This month marks Ashanti Brooks’ 10th year as an employee at the Excel Academy of Roseland, part of the Chicago Public Schools’ Options Network. As a member of the school’s founding team, Brooks has witnessed Excel Roseland’s growth and impact on students. Her role and reach as school clerk extends far beyond the school day. A familiar face known by students and staff, Brooks says the impact she makes on young people keeps her motivated year after year. It also keeps her answering texts from students after hours and ensuring she is a continuous source of support.

A decade into her career with Excel Academy, Brooks has worn many hats and today she supports all Chicago campuses with recruitment efforts. “Loving to make an impact has allowed me to be a great recruiter.” She added that she never expected to work at Excel for 10 years. “At first it was an opportunity to provide for my children,” said Brooks. “I never anticipated it would evolve and have such an impact on my life.”

Kevin Sweetland, regional director of the Excel Academies and SAFE Achieve Academy in Chicago, said that Brooks is a tremendous asset.

“Ashanti is committed to serving the students of Excel Academies,” said Sweetland. “She brings new and innovative ideas to the table and continues demonstrating exceptional leadership skills leading multiple-campus projects. “We’re lucky to have her as our colleague and as a familiar and supportive team member for our students.”

Brooks grew up in a single-parent household in Chicago and was a star athlete in high school with basketball scholarships. A pregnancy at 17 changed the course of her life but that experience helps her relate to the adversity Excel students face. “Knowing that college was a big hurdle for me to try and go to class, and be a mom. It was too much. I can understand the plight of some of our young ladies,” she said. “But we can do it. All the excuses are nothing. I constantly tell young people to get this free education.”

Brooks lights up when she describes the bonds she forms with students. “Kids flock to me. People call me mama. I even almost delivered the baby of one of our students,” said Brooks, who added that her photographic memory helps her remember every single Excel student by name.

“It was just a job and now it is so much more. This place has allowed me to grow,” said Brooks, who is currently pursuing her college degree. “I don’t do this job just for a check – I truly want better for the kids we serve.”

The most rewarding part of her job is seeing kids who were counted out succeed. She said that the Excel environment and staff help take students from a
negative statistic and turn them into young adults with bright futures ahead of them.

The Excel Academy of Roseland is an accelerated school-of-choice for students, ages 15-21 years old, who have fallen behind in their studies. Students can earn up to five credits per semester and 10 credits per year, allowing them to graduate in two and a half years or less.