ITAV Elevates Mission with Historic Acquisition of Hales in Bronzeville

A new chapter in education is unfolding in Bronzeville on Chicago’s South Side with the acquisition of a well-known landmark. It Takes a Village Family of Schools recently acquired the old Hales Franciscan High School building at 49th and Cottage Grove. It is a significant step for the two-decade-old organization that promotes social justice education and advocacy. 

The Hales campus carries profound meaning in Chicago, particularly for its enduring legacy as an institution dedicated to educating Black males and producing influential alums. 

In an interview with The Chicago Defender, ITAV CEO Nakisha Hobbs highlighted that reputation and explained that the Bronzeville site is perfect for ITAV to continue the spirit of excellence in Black education. 

The move is advantageous because it coincides with a burgeoning social, cultural and economic development renaissance in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, famously touted as the Black metropolis. 

Hobbs mentioned the prospective opening of a new theater in the community, along with the development of a new Northwestern Memorial Hospital near the old Hales building on Cottage Grove and the acclaimed Bronzeville Winery restaurant, which is also down the street. 

“The Black community is on a mission to return Bronzeville to its traditional greatness, and It Takes a Village wants to be a part of that,” Hobbs explained.

In November, ITAV announced that it secured $12 million in capital from IFF and the Chicago Community Loan Fund to acquire and renovate the 9.1-acre Hales campus, including the 100,000-square-foot building. 

With this funding, ITAV plans to consolidate its programs at a single location and undergo a three-phase implementation. The first phase will bring the Village Leadership Academy, ITAV’s social justice elementary school for kindergarten through 8th grade, to Bronzeville, accommodating 300 students by Fall 2024. 

The following two phases include adding 150 early childhood education slots and 220 high school seats, fulfilling the organization’s strategic goal of providing a comprehensive “birth-to-career pathway” for its enrollees.

Educating the Black and Brown Leaders of The Future


ITAV has a 20-year history of educating Black and Brown youth in Chicago, employing a curriculum centered around leadership development. 

The organization started with a focus on early childhood education, operating six high-performing early childhood centers in the city. 

Over the years, the program expanded to K-8, with students actively participating in community campaigns for change.

“We believe that we’re going to be setting up or establishing a system for ongoing positive development in that community,” Hobbs said. The vision is to create a pathway for young people from infancy to high school, positively impacting Bronzeville and beyond.

When asked about ITAV’s successes, Nakisha Hobbs highlighted her students’ love for learning. With the Village Leadership Academy, an extended-day program, 90% of its students choose to stay beyond regular school hours. Academically, Hobbs said, students consistently perform above grade level, with high acceptance rates into selective enrollment and private schools.

ITAV’s students are not just academically accomplished; they are also active in their communities. 

One of the most notable instances occurred in 2020 when students successfully lobbied the Chicago Park District to change the name of Stephen A. Douglas Park, the Illinois Senator who profited off slavery, to Douglass (Anna and Frederick) Park after the famed abolitionists. 

“They were the only young people in the country ever to accomplish anything like that, and it was the first time in Chicago history that has been done,” Hobbs said, “And so our young people are movers and shakers in their own communities. They are already leaders.”

Over the past 12 years, 300 ITAV students have studied and traveled to international destinations and have had sessions with policymakers and global leaders in countries like Cuba, Brazil and South Africa. In the process, they learned about the lives of Black and Brown people worldwide, not just in their own backyards. 

Hobbs also cites the successes of former ITAV students on full-ride scholarships to colleges such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She touts more alums who attend prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Howard and Spelman. 

According to Hobbs, former students remain connected to ITAV, whether in Chicago or other states.

“I’m really happy, I mean, profoundly happy by what we’ve been able to accomplish with our young people,” she said. 

The Journey to the Bronzeville Campus

The decision to acquire the Hales property was not taken lightly. That journey began in late 2020 when ITAV was approached about the campus. Despite facing competition from other Black-run charter schools, ITAV withdrew to avoid a bidding war. In 2022, the opportunity to purchase the building resurfaced, aligning with ITAV’s expansion goal.

“In January of [2023[,” said Hobbs, “We started the process of acquiring a property and eventually closed on it in August.”

The Bronzeville campus will see renovations totaling $2 million, with plans for a high school, a community center, and an early childhood education learning center. ITAV aims to enroll 300-320 K-8 students for the Fall of 2024 and is actively engaging with the Bronzeville community for local participation.

While the Bronzeville campus will become ITAV’s flagship, the organization remains committed to operating its other sites across the city. Hobbs envisions the Bronzeville campus attracting students nationally and internationally, solidifying its place as a beacon of Black education.

As ITAV embarks on this transformative journey, community engagement is critical, she said, as it seeks partners for program operations, philanthropy, and community involvement. 

With its roots in Bronzeville and branches reaching far beyond, It Takes a Village Family of Schools is poised to be a catalyst for positive change, shaping the future leaders of tomorrow.

For More Information

ITAV will award 50 Community Access Scholarships for the 2024-2025 academic year. These scholarships aim to make ITAV’s mission of providing diverse and equitable education a reality for students who might otherwise be unable to afford private school tuition. The scholarships will focus on fostering critical thinking and cultural appreciation, enhancing access to ITAV’s transformative education model.

For inquiries about ITAV’s Fall enrollment for the 2024-2025 school year or its Village Leadership Academy and GrassRoots Campaigns, contact or call (312) 675-0056. Financial aid is available, but spots are limited.


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