Spotlight Program

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January 2014

Our Lady of Guadalupe School

Chicago, Illinois
OLG School

Our Lady of Guadalupe School (OLGS) has been educating the next generation of community leaders in South Chicago and the surrounding area since 1947. The school— which is the single most positively growing Catholic grade school in Chicago in terms of enrollment, test scores, and parent satisfaction—serves Kindergarten through 8th grade students in a community where 97% of its residents qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and regularly serves as a model for schools in Hispanic and African American communities. OLGS does more than prepare students for high school and college; it builds values that stress community, family, and life-long learning.

Annual enrollment is consistently over 200 students. By connecting with other schools, businesses, community groups, and parents, the staff at OLG has been able to increase enrollment steadily since July 2005, when the school faced closing with only 31 students.

The school offers significant tuition assistance to many families, enabling young people to get the high-quality education they deserve. But in an area where the average annual income for families is $19,000, the need for this financial assistance far outweighs the funds available. Parents make a commitment to and investment in their children’s education through their tuition, and OLGS wants to offer scholarships to help parents with this commitment.

Of the twenty 8th-grade students OLGS typically graduates each year, 18–19 go on to succeed in Catholic high schools. Part of this success is due to the fact that OLGS tests every student every year (far more often than state requirements) to ensure that all students are on the right path. Students regularly test somewhere between 80th and 90th percentile in all achievement areas. With the ability to offer more individualized attention and to challenge students to become independent and responsible learners while teaching them respect, OLGS’s dedicated, experienced teachers are able to partner with parents to give students the high-quality education that they might not otherwise have access to in their neighborhoods.

In a school that is 90–95% Hispanic, bilingualism is common. OLGS sees this reality as a cultural strength while at the same time successfully tailoring lessons for these students, particularly in the area of reading. The school also offers many of the materials they send home (including supply lists) in both Spanish and English so parents can always be engaged with their children’s education.

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s staff members—who have been at the school for an average of 18 years—include dedicated teachers for K–5 and teachers specializing in language arts, social studies, math, science, and computers for middle school students. OLGS also has two Title 1 academic support teachers (one for elementary, one for middle school), a counselor, a gym teacher, and a music teacher. Funding permitting, the school also wants to increase its ESL instruction by having certified bilingual instructors on staff to do classroom pull-outs for students in need.

Students travel from all over the South Chicago area to attend OLGS. The Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, to which the school is attached, was the receiving place for many generations of Mexican Americans in Chicago. As families who originally settled in the area have spread out, they still return to the parish and the school because of the deep connection they have with the place. Because of this geographic reality and the reality of the crime in the neighborhood, OLGS takes great care to make sure students are safe during arrival and dismissal. The school has their own bus, and they transport about 60 kids to school in the morning and then home in the afternoon. The rest of the students are picked up by family; very few walk home.

Faced with this reality, the staff at OLGS realizes that students need a safe place to go in the morning and afternoon hours when their parents or guardians might not be home. The school is in a blue-light camera neighborhood, which denotes it as having one of the highest crime rates in Chicago. To prevent students from having to wait outside for school to start, the staff opens the doors at 7 am for any student who needs somewhere safe to go. Students can work on academics in supervised classrooms and computer labs during this time. OLGS also offers before-school tutoring that gives successful students the opportunity to tutor other students in need of assistance. All before-school activities are free of charge.

The school offers after-school activities for $4 an hour. These activities include a popular science club (offered in partnership with Chicago’s Museum and Science and Industry), the Ballet Folklórico club for students interested in learning the arts and culture of Mexican folkloric dance, and tutoring for at-risk students. OLGS also offers some team sports—cross country, volleyball, and soccer. They would like to offer more with additional funding!

You can help make that a reality by making a donation directly to OLG School. Choose a program-specific donation, and then select OLG Elementary School from the drop-down list to help the school continue to offer affordable, high-quality education in South Chicago.

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