February 2013: President’s Pen

There are some banners hanging on street lights in North Chicago that say, “Welcome to the new North Shore.”  For Chicago area residents, mentioning the area known as the North Shore conjures images of beaches, parks, beautiful homes, quaint downtowns, famous estates, country clubs and superlative schools – both public and private. New Trier, Glenbrook, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Carmel, Loyola, Woodlands, Lake Forest Academy are wonderful examples of some of the best high schools in the country. The North Shore is an iconic example of the American Dream realized. If you follow the coast of Lake Michigan north of Lake Bluff, a dramatic change occurs.  The lakefront turns into vast “brown fields” still being remediated.  There is a coal-burning electric plant with a small mountain of coal next to it.  The “brown fields” are what are left of most of the manufacturing plants that employed the working families of North Chicago and Waukegan.  When they left, so did the jobs.  Those same jobs are what created customers for the local shops and businesses.  A domino effect of economic contraction has led us to the situation today.  Property values are low, jobs are hard to come by, North Chicago schools are facing a budget crisis, store fronts are vacant and have been for years.  Only one out of two young people gets a high school diploma here.  Few can even conceive of college.

You can see Lake Michigan from our school’s parking lot.  It is often hard to remember that this is the same lake that gives the North Shore its name.  For some, North Chicago calling itself the new North Shore is akin to false advertising but I beg to differ.  I admire the boldness and the hope in the statement.  It resonates with what we are doing at Cristo Rey St. Martin.  Our community is not trying to recapture its long-gone glory days; it is trying to carve out a new vision for itself.  Similarly, our students are working toward a future for themselves that transcends anything their previous generations could have imagined.  They see an opportunity and are seizing it.  They are bright, talented and full of tremendous potential.  They know it takes discipline and effort to continue to develop their potential.  They work hard and study hard to go to college.  Their grit gets results!  College acceptances are coming in, many with scholarship offers.  Our seniors are realizing the benefits of their determination.  Our younger students bear witness, knowing they are next.  The new North Shore?  Bet on it.  The American Dream may not be fully realized yet, but it is alive and well here at Cristo Rey St. Martin.

 –Preston Kendall, President

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