George Washington Community High School, A Community-University Partnerships Success Story
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A meandering White River separates the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus from the neighborhoods of Stringtown, Hawthorne and Haughville that make up the community of WESCO (Westside Cooperative Organization). Al-though the river that separates the two represents a historical as well as geographic boundary, the city bridges that join the university campus with its west side neighbors are both symbolic as well as utilitarian. Rich connections that have developed between IUPUI and the Near Westside have taken years to develop and are best illustrated at the nearby George Washington Community School (GWCS). The very existence of this school is a community/university partnership achievement, a significant one according to Robert Bringle, Director of the IUPUI Center for Service and Learning and professor of psychology. “When we started working with the WESCO community and they said they wanted to reopen their closed high school, we thought it was a rather remote possibility,” Bringle explained. “Never underestimate the power of determined, united people. Four years later it had students in classrooms.” "e building was once home to George Washing-ton High School. "e high school had nearly 70 years of rich tradition that included multiple athletic milestones (half a dozen alumni ABA and NBA players among them) and had closed in 1995. "e closure, designed to reduce costs for the financially challenged urban school district, devastated the Near Westside. However, its reputation on the athletic field had not matched with high academic achievement (e.g., 40% graduation rate) and this helped tip the scales in favor of closure. Logical financial reasons for closure did not matter to the community it most affected. Five neighborhood schools had already been closed, and the closure of the final two meant no schools were left in the three neighborhoods. No public schools remaining in WESCO galvanized a grassroots movement, under the leadership of neighborhood leader Danny Fugate, to form the Westside Education Task Force, which was focused on getting schools back into the neighborhoods.