Whitney M. Young Magnet High School (commonly known simply as Whitney Young) is a public 4–year magnet high school located in the Near West Side neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Young is operated by the Chicago Public Schools district. Whitney Young opened on September 3, 1975 as the city's first public magnet high school. The school consistently scores among the top high schools in the U.S. state of Illinois. In 2009, Whitney was accorded the Blue Ribbon Award. Admission to Whitney Young is granted based on entrance exam performance, standardized test scores, and elementary school grades, and is open to all residents of Chicago. The school was named after Whitney Moore Young Jr., a prominent civil rights leader.
Plans for a public magnet school on Chicago's Near West Side began in 1970. A proposal called for a high school to be built at 211 S. Laflin on an empty lot burned out during the riots following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968. The school opened on September 3, 1975, as a selective enrollment school under the school's first principal, Bernarr E. Dawson. The founding teachers developed and planned the initial curriculum and policies for the school: Joe Korner (English), Jory Chelin (Math), Melanie Wojtulewicz (Science), Larry Minkoff (Social Studies), Roger Stewart (Tech), Sandra McKinley (Librarian), and Dr. William Marshall (Hearing Impaired). The Principal's Secretary was Lillian O'Neill. They met for many months unpaid in the unused John Phillips Sousa School Building while the Whitney Young facility was being constructed.
The Whitney Young High School Math Team competes in several local and national competitions, including the City of Chicago Math League, the North Suburban Math League, the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics competition, the American Mathematics Competitions, and the Mandelbrot Competition. They won the 2013 4AA Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) State Championship.
The Academic Decathlon team has won many city and state titles and has finished as high as second place in the nation. At the 1995 Illinois State Championship, Whitney Young was outscored by the team from Steinmetz High School, though it was later revealed that Steinmetz had obtained a copy of the test in advance. The Steinmetz team was stripped of the title and it was awarded to Whitney Young. This was dramatized in the HBO film Cheaters.
A two-student debate team from Whitney Young won the National Forensics League National Speech and Debate Tournament in policy debate in 2010, becoming the first team from an urban debate league to achieve a national championship. Whitney Young also won the NAUDL Chase Urban Debate National Championship in 2010.
Whitney Young has 52 athletic teams of 12 different sports. The boys' basketball team won IHSA state championships in 1998, 2009, 2014 and 2017. The girls' basketball team won the state championship in 2008, 2012 and 2014.
The Whitney Young Streaming Radio Station, known as WY Stream, was started on December 9, 2004 to showcase the achievements of students and staff. Stream TV was added in 2006, and includes shows about the school, as well as news clips and internal features. The Whitney Young theater company ("The Young Company") has performed such works as Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Beethoven's Last Night, Moulin Rouge!, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and West Side Story.
In 1996, several students worked to organize the student body and find faculty and administration support for the Gay Pride Club. One of the organization's founders later became a member of the Chicago School Board. Also, students were inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. The Whitney Young Chess Team won the IHSA state championship in 2010-2011, 2012-2013, 2013–2014, and 2015-2016.
The Whitney Young Academic Center is an accelerated program for seventh and eighth graders. Seventh and eighth graders are immersed in an intense high school experience, taking courses for high school credit. Classes include Honors Algebra I and Honors Environmental Science in seventh grade, and Honors Geometry, Honors Survey of Literature, Honors World History and Honors Biology in eighth grade. In addition, students are allowed to select up to two elective classes each year. There are many extracurricular programs for the students who attend the Academic Center, including basketball, cross country, track and math team.
In September 2009, Whitney Young principal Joyce Kenner and Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott were called to testify before a federal grand jury investigating how students were chosen for admission to Chicago's elite public schools. According to a July 21, 2009, subpoena released by school officials, prosecutors sought the names of students who applied to be among a select group of students hand-picked by principals of schools. The subpoena also sought e-mails and other correspondence with "public officials" about applicants. Two alderman acknowledged that they asked Kenner for help securing admission to the school for relatives and constituents.
In 2011, the Chicago Public Schools Inspector General recommended that selective enrollment schools reevaluate their use of "principal picks". Several political figures had used their influence to secure their children's admission into schools like Young. Kenner responded that she had used her principal picks on a wide range of students, and that only one of those students in 16 years had failed to graduate.