an impact on them as well, whether it is through a small gesture or several acts of care that help make the Campos community what it is.