March 11, 2019 Blog

A fulfilling fellowship: Q&A with Fund Summer Fellow Sal Navarro

Sal Navarro, The Fund’s 2018 Summer Fellow, is a former CPS student. He spent three months interviewing principals and sharing their powerful leadership stories. We wanted to turn the tables. The Fund sat down with Sal and Principal Allison Tingwall, who now oversees Curie High School (Sal’s old stomping ground), to hear more about his own story.

The Fund: What was your experience growing up in Chicago? And your experience in education?

Sal Navarro: I went to James Shields Elementary in Brighton Park and to Curie High School in Archer Heights because of its competitive I.B. program. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by a lot of violence in Brighton Park. I went on to pursue my bachelor’s degree at Augustana College, which was very different from my K-12 education. Being able to carry my community and experiences in college was amazing because it was an opportunity to educate and learn from others in the same space.

The Fund: What was your experience at Curie High School like?

Sal Navarro: It was very rigorous. The I.B. program is no joke at Curie. It was awesome to be exposed to that level of difficulty because I was prepared for college. That shows me the strength of the program; it not only gets students into college, but also keeps them there. The culture was also very different when I was a student. It was intimidating. There was no relationship between the administration and the students. It was a top-down traditional model. My classmates and I had to find our own support system among one another and our teachers. It would have been awesome to have a relationship with those adults who looked after us every day.

Principal Allison Tingwall: You mentioned earlier your exposure to violence growing up. If you had a younger sibling coming to Curie, what would you want me to know about their experiences before they walked through the door?

Sal Navarro: You should know to support them in every way. Violence is a very particular past experience that varies from person to person. However, introducing consistency in what is expected of students would be beneficial because their background makes them more at-risk and vulnerable than others. It allows for them to be guided to the right path and guide themselves to fulfill a vision that is put forth by those leading their education.

Principal Tingwall: You said you felt prepared for college. But what were those things that you weren’t prepared for?

Sal Navarro: The social environment was challenging. The social part of college is something you have to experience for yourself. Maneuvering through college as a minority student was something I wasn’t ready for because it wasn’t my norm. I had to quickly adapt and become comfortable in the new space by making myself open to others around me in hopes they’d do the same.

The Fund: How has your experience at The Fund influenced your career goals?

Sal Navarro: I ultimately want to work in public relations. This experience has allowed me to grow as a writer and be able practice those skills within the field. I have also been given the opportunity to do fulfilling work that uplifts stories of leaders in CPS as a former CPS student myself. It’s wholesome to learn about the unnoticed work of principals in Chicago that trickles down to my current and future success.