Think back to the fifth grade, the cusp of middle school. You were probably trying to figure out who you were and who you wanted to be.
Lupe Jimenez, a native of Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood on the Southwest Side, remembers feeling bored. Quiet, but fidgety—ready for more.
“Kim Day, Perspectives’ co-founder, came to my school and gave a presentation,” remembers Lupe. “It sounded like a different type of learning environment. I was excited, thinking, ‘This is where I want to go!’”
This new school-within-a-school would open in the basement of a South Side public school, quite a distance from home. It would take some risk being brand new, and also take some work to get there. Her family saw the opportunity for a more challenging curriculum, and supported her choice. “My dad even changed his work shift to get me there every morning,” Lupe recounts. “They’ve always had high expectations for my brothers and me.”
She’s more than met those expectations. Lupe graduated with the first class in 2000, has since returned to Perspectives. She was hired as Community Coordinator five years ago and has now grown into her current leadership role as the school network’s Director of External Affairs.
“Take Initiative” is the principle that resonates most with her, of the 26 in A Disciplined Life®—the schools’ education model that combines rigorous college prep with character development.
“I used to be such an introvert. I got A’s but I didn’t raise my hand in class,” Lupe describes. “At Perspectives, I started to let go of the fear, and opened up. I even got in trouble for talking too much!” She laughs. “I learned it was OK to not have the answer, OK to be wrong, OK to try again.”
There’s some serendipity in Lupe’s story, but it’s her initiative that plays the biggest role. Her initiative led to corporate internships, jobs in advertising/public relations, and her current position serving the very school she was drawn to in fifth grade—in search for something better.
“Perspectives gave me a safe place to be myself. It was cool to be smart and think about my future,” says Lupe. “The 26 principles became my language, my culture. Today, 16 years later, I get to work at the place that helped me find my voice and supported me to take initiative. It’s such a thrill.”
Lupe Jimenez is a 2000 graduate of Perspectives Charter Schools. Lupe now works as the senior director of strategic initiatives and communications at Perspectives. Alicia Alexander is the marketing manager at Perspectives Charter Schools.
This blog is a part of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' celebration of #CharterGrads.