Crosstown High is an XQ Finalist!

In November 2015, a group of Memphis students, parents, educators, and community members collaborated on an application to the XQ Super School Project on behalf of Crosstown High. We are thrilled to announce that we have made it to the round of finalists! From an initial pool of more than 700 applicants, Crosstown High is in the final fifty candidates vying for one of at least five $10 million prizes. In celebration, we are kicking off the Twelve Days of XTH by releasing portions of our XQ application every day between now and August 1. The content of this work is the foundation on which we will continue to build the high school, but we’ll need your help in the coming months to shape it into the school that Memphis students need and deserve.

The Memphis XQ Team

“Ok, this is a little crazy, but hear me out for a second….”

Crazy or not, the people who received that first email — parents, students, educators, business executives, philanthropists, workforce developers, youth workers and more — responded. A week later, a diverse group of more than two dozen gathered to hear how the  XQ Super School Project — an open contest to design the “high school of the future” — might help us create a renaissance in education at Crosstown Concourse.

But let’s back up.

Crosstown Concourse itself started as kind of a crazy idea by the local businessman who owned the building and his university professor pal and a local artist. Together, the group founded Crosstown Arts, which hosted a series of competitions to engage our community around a vision for the renaissance of the hulking building in our city center.

But let’s back up even further.

Because the inspiration for Crosstown Concourse actually came from the Renaissance (capital “R”). In 13th century Florence, a similarly diverse group, also made up of a businessman, an academic, and an artist initiated a competition to design a covering for the city’s massive cathedral — open for fifty years to the elements because no one could figure out how to design its enormous dome. The community responded with a solution and architecture took a leap forward.

The legacy of renaissance, or rebirth, through the process of discovery, design and development by a team of concerned citizens is strong at Crosstown Concourse and has carried through into the creation of Crosstown High. The XQ application asked us to go through a process with three distinct phases — Discover, Design and Develop — to create a school that would meet the needs of our future students and community.

The Memphis XQ team (partially pictured here) often met at CoWork Memphis to work on our application for Crosstown High. (Photo credit: Ethan Fowler)

The Memphis XQ team (partially pictured here) often met at CoWork Memphis to work on our application for Crosstown High. (Photo credit: Ethan Fowler)

In the Discover phase we asked XQ team members — ultimately numbering upwards of sixty people — to fan out into the community. They interviewed or surveyed almost 300 students, educators, youth developers, and business leaders. The researchers among us spent countless hours scouring the web for the latest findings on how young people learn best and where it was already happening, in Memphis and elsewhere.

In the Design phase we looked for patterns in the data, created prototypes and tested them with local young people, some of whom were XQ team members themselves. This feedback was incorporated into our design iterations until we arrived at a cohesive vision for a school that would meet our unique needs.

After learning in April that we’d moved on to the semi-final round, we started in on the the Develop phase of the XQ application, putting flesh on the bones of our school design. We worked with both the original XQ team and others brought on to help in the areas of school design, charter application writing, public strategy, and community engagement.

The team that is working on creating Crosstown High is simultaneously professional and passionate. We were inspired by the renaissance of both a magnificent cathedral and a darkened warehouse to create a renaissance in education in Memphis, Tennessee.

A sampling of the attachments to our XQ application (click to play):

The CXH Team Thanks XQ!

TEDx talk by Crosstown Concourse Co-Leader Todd Richardson on the origins of Crosstown Concourse

TEDx talk by Crosstown Concourse Co-Leader Todd Richardson on the origins of Crosstown Concourse

Note: Some XQ application elements have been lightly edited for clarity or brevity.

Loaded For Bear