2022 African American Heritage Celebration: Black Health and Wellness

Every February during Black History Month, our students work hard to prepare for our annual African American Heritage Celebration. This year’s theme was Black Health and Wellness.

The celebration included two hours of presentations from our 3rd-8th graders over Zoom to make it easier for families to attend. Students chose topics that highlighted Black pioneers in physical and mental health as well as programs that encouraged exercise or focused on providing free and nutritious meals for children. This year and last, many of our students’ research projects included interviews with family members who shared their perspectives on Black health and wellness and acknowledged the power of strength, joy, and resilience of Black and Brown communities.

During their time at CJA, our students learn about the Civil Rights Movement and the complicated legacy of redlining and contract selling as well as the heroic work of organizations like the Contract Buyers League. This year’s unit included an overview of the Black Panther Party’s community organizing work, which included the creation of a free breakfast program for children in under-resourced communities. Our students studied both the power of community organizing like this and the controversial and, at times, violent methods of the Black Panther Party.

We believe it is critical for our students to learn about this challenging and complex time in our history and we believe these conversations are essential to forming our students as gentlemen for others who are committed to doing justice. These conversations often point back to our mission of ensuring that our students have access to the educational resources that are essential for navigating barriers to equity and inclusion.

We remain incredibly grateful to our alumni, parents, volunteers, and benefactors for walking alongside us and for championing this very important work!

Building Bridges

In 5th-grade Science, students explored the basic physics of bridges with the goal of understanding which shapes are most structurally strong and the forces that act on a bridge. Each group was tasked with designing and building a bridge prototype that could be used to connect our existing building with the new building as part of our campus expansion. They then presented their designs to our Vice President of Operations, Tom Van Grinsven, who is leading our campus expansion design and construction plans. On March 28th, we began construction on a 50,000-square-foot addition as we prepare to double our enrollment through the creation of our new girls’ program.

It’s been critically important to involve our students and members of our school community throughout the design process. We will be celebrating our groundbreaking when it is a bit warmer on June 25th. Please save the date!

For more information on how you can support our campus expansion, please contact our Vice President of Development, Mary Grawe, at grawe@cjacademy.org or (773) 629-8600.

Get to Know Our Alumni

The Alumni Board of CJA is creating a series of “Alumni Spotlight” interviews with our oldest alumni to highlight their successes and share their stories with our younger alumni and current students.

Earlier this year, our Alumni Board spoke with Deon Taylor (Chicago Jesuit Academy ’09, DePaul College Prep ’13, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale ’17), a member of CJA’s first graduating class.

Despite the ongoing pandemic and economic uncertainty, Deon bought his first house early last year. Many would consider Deon’s purchase an anomaly. Not only is he 26 years old, but Austin residents own only 35% of all housing units in CJA’s neighborhood. In comparison, our neighbors in Oak Park have a 55% owner occupancy rate.

Deon prepared and prayed for this opportunity for most of his life.

“When I was younger, my mom used to rent a lot,” Deon said. “She didn’t have the option to own the apartments where we lived. A situation in the family came up and…my mom has five kids and the landlord kicked her out, never giving her the chance to renew her lease.”

Deon is working as a loan officer to prevent others from experiencing the same housing insecurity that he and his family once did. He loves what he is currently doing and considers his career a blessing.

“When you understand the power of ownership and being able to call something your own, it changes things, right?” Deon said. “And that’s why I’m a huge believer in empowerment through ownership.”

Deon sees himself educating his community on the West Side of Chicago about how they can do the same thing. “I want to be able to pour back into the community where I came from,” Deon said. “I want to teach young people about real estate, that way they are ahead of the game.”

Upcoming Events

  • Spring Break – 3/28 – 4/1
  • No Class: Drive through COVID testing for all students and staff – 4/4
  • No Class: Faculty PD Day – 4/5
  • Classes Resume for students – 4/6
  • No Class: CJA Closed, Easter Break – 4/15
  • Classes Resume for students – 4/19