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Chicago Principal Stands Out as Champion For Students Caught in Gang Culture

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

When CNN’s new eight-episode docuseries “Chicagoland” premiered earlier this month, one thing was clear almost immediately: its brightest-shining star was not who many anticipated it would be.

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s face is in the foreground of ads cropping up on the sides of buses, on billboards and in between the cable news channel’s segments, the individual immediately to his left — Liz Dozier, principal of Fenger Academy, a public high school in Chicago’s South Side Roseland neighborhood — has emerged as the show’s most compelling personality.

To describe Dozier’s job as “challenging” would be a massive understatement. Just over two weeks after she took the helm at Fenger in the fall of 2009, the school gained international media coverage when student Derrion Albert was killed by rival gangs of fellow students in a brutal beating captured on cellphone video.

Four years later, Fenger — located in one of the 10 Chicago neighborhoods most prone to quality-of-life crimes and surrounded by high-poverty areas that also struggle with violence — is back in the spotlight. Dozier is helping tell a different story about the school as the world, again, watches.

Dozier told HuffPost in a recent interview that the decision to participate in “Chicagoland” was a fairly straightforward one that could help viewers better understand the obstacles of educating students in an environment like Fenger, where 92 percent of the student population is low-income and 31 percent are classified as homeless.

“I thought it would be good for people to have that insiders’ view and see the work that is happening not just at our school, but the work happening at some of our schools across the city,” the 36-year-old principal said.

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