Students break the “perfection” mold at Intrinsic

Nicole Erazo lives in Chicago with her four girls. Her oldest, who is soon to be 19, just graduated from high school at Rickover Naval Academy in Chicago (congrats!). Her second daughter, Cristina who is soon to be 17, just ended her sophomore year at Intrinsic Charter School Downtown Campus. Her other two daughters are soon to be 13 and 8 and just finished 5th and 1st grade. With four students all participating in remote learning at home, the Erazo household felt pretty bustling this year, to say the least. But Nicole said that having one of her daughters, Cristina, at Intrinsic completely changed the game for her family – and the way they view school and education.

Before she started school at Intrinsic, Cristina struggled – and didn’t really enjoy – school. She always found the traditional way of learning to be stifling and frustrating. She tried out a variety of schools, where she just became more and more defeated. She was given an IEP fairly early on in her grammer schooling years, which felt more like a label than a support. By the end of 8th grade, finding a high school seemed daunting. Nicole even contemplated moving her family out of Chicago to find a school that would be a good fit for her daughter. She would do whatever it took to make sure that her daughter found a supportive school.

But before they made the move, Cristina got placed in a high school drawing for placement in a lottery, in which she won and got into Intrinsic’s new Downtown Campus. Even though this would be a trek for Cristina, they decided to give it a go anyway. The campus was new and beautiful and the staff seemed excited to work with Cristina and her family. They only planned on sending Cristina there for a year – until they figured out a more time-efficient plan. But once Cristina found her footing at Intrinsic, she soared and they never looked back.

Like all teenagers, Cristina did struggle for a bit. Her reading and math skills were truly below grade level, which made subjects like humanities and science hard. She started off earning low grades. But the Intrinsic staff saw something in Cristina that teachers had never seen before – her empathy, passion, and potential. To them, it didn’t matter that Cristina’s brain learned differently than other students. In fact, they realized just how much of an asset it was. Once they worked with Cristina and Nicole, they found Cristina’s ideal learning style, and she became unstoppable. Her grades improved and she went from D’s to A’s by the end of the year.

But let’s remember – the end of Cristina’s freshmen year marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, schools were struggling to contact families and set up a plan for learning. At Intrinsic, though, with their focus already on technology, the students were set up for success with laptops and independent learning programs as soon as schools closed. Cristina loved remote learning.

After those first remote months, she had the opportunity to attend summer enrichment programs that helped her to become a more skilled and passionate reader. She began to win awards and get recognized for the outstanding student and learner that she is. She now knows that she loves biology and the humanities.

Come sophomore year, Cristina attended every single class and every single set of office hours, hungry for more knowledge to soak up. She ended the year with over a 4.0 GPA and was just inducted into the National Honor Society. Now that the school year has come to an end, she’s waiting to see whether she will have been accepted into the Chicago Police Academy high school program. Cristina knows that she has strong empathetic and problem-solving skills. She wants to take those skills to work with children like her – kids who struggle to fit into a “perfect” mold that adults so often want to put them in. She wants to make sure that those kids have the love and support to follow their dreams, just like the teachers and staff at Intrinsic gave to her. Without Intrinsic and the teachers who made a HUGE difference in Cristina’s life, the Erazo family wouldn’t know where they would be today.