Running to Raise Awareness for Technology Curriculum at Disadvantaged CPS Schools

By Tina Jenkins Bell 
BAPA School Liaison 

In his inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961President John F. Kennedy called Americans to action for their own and others’ greater good with these words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  

Michael Mancini, an English teacher, reading specialist, and football coach at Chicago Public School (CPS) Wendell Phillips Academy in Bronzevillerecently asked himself a similar question. How could he best help his students by reversing a deficit that could limit their college and career choices and possibly impact their abilities to support themselves and their families in the future? 

“I’d read a quote by an artificial intelligence expert Kai-Fu Lee who stated 40% of jobs will be lost to automation in 15 years. I worried that people like my students would be chewed up and left in the dust, particularly because Phillips currently has no computer science curriculum,” Mancini said.  

With this deficit spurring him to action, Mancini talked to Phillips Academy Principal Matthew G. Sullivan and staff to figure out how the school might best integrate a computer science department that offers instruction in various facets of technology, including coding, robotics, and artificial intelligence.  

Mancini, a former Boston resident, decided to run in the Boston Marathon to raise awareness for the need for technology instruction at Phillips. He also started a GoFundMe page to raise $250,000 to cover the salary and benefits for a technology instructor for two years as well as the costs for building a robotics lab. Since Oct. 1, $4800 has been raised. The minimum donation is $5. 

Mancini, who lives in Beverly/Morgan Park with his wife and two young daughters, hopes his ongoing efforts to train for the Boston Marathon, set for Apr. 19, 2021, will keep the need for technology instruction at Phillips in the forefront. 

“Distance running is not my strong suit. Prior to this, I was a power lifter and a sprinter at best, never a long-distance runner,” Mancini said. Mancini, who currently weighs about 260 pounds, once weighed 474 pounds. He said despite the challenges of his size and his body being more that of a “lifter” than a runner, he is committed to seeing this goal become a reality. 

“It’s been a challenge to create a buzz about this,” he said, “but hopefully people will see me doing this crazy thing for a good cause.”  

To train, Mancini has reached out Running Excels,10328 S. Western, for guidance. 

“I stopped by Running Excels to get my gait tested and get guidance on nutrition, running, and equipment,” Mancini said. 

Wendell Phillips Academy High School was the alma mater for Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke and Gwendolyn Brooks. For more information, contact Mancini, mmancini75@yahoo.com. To make a donation, visit gofundme.com/f/marathon-for-Phillips.