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San Miguel Schools Seek North Park Community Support

San Miguel Schools Seek North Park Community Support

CHICAGO, IL (May 24, 2010) – Education shines a light into darkness, illuminating the path toward hope, achievement, and fulfillment. For children growing up in low-income neighborhoods, in families struggling to fulfill basic needs, with their grades and self-esteem suffering under the strain, a caring, quality education can truly transform lives.

David D’Antonio (pictured bottom left, with students) C’2008 helps inspire these transformations every day in his work as a full-time volunteer teacher at the Gary Comer Campus of the San Miguel Schools. The schools operate with the support of roughly half salaried and half volunteer teachers, each carrying the same intensity of responsibilities. As a volunteer teacher, D’Antonio receives a small living stipend and lives in a church.

Teaching sixth-grade math and science for the second year, D’Antonio says his studies as a philosophy major at North Park motivate his work with the private Christian middle school. “Philosophy started with one question: What is the just life?” he explains. “What is the highest good—how and why? Education is the means through which a just life can be recognized, learned, and pursued.”

A Mission Parallel to North Park’s: Transforming Lives & Neighborhoods

The mission of the San Miguel Schools is to transform lives and neighborhoods, and to equip Latino and African American youth with the resources to excel academically, socially, and spiritually. Students are accepted based on the criteria of academic underperformance, financial need, and living in proximity to the schools. “We intentionally enroll at-risk students—those with math and reading skills below the third-grade level—to enter our school at fifth grade,” D’Antonio says. “By the time they get to eighth grade, they are on level and caught up.”

The Gary Comer Campus Class of 2008 achieved the best standardized test results in the school’s history. “It's a miraculous school with a determined mission and model,” D’Antonio continues. “In this neighborhood, with the socio-economic challenges our families face and with the quality of the public schools around, children have no other options.”

Quality, Affordable Education & Community Services

The first San Miguel campus opened in 1995 in the historic Back of the Yards neighborhood, and today, it serves 80 Latino students in grades 6 through 8. Founded in 2002 in the Austin neighborhood, the Gary Comer Campus serves 110 African American students in grades 5 through 8.

Both San Miguel Schools offer these unique benefits:

  • Extended day and extended year education
  • Gender-separated classrooms
  • 1-to-15 teacher-student ratio
  • 1-on-1 daily math and reading instruction for some students
  • Annual class trip to locations including Washington, D.C., and Covenant Point Bible Camp
  • Affordable tuition for all families
  • 95 percent federally granted free and reduced-price lunches
  • Graduate support keeping all graduates accountable to succeeding through high school and beyond

In addition to serving the community through educating at-risk youth, the Gary Comer Campus school’s on-site partner group, St. Joseph’s Services, offers:

  • After-school and Saturday care for children
  • A counseling staff that regularly meets with children in particular need
  • GED and computer classes for adults
  • A women’s transitional housing facility

Many North Park Hands Make Light Work

North Park University alumni have been working at the San Miguel Schools since 2004. At the Gary Comer Campus, Tim Gus Johnson C’2002 is the eighth-grade teacher, and Jon Ecker C’2004 is the school counselor. Assistant principal Kathy Donohue speaks highly of their contributions: “We’ve had nothing but great success from North Park alumni. They have been wonderful team members and friends, dedicated to the children and the mission of San Miguel. When David D’Antonio came on to teach sixth-grade math and science, we knew his degree from North Park was a good sign. For us at San Miguel School Gary Comer Campus, a North Park degree means something when we are looking for potential teachers. With such an excellent track record with alumni, we know that amazing things must be happening at North Park!

The Light May Dim or Brighten

Since San Miguel serves low-income families, only 5 percent of San Miguel’s operating income comes from tuition, and approximately 95 percent comes from foundations, organizations, and private donors. When the recession hit, many donors had to reduce their contributions, and to withstand the shortfall, the schools are currently planning to cut some of the core essentials that make it so successful.

If funding is not maintained at its present level, class sizes will double, teaching staff will be cut in half, the school day and year will be shortened, and class trips will be cancelled. In fact, this year’s cuts are expected to be the most severe in San Miguel’s history.

San Miguel is a tested and proven success story, one that lights the way along avenues of opportunity for children who don’t always experience success. Assistant principal Kathy Donohue says, “Our long-term approach of helping middle school children and then following them through the rest of their educational career means donor investments in our program aren’t fleeting. All investments help us achieve our short-term goals of operating an outstanding middle school, and our long-term goals of impacting the lives of youth in the Austin neighborhood. If we can restore the quantity of our donors, we can prevent these cuts from happening and save these kids’ futures.”

Learn more about the San Miguel Schools.

Learn more about making a contribution to or volunteering with the San Miguel Schools.