The Robert Taylor Homes in Bronzeville were at one point the largest public housing development in the country. As many as 27,000 families lived in the buildings, which were demolished in the late 1990s. But even amid the chaos that characterized the last decades of the Robert Taylor Homes, an ambitious early education program helped the children who lived there flourish.
“We decided that we’re going to bring the services where the people are,” said Portia Kennel of the school she co-founded. “We planted ourselves inside the same buildings where the families lived — we were in Robert Taylor Homes.”
The new documentary “Tomorrow’s Hope” tells the story of that program, now known as Educare, as it got its start in incredibly difficult circumstances.
“The housing authority decided that the public housing Robert Taylor Homes would be torn down,” Kennel said. “And what happened was it ignited — besides being a disruption to the children and families and the services — it ignited as they tore down the buildings a crime and drug war. Nobody seemed to care about what was happening to this community in which all of the resources that one would naturally expect in a community to be available were being shut down. I think we were the last organization standing through the destruction of the buildings, and we reemerged, as I say, rose up out of the ashes on the other side of the building and created Educare School.”
The film reunites three present-day high school seniors who started out in the Educare preschool’s first-ever class, as well as gets the inside scoop from Kennel and others who helped establish Educare.
“I think when you look at ‘Tomorrow’s Hope,’ you’ll see the resilience and the capacity of children and families in such dire situations to overcome, through participating in educational experience with a staff of teachers and others that said to them, ‘You matter. I don’t care what’s going on in this community, you matter and we’re going to work with you. We’re not going to give up on you,’” Kennel said.
“Tomorrow’s Hope” will be released digitally Tuesday.