The InZone Project Puts Students on Track to Receive a Quality Education While Living In a Safe Space

In the Zone, a film that made its debut in New Zealand last year recently had its U.S. premiere screening in Chicago. The story is about Chicago westside native Terrance Wallace’s inspiring mission to help disadvantaged youth in Chicago, and New Zealand get into top schools and place them in safe living environments while becoming their legal guardian.

As a youth, Wallace experienced being bused out of Zone and into another world to attend a Northside high school. Going back and forth between extreme opposite neighborhoods, he witnessed a noticeable difference in behavior and academic performance in youth who had access to specific opportunities and resources. This experience inspired him to develop the concept for the InZone Project, which he founded ten years ago. The program’s philosophy is that “students perform at their best if they live in a supportive community and home environment that also offers access to quality education,” according to Wallace. Students also benefit from in-home access to tutoring, mentoring, leadership development, entrepreneurship training, sports activities, and life skills development.

The journey began in New Zealand, where Wallace confronted educational and racial zoning issues that negatively impacted disadvantaged youth of the indigenous Māori and Pasifika tribes. Parents were willing to surrender legal guardianship to allow their children to have a better life. Wallace successfully opened and operated three homes in affluent neighborhoods in the Epsom, Auckland suburb of New Zealand and helped boys and girls ages 12 to 17 attend prestigious schools. Over 100 students graduated from the program. Some students have attended Berkeley University, Auckland University, and other institutions of higher education.

Violence, a lack of parental guidance, and the absence of educational resources are factors that make learning in school much more difficult. To address the situation, Wallace returned to the U.S. after seven years in New Zealand to open a home in Wauconda, Illinois. Ten young boys from Chicago’s North Lawndale and Englewood neighborhoods reside in the house and are on track to graduate from Wauconda High School in a few years.

Wallace joined film director Robyn Paterson for a post-screening discussion. Paterson, a New Zealand resident, followed Wallace for one year before they returned to the U.S. to continue filming. Born and raised in the South African country of Zimbabwe, apartheid was central to her existence due to her parent’s involvement in the struggle for equality. Her upbringing made her sensitive to the issues of segregation and institutionalized racism. After coming across an article about Wallace, Paterson immediately connected with him and offered to film his journey.

Wallace said that being uprooted and sent off to an unfamiliar environment as a child and being part of a family with unique personalities helped him develop the ability to co-exist with a diverse group of people. “My motivation was about creating a pathway to building a bridge where we can all work together,” said Wallace.

The InZone Project model has caught on internationally, and Wallace has received requests to open homes in Fiji, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Michigan, St. Louis, Ohio, and Miami. In August 2020, Wallace expects to open another home in Barrington, Illinois, amid conflict with the city around residing in the house with students. He would also like to develop an exchange program for students in the U.S. and New Zealand to expose them to other cultures.

At times, Wallace felt vulnerable about allowing someone to peer into his personal life. Still, he believes it was necessary to hold himself accountable and make sure he was staying on task. He would like to transform The InZone Project into a social enterprise to improve its financial wellbeing, and he plans to establish an endowment fund to sustain the project for years to come.

Paterson said that it was vital for her to be conscious of vulnerability while filming. She expressed gratitude for those who trusted her enough to let her into their private world.

For future screening dates or to host a screening, go to https://inthezonefilm.com. To contribute to or be a part of the InZone Project, go to https://inzoneproject.org.

Donna Montgomery, Contributing Writer

Comments

From the Web