Southland’s Extended School Day Opens Door To Opportunities

Matteson, IL-(ENEWSPF)- It is nearly 4:00 p.m. on a weekday at Southland College Prep Charter High School, and its classrooms are still buzzing with activity. While instruction in the core curriculum ends at 3:30 p.m., Southland students continue to be involved at school in their electives from 3:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. when the school day ends for them.

The last 90 minutes of the day is the time the 122 freshmen participate in a selection of classes that include Spoken Word, Future Business Leaders of America, debate, dance, art, choral, band, sports, student council and yearbook. The school opened its inaugural year this August with 125 students and will add another 125 each succeeding year to reach its maximum of 500 students in four years.

“There are classes and activities to appeal to each student’s talents and interests,” said Herald “Chip” Johnson, assistant principal. “It is their time to explore and expand their horizons.”

The debate season is underway and Southland’s Speech Team is busy. Coached by Cheryl Frazier, the Fine Arts Area Instructional Leader at Thornton Township High School District 205, the team has participated in three invitational novice tournaments and will participate in three varsity tournaments as they prepare for the Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) Regional Tournament in February. Thus far, students have garnered rankings in Humorous Interpretation and Dramatic Interpretation in their tournaments.

The Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) group is busy with community service projects.  Earlier in the year, the students worked with the Southwest Suburban Humane Society to increase pet adoptions and get the word out about the ASPCA grant of $100,000 to the shelter with the highest pet adoptions.  Students designed posters and volunteered hours to help out at local events.

Currently, the FBLA students are working on a recycling drive that they are starting at Huth Middle School and Southland to be good stewards of the earth and to build funds for Southland’s activity fund.  The students also met with a graphics designer in New York via iChat on the Promethean Board, an interactive dry erase board that functions like a large computer monitor. The designer discussed design concepts for a logo from idea development to the final design. The FBLA members are developing a business model that they can follow under the guidance of Kevin Steele, the group’s sponsor and Southland’s technology teacher.

Student Council representatives are responsible for publicizing Spirit Week activities, school dances and community service projects.

Students are honing their creative writing and poetry skills in Spoken Word, which extends language arts lessons and supports students’ work on the Yearbook staff.

 The sounds of jazz, tango and salsa music can be heard in the school’s Commons where the dance class meets. Clad in dancers’ clothes, the students engage in warm-up exercises before learning new dance steps or demonstrating what they have learned in previous classes. “During their semester with me they will be exposed to a variety of dance styles as well as dance theory,” related dance teacher Gloria Chatman. On Tuesday and Thursday the students are learning dance techniques, choreography, how to execute steps, and dance combinations. Friday is less physically active as they learn about dance theory and dance appreciation. Technology allows them to visit sites that feature dance instruction so they are able to see how a dance lesson is taught and how the dance is performed, Ms. Chatman said. “I love the class. Ms. Chatman makes it fun,” said Monee Byrd. Fellow student Marcel Vanarsdale said he also likes the class. “I think dance is great exercise, too,” he said.

Noted Ms. Chatman, “Many schools offer dance through physical education classes, but Southland has made it a part of the fine arts. The students are exposed to the culture of the arts through music, choral and dance.”

Students’ music talents also are addressed through chorus and band and those talents will be displayed during the school’s Winter Concert Program on December 13.

Students in Deanna Rallins’ Introduction to Art are keeping sketchbooks so that they have a body of work at the end of the year and are able to see how they have developed. Students work with a variety of media in the class and a guest artist has visited with them to discuss his work. A Southland College Prep Art Exhibit is planned in May at the Matteson Public Library.

Cross country, golf at University Park Golf Club, and tennis at Park Forest Tennis and Health Club were the fall sports available to the students. Bowling and chess are under way now. “The cross country team did very well for such a young group,” said Dan Higgins, physical education teacher and track and field coach. Indeed, the boys’ cross country team won a second place trophy in the George Washington High School Invitational in Chicago. Next year Southland will add volleyball as a competitive sport. Intramural basketball also will be added.