Although starting a new school from the bottom up would seem daunting to most, Principal July Cyrwus of Lorca Elementary School was up to the challenge.
“In September 2010, I opened with 600 students, Pre-K to 8th grade. I hired every staff member and we started with ten empty classrooms,” she said. “As of June 2015, we had 925 students and that’s with every classroom filled.”
Beyond populating the school with brilliant teachers and hardworking students, July has also taken steps to pull Lorca into the 21st Century of education, drawing back to her roots in Chicago to inspire her work.
Lorca itself is located in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago. July has been principal at the school for several years now after working in the private sector and the CPS system.
This year, Lorca is part of the Breakthrough Schools Initiative, a program supported by The Fund. “The Breakthrough Schools Initiative [provides] that access to 21st Century learning skills … we are going to delve into our personalized learning model and understand how to implement and develop personalized learning,” she said. “In terms of technology, it’s using what we have now. We have laptops and chromebooks and iPads and interactive whiteboards in every classroom. It’s not just displayed; the kids are actually interacting with it as a tool to advance personal growth.”
Beyond her work with Breakthrough Schools, July finds her work as a principal truly enjoyable because of the chance to interact with her students. “This is probably the best position I have had. I worked in the private sector as an office manager, an HR administrative assistant in a hotel,” she said. “There is something about hearing children’s voices and seeing their faces. I want to be in the school every day. I love every day here.”
July said that ultimately, her inspiration for being a CPS principal is the chance to give back to the city that raised her. “I’ve been here for 20 years because I love Chicago. My own children attend school here,” she said. “I believe in this great city and this is what inspires me. Here, every day, I am giving back to my students, parents and the greater community that I serve.”