The Chicago Jesuit Academy, 5058 W. Jackson Blvd., recently completed a $7.6 million renovation.
The construction will allow the all-boys middle school – which now enrolls about 100 students grades 5th through 8th – to double in size.
Sixty percent of the students live in Austin, North Lawndale and other West Side neighborhoods. The school is full-scholarship, meaning every student who attends gets the $17,500-a-year education for free.
The 15-month project, funded by private donors, family foundations and corporations, entailed renovating or building a cafeteria, kitchen, nurse’s clinic, chapel, gymnasium, classrooms, tutoring rooms, and an office for staff who provide support to alumni through high school and college.
The new classrooms will allow the school to expand, while keeping classroom size small, said Director of Communication Tom Van Grinsven.
There are 12 to 13 students per classroom, which is crucial to the success of the students, said Van Grinsven.
That’s because the school is not academically selective and accepts students from who test from the 2nd to 99th percentile, he said.
On average, students make seven grade levels of academic progress in the four years they attend, he said.
“If they come in at a 3rd or 4th grade level in math and reading, they finish between a 10th or 11th grade level,” said Van Grinsen.
He said every student the school has had since it opened in 2005 has been accepted to a college prep high school.
Keren Martin’s son Jeremiah Richardson just started his last year at Chicago Jesuit Academy. He’s been going since 6th grade.
Martin, a suburban Forest Park resident, decided to pull Richardson out of the local middle school because he wasn’t being prepared for the kind of high school she wanted to send him to, she said.
Although Forest Park is a good community, the school dynamic is different than the neighborhood dynamic, said Martin.
She said she saw a lot of negative activity in the area surrounding the school in the three years she worked in the Forest Park Middle School lunchroom.
“Safety was a big concern for me with him getting to and from school,” she said.
Martin learned about Chicago Jesuit Academy because her two nephews who lived in Austin went there.
The boys now attend Loyola University Chicago.
Chicago Jesuit Academy has helped Martin’s son improve as a whole person, she said.
“Being African American, people expect him to act a certain way, but strangers come up to me and tell me how impressed they are with him,” said Martin.
She said seeing the renovation at the unveiling ceremony Oct. 11 brought tears to her eyes because she was able to meet the benefactors who provide the scholarship money.
“[Jeremiah] wants to be an educator now, become a teacher and coach so he can give back,” said Martin.