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Lynn Carol Allen

Tri-Star Gymnastics founder and multicultural education specialist, Lynn Allen was born October 22, 1951, in Nashville, Tennessee to educators, Richard and Ruby Stephenson. After having lived in Fort Chafee, Arkansas, the family moved to Chicago where Allen attended Copernicus, Burnside, and McDade elementary schools. Playing the piano and saxophone, Allen graduated from Harlan High School in June of 1969. At the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Allen majored in secondary education and minored in physical education; in her junior year, she began taking tumbling and gymnastics classes and made the women’s gymnastics team.

Graduating in June of 1973, Allen began teaching history at Chicago’s Unity High School; at the same time, she also started a gymnastics club. Allen went on to open Lynn Allen’s Gymnastics Center on July 5, 1977, to train children between the ages of 2 and 18; over time, the program moved from a tiny storefront to a larger warehouse space on Chicago’s South Side. Allen’s gymnastics school was featured in several local newspapers, including The Chatham Citizen, the April/May 1982 issue of Dollars and Sense magazine, and on the television news magazine Two on Two with Harry Porterfield in 1981 on WBBM Channel 2 in Chicago.

In 1983, the program moved to the Oak Park, Illinois, recreation department. In September of 1988, Allen’s Tri-Star Gymnastics, Inc. was established as a completely independent non-profit organization and moved to a 7,200 square foot warehouse; five years later the program moved to Forest Park. Tri-Star Gymnastics remains a culturally diverse program that serves some 800 children per week from Oak Park, Forest Park, River Forest, Maywood, Cicero, Berwyn and throughout the Chicago Metropolitan area.

Allen later returned to college to earn her M.A. degree in school leadership in 2003, and became the Director of Multicultural Education for Oak Park School District 97 in November of 2003.

Accession Number

A2005.222

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/27/2005

Last Name

Allen

Maker Category
Middle Name

Carol

Organizations
Schools

John M. Harlan Community Academy High School

Langford Academy

Burnside Elementary Scholastic Academy

James E. McDade Elementary Classical School

Nicholas Copernicus Elementary School

University of Illinois at Chicago

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lynn

Birth City, State, Country

Nashville

HM ID

ALL02

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Dr. Richard E. Stephenson, Jr

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Disney World

Favorite Quote

Live Long And Prosper.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

10/22/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Potatoes

Short Description

Education administrator and gymnastics coach Lynn Carol Allen (1951 - ) co-founded Tri-Star Gymnastics outside of Chicago in the town of Forest Park. Tri-Star serves the gymnastics community of the near western suburbs and the City of Chicago.

Employment

Unity Catholic High School

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Turquoise

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lynn Carol Allen's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lynn Carol Allen lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lynn Carol Allen talks about her mother's ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lynn Carol Allen explains how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lynn Carol Allen recalls her childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers Chicago's Burnside Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lynn Carol Allen recalls becoming interested in history

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lynn Carol Allen describes the neighborhood of Chatham in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers her childhood friend, Charlotte Thuston

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lynn Carol Allen recalls the community of Chatham in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her activities as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lynn Carol Allen describes Chicago's John Marshall Harlan High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers the band at Chicago's John Marshall Harlan High School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her political engagement as a girl

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lynn Carol Allen recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lynn Carol Allen explains why she wore her hair natural

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers teaching at Chicago's Unity Catholic High School

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers deciding to attend University of Illinois at Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lynn Carol Allen talks about pop culture from her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lynn Carol Allen compares the Black Panther Party to the Black Muslims

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lynn Carol Allen describes the social atmosphere at University of Illinois at Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her interest in African American history

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers learning gymnastics

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers opening Lynn Allen's Gymnastics Center

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lynn Carol Allen recalls negative assumptions about the South Side of Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers moving her gym to Oak Park, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lynn Carol Allen talks about leading African American women gymnasts

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lynn Carol Allen talks about gymnastics programs in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers founding Tri-Star Gymnastics

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her annual gym show

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lynn Carol Allen describes the diversity of Tri-Star Gymnastics

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lynn Carol Allen talks about body image issues in gymnastics

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lynn Carol Allen remembers her gymnastics student, Agina Simpkins

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lynn Carol Allen describes the benefits of Chicago area gymnastics programs

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Lynn Carol Allen describes the dangers of gymnastics

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lynn Carol Allen explains how she became involved in the Oak Park School District

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lynn Carol Allen recalls dealing with a racist mural in an Oak Park school

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lynn Carol Allen recalls becoming the multicultural education director of Oak Park School District 97

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her work as director of multicultural education

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lynn Carol Allen talks about mediating between parents and teachers

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lynn Carol Allen talks about the minority student achievement gap

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Lynn Carol Allen reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Lynn Carol Allen reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Lynn Carol Allen describes her hopes and concerns for Oak Park, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Lynn Carol Allen talks about her children, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Lynn Carol Allen talks about her children, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Lynn Carol Allen lists her siblings

