Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School
2739 W. Division
Chicago Il. 60622
Matthew Rodriguez (PACHS Director)
Veronica Crespo-Rich (Assistant Director/FLC Program Director)
Carlos De Jesus (Assistant Director/Academics & Grant Management)
Juanita Garcia (Registrar/Scheduling Issues)
Judith Diaz (Dean of Students/Student-Related Issues)
Vidia Rodriguez (Attendance Counselor)
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In the 1970s, Puerto Rican youth exhibited a shocking 70% dropout/pushout rate. Yet contrary to
dominant discourses that portrayed Puerto Rican students as lazy, slow, and culturally
unprepared for academic learning, this statistic reflected a social context of racism,
discrimination and marginalization. Moreover, classroom curriculum and the operations of
public schools were designed and delivered without considering the complex realities of Puerto
Rican youth. Feeling alienated and frustrated by this condition, many of these students “dropped
out” of school thinking that education was not for them.
In response to this bleak situation, the community organized a campaign to bring relevant
curricula in Puerto Rican history and culture to Tuley High School (prior to the establishment of
Roberto Clemente High School). Chicago’s then conservative school board refused to hear the
call for change, and out of the struggle that followed, parents, students, teachers, and activists
would unite to establish an independent school that would teach pride in Puerto Rican culture,
history and language: The Puerto Rican High School.
The school shortly after was named Rafael Cancel Miranda, in honor of imprisoned Puerto Rican
nationalist and political prisoner. Though deeply grateful, Rafael Cancel Miranda expressed
through correspondence that the school’s name should reflect the highest expression of Puerto
Rican national affirmation. As a result, the school took on its current name, Dr. Pedro Albizu
Campos Puerto Rican High School.
The naming of Pedro Albizu Campos (1891-1965) linked the school to a long history of Puerto
Rican struggle and resistance both on the island and in the Diaspora against colonial domination.
Albizu Campos – the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard – was a WWI veteran, labor
leader, President of the Nationalist Party, and political prisoner. He is widely considered a
beacon of Puerto Rican consciousness and national pride.
As the push-out rate among Puerto Ricans in the Chicago Public School system has not
improved much since the 70s, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School (PACHS) remains an
important alternative educational site. The mission of PACHS aims to “provide a quality
educational experience needed to empower students to engage in critical thinking and social
transformation, from the classroom to the Puerto Rican community, based on the philosophical
foundation of self-determination, a methodology of self-actualization and an ethics of self-
reliance.” In the spirit of the school’s founding, PACHS adopted the motto that “La educación
rompe las cadenas”-Education breaks chains.
Different from conventional schools, PACHS encourages a “family-like” environment with
intimate interaction and mentorship between students and staff, something necessary for real
learning to take place with our students. To ensure this PACHS offers the following: a small
student population of 162 students; a teacher to student ratio of 1:15; after school programs in
photography, art, skate boarding, journalism, online radio station, graphic design, theater and martial arts; and outside of class events and activities linked to the Puerto Rican community.
Other distinguishing characteristics of PACHS include: courses in Puerto Rican Studies, two
years of Spanish language, Black and Latina/o Literature, dual enrollment (college credit) classes
at the Wilbur Wright Humboldt Park Vocational Educational Center, the space for a staff
learning community with departmental planning time where teachers and staff take the time to
intellectualize their work, and community resources that can help make classroom content
meaningful for teachers and students.
At the cutting edge of pedagogical innovation, our classroom instruction replaces rote
memorization with an emphasis on developing higher order thinking skills of inquiry and
analysis, primarily through project and problem based learning. In the years to come, our
curriculum will have social ecology as a conceptual centerpiece, which stresses the
interconnectedness of people to one another, their community and world.
As an example of critical education based on social ecology, our math and science classes have
taken a close look at a recent study that found Humboldt Park to be a “Food Desert,” an area
lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. While learning their respective content area skills sets, the
students have created a community development plan that includes multiple state-of-the-art
hydroponically-based rooftop greenhouses, a conservatory, and the effective use of community
gardens in and around Paseo Boricua. All of these components contribute to the community
farmer’s market, of which the first produce will include all of the ingredients of the Puerto Rican
seasoning called sofrito.