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Principal Aponte shares news

Dear South High Faithful: 

You may know, I moved with my family to the midwest as a very young child. The schools I attended were not dynamic places. They were far removed from the exhilaration I knew running barefoot on dirt floors, playing tag in Puerto Rico.
 
In the states, it was a struggle to read and write English. The chill I experienced in the classroom wasn’t just one of winter, but a year-round existence with students who didn’t look like me or talk to me. Still, I was fortunate to find success in sports and to encounter a special teacher, Mrs. Cummings, who made me feel welcome in third grade. That encouragement sent me on my way. 
 
I went on to graduate college, however, I did so without a hint of the professional pathway I might take. My first job was with the Chicago Youth Centers, as a group leader in the Cabrini Green housing projects. It was a humbling experience, taking kids from extreme poverty out on camping trips, instilling them with leadership skills. It was there, however, that a mentor told me I had a calling and a gift working with youth. And there it was, again, life-changing encouragement.
 
I embraced those words and took them with me into teaching, and in my career as an administrator—34 years in all—never forgetting that the kids who might not be making it in the classroom, might only need an experience bigger than the classroom—a garden to nurture, a trip to the Black Hills, advanced learning, music, theater and art—meaningful experiences out in the community, as well as in-school student teach-ins, or one-on-one timeouts with someone like me, who knows what isolation feels like. 
 
Let’s be clear, credit for these ideas, was never mine. It belongs to the staff, teachers and students who conceived of them. But in me, they had an advocate in the kid I once was, who knew how much innovative learning would mean to a student who doesn't know English, or a student who craves something bigger in their curriculum, or who comes alive on the field and on the stage, and the value of extending learning beyond classroom walls.
 
It’s been an honor to work alongside hard-working teachers and to know brilliant student minds who collaborate to break the mold when it comes to teaching and learning; not to mention, a parent and neighborhood community, who took on the challenge of taking a 20-year plan for the South High field renovation, seemingly stuck in a time warp, and making it happen in two years! 
 
Serving students and colleagues at South High puts me in an enviable position among my cohorts. I consider this the pinnacle of my career, and I couldn’t be prouder. I do expect there is more out there for me after this, my final semester with MPS. But I leave knowing I’ve reached heights the little kid from Puerto Rico never knew existed, and that the young college kid couldn’t imagine either. Thank you, beyond words, for the privilege of being your principal. 
 
Ray Aponte
 
 
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Principal Aponte at play in Puerto Rico (Painting hangs in a hallway of MPS Jefferson)