Getting to know NOTICE, DREAM


Niles North's yearbook team

DREAM takes a group photo for the school’s yearbook

Niles North’s Black students should consider joining either NOTICE or DREAM. NOTICE, a club geared toward our community’s Black men, and DREAM, a club dedicated to Black women, both work together hand-in-hand to uplift and protect our Black student population. I sat down with Special Education paraprofessional and NOTICE sponsor John Bias and Director of Student Activities Caroline Benjamin in order to get the full truth about these activities.

The beginning of NOTICE

In the beginning, NOTICE, a group dedicated to young men of color to establish focus, perseverance, manhood, and academic excellence at Niles North High School was a start to equality. In around 2012, Niles North High School was in need of some type of African American club or group to help create a community among its young African American male population. Black Student Union was established, but centered its focus on all students of color, not independently targeting the needs of African American males in the school.

District 219, which encompasses Niles West, Niles Central, and Niles North high schools, had around this time been under fire with accusations of being a racist place for education. The need for a space for African American males to bond, express any frustrations and learn the pillars of manhood, was long overdue.

Tony Bradburn, the Director of Humanities at the time, and Keith Robinson, the assistant principal at the time, were at the forefront of assembling the pillars. The two men gathered the majority of the African American male staff at Niles North including administrators, teachers, and paraprofessionals, to provide leadership and guidance for males that identified as Black or Latino. Mr. Bradburn and Robinson were successful with the plan. They created a safe space for Black and Latino students to meet during lunch periods while providing food, conversation, and academic concern.

For a while, the meetings were going according to plan with raised grades and implementation of a new focus among the students who participated. But as time passed, Bias said, “students started using the space as a place to hang out and receive free food, not using the time and space to understand the principles of manhood or working at achieving academic excellence.” Around the time of the disarray and the departing of some founding pillars, NOTICE was in need of new leadership and direction. In a new era of diversity, a shift of titles and responsibilities clouded Niles North High School. A new assistant principal assumes office and he believes that NOTICE needed a new direction. A few weeks crumbled by without any meetings.

A new direction

John Bias, a special education paraprofessional with a knack, knowledge, and love of African American History, would be the new pillar and direction of NOTICE. He transferred over from Niles West High School and was a part of NOTICE the last year before the disarray started. The first thing Mr. Bias wanted to do is to make NOTICE stood for something. He made the title an acronym. NOTICE now stands for “Nurturing Our True Identity Commanding Equality,” when before it was just a title. He wanted to put meaning behind each letter so the students would grasp a better understanding of what the club stands for. The meetings were different and the approach was meaningful.

Bias started having meetings at 6:45 in the morning and made the meetings mandatory. He wanted to educate and stimulate the minds of the members before the beginning of their school day. The young men would complain about how early the meetings were, but Mr. Bias would educate them on how some jobs start at an early time and that was non-negotiable. Bias provided quotes, a growth mindset, and a stern focus for the members, so if they got off track during the day, the motivational preschool day session would provide guidance to persevere. It was time for NOTICE to deliver to the Niles North community a snippet of greatness and creative balance. “The Who Am I Initiative,” was born.

Bias wanted to share the spotlight with not only the school’s young men but also the community to see the strength of the young African American women at Niles North, so he asked the women of “DREAM” to participate in the program. The “Who Am I Initiative” is a program that highlights prominent African Americans who fought and spared their lives for freedom and justice. These individuals stand for racial equity, equality, anti-slavery social justice, and the rights of humanity. The program emphasized the importance of African American leaders, abolitionists, and civil rights activists.  Outside of the “Who Am I Initiative,” the young men presented roses to all the women teachers that worked at Niles North as they walked into the building to show appreciation. Previous members of NOTICE have graduated from Niles North and have pursued continuing their education in colleges and universities across the world.


The development of DREAM

In 2016, Director of Equity Corrie Wallace told Director of Student Activities Caroline Benjamin, she wanted to support an extracurricular club for Black girls surrounding empowerment and leadership.

Prior to DREAM, there was “Young Women Making Change” or “Girl’s Group” led by Guidance Counselor Kia Pickett. The program helped the Black and Brown girls at North tackle issues such as body image, self-concept, and racism. There was also a service project component. The club was after school, but Wallace wanted to create a group that was held during the day. She noticed that there was a growing Black community and wondered how she could support them in a way that was intentional and uplifting. In 2017, Dr. Marla Issac was hired as a Science Paraprofessional and reached out about her interest in sponsoring DREAM. She then started DREAM in collaboration with Student Activities.

She led DREAM for a couple of years before she transferred to Evanston Township. From the time Issac sponsored DREAM to today, we have had sponsors La Joyce Morales, Jonda Cherry, and now, April Stallworth. 

April Stallworth has made it consistent, works with the students on addressing their needs on a weekly basis, they do things outside of the school day (for example, DREAM hosted the Vision Board Brunch Party), and participated in the Black History Month assembly. 

“Stallworth is a mentor,” She focuses on their self-development, growth, thinking, and future plans, advocating on their behalf.”

Examples of some of the activities that take place in DREAM include vision board writing, smart goal writing, natural haircare, Black women in technology, and journaling.

DREAM is so important; it has really helped our Black female community find a way to feel a part of the school community. Prior to this group, Benjamin recalls having students come up to her and admit that they felt out of place. This club has allowed these women the space to build friendships and connections, giving our Black females the space to feel seen, heard, and uplifted. It is an organic space for students to be themselves.