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Lynn Carol Allen describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Lynn Carol Allen describes the diversity of Tri-Star Gymnastics
Lynn Carol Allen explains how she became involved in the Oak Park School District
Transcript
That's something I'm really, really proud of, that you know, we have so many kids. What happened when we left the park district, we really left under protest, we felt that there was nothing else that we could do and the program was mostly white, but I'm black, one of my partners was black and one of the partners was white. We didn't know if the community would support us, we just had no idea, and they did. They--it was unbelievable and we didn't even have a place to move to, or actually we found a place but they would not let us rent unless we had a certificate of insurance. Well we couldn't have a certificate of insurance without paying liability insurance. We didn't have any money to do that and so we asked the parents to pay for classes upfront, and we just waited to see what they would do and they did, and that's what allowed us to keep going. So we rented a church basement for a little while and then we found a place and we had some work--some construction work to do on Lake Street in Oak Park [Illinois] and that was our first real gym and then from there we moved into Forest Park [Illinois], and we've moved a couple of times in Forest Park, but we've been in Forest Park for the last probably thirteen or fourteen years. We have kids coming from Chicago [Illinois], from Maywood [Illinois], from Oak Park and River Forest [Illinois], from Berwyn [Illinois], Cicero [Illinois], Riverside [Illinois], Brookfield [Illinois], just kind of all over. I think we even have somebody coming from Elmhurst [Illinois], as far away as Elmhurst, and so it's a very diverse gym, and that's kind of my thing in college was cultural history of minorities. That was my thing; that was the thing that I really liked and teaching at Unity [Unity Catholic High School, Chicago, Illinois], was you know teaching all those different kinds of history classes, so in Oak Park one thing about this gym is that it's very multi-cultural. We have all kinds of different kids and our coaches, we have, I'm black, there is another black coach, we have a white coach who is Polish, a white coach who is Hungarian, we have a Mexican coach, we have a Russian coach and then all kinds of other coaches and the kids even say, "You know we have such a diverse gym," and they start talking about their heritage and it just makes everybody feel good about being there. As a multi-culturalist, there are a few things I've had to deal with at the gym, for example one of the kids came into the gym and she said something about, "That's so gay." I said what 'cause I never heard that before. "That's so gay." I said what does that mean, and she said, "Oh, you know just bad." And you know now we have gay families that bring their kids to our gym. In Oak Park, if you know anything about Oak Park, Oak Park was listed as one of the best places for gay families to live in the country. So, I said, "Well you know," I was trying to figure out how I was going to deal with that issue and I did not want to put her on the spot so I didn't say anything to her right then, but maybe a week later cause I heard it from somebody else in the gym, and a week later I said, "You guys sit down, I need to talk to you," and I said, "It doesn't matter to me how you feel about any particular people or lifestyle, but you must show respect to all people in this gym," and I explained that there are some gay families here and we do not want anybody's feelings hurt and then I said, "You know how I feel about this as if you said, 'That's so African American,' and you meant it was bad. How do you think I would feel?" And they got the point, they understood, and so then nobody ever said that anymore.$$Now what was the nationality of the person who, the ethnic group of the person who said it?$$She's Hungarian.$$Okay.$$Hungarian-American, I don't know if she identifies herself as Hungarian, but I know her name is Hungarian and so you know, but she understood. It was something, in Oak Park kids get that a little bit because Oak Park prides itself in being very diverse, even though we still have work to do, but she didn't live in Oak Park and so her mindset was very different. It wasn't, I mean everybody says that where she's going to school, and that's one thing about Tri-Star [Tri-Star Gymnastics, Forest Park, Illinois] is that we have kids coming from every school there is, every school in Oak Park, almost every school in the surrounding suburbs, plus Chicago kids, and Maywood, you know just all over, so we become a family and interact and it really helps I think promote good human relations. I don't know if they take it back. I think they do because they become friends with each other and they stay friends for a long, long, long time, and so you know we've had Indian kids who are friends with Jewish kids, who are friends with you know, all kinds of kids. So, and one thing I'm really proud of is that for the last ten years at least, even though gymnastics is not a traditional sport for black kids, we have always had at least one black girl varsity member on the team at the high school, and I'm trying to get it to be more than that, but we have at least one. Next year we will have at least two, so I, you know, but it's, it's something.$Well tell us about multicultural education, and you're the multicultural education specialist for the grade school [sic. Oak Park Elementary School District 97, Oak Park, Illinois]--$$I'm the director of the department (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) the director, okay.$$We have--in Oak Park [Illinois] we have a multicultural education department. It is part of our elementary school system, our district supports it, and I'm the director of that department.$$Now when did you start doing that, I mean you 'cause you were--you said for a long time you didn't teach--.$$Right, well what happened is when I had my kids I was still coaching at the gym with Tri-Star [Tri-Star Gymnastics, Chicago, Illinois] and I started, I'm a political person. I've always been pretty political and so I became involved in some of the political issues in the village and I served on a committee, it was a strategic planning committee for District 97 and I also was volunteering in the schools. I was always in school helping with you know reading or helping with something while my kids were going through, and I became involved with the strategic--I also took training when they were working on school improvement plans. I took training as a parent representative 'cause I was one of the main parent volunteers in the school at the time, so I went through this training which made me one of the parent leaders, and then I served on the strategic planning committee which worked on diversity issues. Now Oak Park has had for twenty-five, twenty-six years what was called a Multicultural Resource Center and it was like a library and like a museum; or--not so much like a museum until recently, but it was like a library and what happened is they made curriculum guides on diversity, you know teaching about Native American Indians, teaching--you know there's an African American curriculum guide for teachers to use. There's a Rainbows of Understanding [ph.] curriculum guide, there's a Hispanic Latino curriculum guide for teachers to use to bring diversity into the classroom, and that's been going on for a long time. They also made things like they would make, just maybe clothing or you know African-type clothing and that kind of stuff and it would be a resource teachers could come in and check it out and use it in their classrooms. Well, in 1990 the strategic planning committee recommended that the resource center become a department, not just a library but become a department and that it would be involved in things like staff development, hiring, curriculum, textbook selection, all those kinds of things, and I had served on a committee for the Multicultural Resource Center called the Multicultural Advocates, we called them the MAC and what we would do, these were community members who were interested in diversity issues and we would advise the director or the director of the resource center, and some of the issues that we dealt with were things like the religion policy in schools.