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District 215 students can earn college credits from respected universities in new program

By Quinton R. Arthur

LANSING, Ill. (February 3, 2022) – For high school students in underserved communities, the cost of college discourages many from pursuing quality education after high school. A new partnership between Thornton Fractional School District 215 and the National Education Equity Lab is giving District 215 students the opportunity to receive free class credits from prestigious universities.

According to its website, The National Education Equity Lab (NEEL) facilitates collaboration between high schools, universities, and nonprofits. Through this program, students can earn college credits from different universities including Harvard, Cornell, Howard, Arizona State, University of Connecticut, and Yale.

First class

During the fall 2021 semester, students were able to explore rhymes in the city in the inaugural course, “Poetry in America: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop.” Taught by Dr. Elisa New, Professor at Harvard University, students earned 3 credits at Arizona State University.

The course examined poets from the past, such as Walt Whitman, to the present, such as Nas.

“Much of the greatest poetry written in the United States draws inspiration from the city,” said Dr. New in a promotional video for the course.

Each course is co-taught by a university professor and a local teacher. TF North English teacher Carrie Hood and TF South English teacher Julie Kelly co-taught the poetry course at their respective schools. Eight students at TF South earned some of the top scores of all schools nationwide participating in the course.

“The NEEL experience has been enriching and rewarding to see our students engage in the next step of their futures. Each of them rose to the challenges in sophisticated thinking and writing as well the adjustments to their time management. The growth sets each of these students up for a smooth transition to university life,” said Kelly in a D215 press release.

Spring semester class

For the spring 2022 semester, TF South students will get to learn about principles of criminal justice from Howard University. The course will be taught by Howard professor Dr. Bahiyyah Muhammad and TFS social studies teacher Eric Siemann.

On January 21, students had a criminal justice discussion with two people from their community. Lansing police chief Al Phillips and school resource officer Kiara Bogan answered questions and shared information with the class.

The National Education Equity Lab will continue to evaluate and improve the program keeping educational equity will be at the forefront.

To learn more about NEEL, visit


Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Northern Illinois University and his Master of Science in Journalism from Roosevelt University. In addition to reporting for The Lansing Journal and the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle, he volunteers with 100 Black Men of Chicago, Metropolitan Board of the Chicago Urban League, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Burst Into Books, and various other organizations. A south suburban resident since 2004, Quinton is passionate about telling the unsung stories of the community.