Crosstown Concourse is home to retail, nonprofits, offices, restaurants and residents. But starting with the current 2018-2019 school year, it’s also now home to a school, Crosstown High School. It began with 150 ninth graders this fall with a plan to grow using applications for a new freshmen class every year in December with a lottery system to choose a new group of students, up until the current inaugural class is seniors. If the first round of applications is any indication, the school won’t lack for students to enroll; they had 308 applications for 150 spots. As a public charter school, Crosstown doesn’t have specific testing requirements. Any student in the eighth grade who lives in Shelby County can apply.
When school principal Chandra Sledge Mathias first saw Crosstown Concourse she said she understood the vision for the school, not only its connection to the physical building but the community within. The building is part of the classroom. “It’s a really rich environment for students,” Chandra said. “There are over 3,000 people in and out of this building in different professions ranging from healthcare to the arts to nonprofits, entrepreneurs and retailers. For students to have that immediate access to these professionals is just incredible. We tell the students that every adult here is a teacher.”
Crosstown High is a project-based learning model. It allows students to connect the curriculum to real-world experiences. While a traditional learning system is teacher-led with instructions and content delivered for students to retain, project-based learning is inquiry-based with students learning about a subject by investigating and responding to a complex question, challenge or problem. It poses questions, problems or scenarios and gives students the opportunity to use what they learn in real-world settings, such as Crosstown Concourse.
“Part of that is bringing in professionals and community members who can show students relevant connections between what they learn in school and what happens in the workforce,” Chandra said. For example, students in AP Geography and English classes studied human migration patterns. Instead of just learning facts in a textbook, students connected with five organizations that work with refugees. They partnered with more than 20 immigrants and refugees who live in Memphis, giving the students the opportunity to learn first-hand stories.
Crosstown High students also have the opportunity to create a legacy. Traditions aren’t in place. The current students are part of the discussion to determine what clubs and organizations look like, how student government works and what sports traditions are and chants sound like. Crosstown High School is a startup environment, and that goes for students, teachers, staff and family. “It’s super intense at all levels because we’re learning this new system together,” Chandra said. “What learning looks like here is different than what they’ve experienced before. We talk and think through decisions we’ve made and how we need to shift gears.”
As Crosstown High grows, there are important ways for the community to support its efforts. There is always a need for partners who can share specific skill sets and resources with students. For more information about Crosstown High, including partnership opportunities and the application process, visit crosstownhigh.org.
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