By TONIA HILL
On Thursday, Friends of Kenwood Academy, a non-profit organization, and fundraising arm for Kenwood Academic Center and Kenwood High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., presented the high school with a check for $40,000.
“A great high school is a big part of the community and the work of parents is the biggest driver in a great high school,” said Dr. Gregory Jones, principal of Kenwood Academy High School. “This is one tangible example of the amazing work and contributions of our community and Friends of Kenwood.”
The funds in-part will be used to support the diverse learner’s program at Kenwood, which has over the last few years lacked resources due to district-wide budget cuts. Some of the funds will also be used for other needs at the school.
The classroom for the diverse learner’s program will be revamped so that it will be “an ideal space for students with disabilities with the donation from Friends of Kenwood we will be able to put a space in place for young people to have a quality education,” Jones said.
All furniture in the classroom will be replaced and a sensory space will also be created, Jones said.
“We’ve continuously tried to improve our program over the years, and this will give us a leg up…outside of CPS [Chicago Public Schools],” said Andrea Johnson, case manager for diverse learners at Kenwood High School. “With the declining neighborhood component and the budget cuts our program has decreased significantly.”
Johnson noted that the program is operating with half of the staff that it had in past years. “We’re doing the best that we can to serve our students, but it is impacting our program.”
There are over 100 diverse learners at the school and another 100 who have mental impairments that the school services as well.
Friends of Kenwood Academy raises funds to help bridge the gap between the school’s budget, as well as implement and update technology, programs and afterschool activities.
The organization was reestablished last year. A previous version of the Friends of Kenwood was formed in the 1970s.
Kimberly Chase Harding, founder, and president of the organization presented its new 501c3 non-profit status last February to the school’s Parent Advisory Council.
“This is for you,” Chase Harding said speaking to a group of students that attended the presentation on Thursday. “You compete at such a high level without the additional support. We want to make sure you have an equal playing ground in getting to where you need to be.”
Before the organization dissolved in 2008, one of its main acts of service to the school was raising enough money to keep developers from purchasing the land that is now used as the school’s track and field.
Since its reboot, the organization has also been on the move to gather funds for its donation drive and related fundraising activities.
Fritz Kaegi, a Kenwood alum, has pledged to match funds raised by Friends of Kenwood. Kaegi has promised to match donations up to a total of $10,000 a year, for the next three years.
Friends of Kenwood met their fundraising goal of $10,000 for 2017.
Last September, Hyde Park’s Whole Foods Market donated five percent of its proceeds for a full day to Friends of Kenwood.
The organization has more fundraising goals for this year. For example, the school will host a fundraising event at The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave., in the coming months similar to Ray Elementary School’s “Raise a Glass” event.
Friends of Kenwood will also work with Strides for Peace, a race that seeks to eliminate gun violence in Chicago neighborhoods. The race is held annually in June along the lakefront and Soldier Field.
“Hyde Park has great parents, and we’re so happy that they chose to give to the school,” Johnson said.