The mission of the Sue Duncan Children’s Center is to transform the lives of children by nurturing their academic, athletic, and artistic growth. The Center builds safe, supportive communities that strengthen families and motivate children to succeed.
Established in 1961, the Sue Duncan Children’s Center is year-round after school program with an outstanding track-record for transforming the lives of children by nurturing their academic, athletic, and artistic growth. The Center has proven to be a highly effective model for youth development by implementing a curriculum that combines moral support with academic, athletic and artistic resources. We link community building with academic support by creating an environment where every person is contributing to the learning of every other person. The older children help teach, tutor and mentor the younger children. The Center builds safe, supportive communities that strengthen families and motivate children to succeed using a highly cooperative model that emulates the village it takes to raise a child.
Located on Chicago’s south side, the Center serves grades pre-K through 12, predominantly African American. It has been an oasis in a community where poverty is deeply rooted and drug abuse, teen pregnancy and gang violence are prevalent. Despite these challenges, the student success rate is phenomenal. 100% of the children who attend show remarkable progress with their grades, test scores, behavior, self-esteem, and planning for the future. Students exceed expectations and go on to make significant contributions to society as engineers, doctors, lawyers, educators, police officers, fire fighters, servicemen and women, well-known athletes, actors, and musicians, community leaders and business owners. Countless alumni from all over the country, spanning several generations, credit the Center for their success.
The Sue Duncan Children’s Center facilitates its programming inside Jackie Robinson Elementary School at 4225 S. Lake Park Avenue in the Oakland neighborhood on Chicago’s south side (Oakland is bounded by 43rd Street to the south, 35th Street to the north, Lake Shore Drive to Cottage Grove Avenue (800 E) when south of Pershing Road (3900 S), and Vincennes Avenue north of Pershing Road).
The Center rents classrooms inside Jackie Robinson and serves 120 students from over 20 other schools representing the Oakland, Kenwood, North Kenwood, Hyde Park, Woodlawn, Washington Park and Bronzeville communities. Although Jackie Robinson Elementary School is a separate entity, it is a convenient location where students, parents and educators can easily access us. Center staff is also afforded greater access to teachers and receive referrals from administration. This creates a functional triangle of communication between teachers, parents and Center staff regarding individual student progress as part of the “village” approach.
We open at 3:00 pm (earlier when area schools have shorter days), and close at 6:30 pm. When children arrive each day, they are assigned to a tutor based on what work they need to accomplish. The Center keeps a low tutor-to-student ratio of 1 tutor to no more than 5 students in a group (as opposed to Chicago Public School requiring no more than 32 kids per teacher and often climbing to as many as 40 students).
Our educational approach is framed by a Code of Ethics, and the curriculum is built around the older and younger children learning from each other. This philosophy was established in the early years when the founder implemented a “reading circle” during which the older children sat with the younger children and read to them.
While it is a priority for staff and tutors to strengthen students’ core academic skills, complete homework and get help with school projects, the Center’s educational enhancement programming goes well beyond assigned schoolwork. Through our programming, we aim to support the whole child, fostering academic achievement along with emotional and social well-being. Older elementary school students (3rd through 6th graders) participate in a group lesson/discussion, which can consist of anything from math skill-building to a conversation about social issues.
Before they leave the Center each day, all students share a hot and nutritious meal prepared by Center staff in the school kitchen, and exercise in the gymnasium through team sports and games. Within these daily activities, there is time for additional programming such as arts, music, writing workshops, guided discussions, and other enrichment activities.
- 100% of the children who attend show remarkable progress with their grades, test scores, behavior, self-esteem, and planning for the future. More than 90% improve their grades after just one semester, and students who have attended the Center for a year or more earn over twice as many A’s as they average when first enrolled.
- 100% of our 8th grade students graduate and all have gone on to high school. Many of them attend top tier public and private, college preparatory, selective enrollment Chicago schools and some earn scholarships to cover tuition when applicable. In contrast, an estimated 30% of all Chicago Public School students drop out of school after 8th grade.
- 100% of our students graduate from high school. College enrollment rates for graduating high school seniors in Chicago Public Schools average a mere 56%, based on 2010 data published on their website. In 2011, only 7.9% of all CPS 11th graders tested college ready with the graduation rate standing at 57%. The graduation rate continued to be lowest among African American students in 2011 (51.8 %), and the rate for African American male students was less than 50% (43.3 %). The Sue Duncan Children’s Center serves 99% African American students and 100% of our 12th graders have enrolled in college.