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Sullivan Project Ribbon Cutting

RPBG Inaugurates Low Incidence Classroom for Sullivan High School

Members of the Rogers Park Builders Group were a happy and proud bunch last Tuesday evening (Sept. 29) when we met for our monthly meeting at Sullivan High School.  The meeting marked the culmination of the extraordinary collaboration that took place between RPBG, Sullivan High School, and many other groups and individuals across Rogers Park and beyond.

Over the course of the last year, RPBG raised over $15,000 in cash and in-kind donations of appliances, services and construction materials to build a new classroom facility for the Low Incidence program at Sullivan High School.  This project transformed a tired classroom into a virtual apartment with all the amenities of a modern living space except its own bathroom.  The new teaching facility comes complete with a modern kitchen, washer and dryer and even a fold-out Murphy bed.  It will be used to teach students in the Low Incidence program basic life skills that they can carry with them out into the wider world after they graduate.

The collaboration was a surprisingly rich and meaningful experience for many of the people whose lives it touched.  For Sullivan, it not only resulted in a wonderful new facility that they could not otherwise have provided for themselves, it also created ties to the local business community that will serve the school well in the years ahead.

For RPBG, it gave our organization an opportunity to demonstrate the deep commitment we have for the community in which many of us make our livelihood.  This commitment was amply demonstrated by RPBG’s unwavering commitment to the substantial fundraising and construction effort that was required to bring this project to fruition.  It also opened a new world of connections with our new friends at Sullivan and all the wonderful staff and faculty at this amazing and innovative public school.

Sullivan has struggled in recent years, as have many of the schools in the CPS system.  Sullivan has been especially challenged by the combination of tight budgets, a challenging inner-city location, and a generally low to moderate-income student body.  Sullivan is both challenged and enriched by the large number of kids who come from refugee families who have settled in Rogers Park from across the globe, making the high school one of the most diverse in the city.

The evening’s festivities were both entertaining and moving.  One of the Low Incidence students by the name of Xavier set the tone for the event when he asked the attendees to join him in singing the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of the meeting.  His clear voice and beautiful rendition of our national anthem did not fail to impress.

RPBG President Allen Smith gave special thanks to Andrea Graham whose role in the project’s success greatly exceeds her official title as Sullivan High School Special Ed Classroom Assistant.  It is safe to say that, without Andrea, none of the evening’s celebration could have ever happened.  Andrea’s commitment to Sullivan, and the Low Incidence program in particular, is legendary. It was Andrea who first thought of bringing RPBG and Sullivan together, and it is no exaggeration to say that Andrea is the catalyst for everything that has happened between our organization and Sullivan since that first introduction.

Special thanks was also extended to Sullivan High School’s dynamic Principal, Chad Adams, whose tireless work, creative outside-the-box thinking, and deep commitment to the students and faculty at Sullivan and the wider Rogers Park community helped insure the successful completion of the RPBG/Sullivan collaboration.

But many people made the project a success, and deserved to be given credit.  Among these important individual and groups are:

  • Mike Glasser for his steadfast commitment to building bridges between RPBG and the wider Rogers Park community, certainly including Sullivan High School.

  • Architect Cris Gansari for his incredibly generous pro bono donation of his time and talents in designing and creating architectural drawings for the new Low Incidence facility.  This involvement was all the more impressive, given the fact that Cris had not previously had any direct affiliation with RPBG or Sullivan High School.

  • Marty Max who almost single-handedly oversaw and orchestrated the construction of the actual build-out of the Low Incidence facility.

  • Dave Gassman and the Sullivan High School Alumni Association for their extremely generous financial support of the project.

  • And Brian Semel who chaired the fundraising and organizing committee and made sure the project had the funding and materials needed for its successful completion.

Chad Adams followed Allen Smith with an expression of his heartfelt gratitude to RPBG and the many people and groups that came together to help make the Low Incidence project possible. Michael Beck, the long-time Low Incidence instructor at Sullivan, spoke about the difference the new facility has already made in the lives of his students, and the potential it holds for helping them learn important new life skills in a safe and nurturing environment for many years to come.

Mike Glasser and Marty Max added their thoughts about the importance of the collaboration and the important message it sends about RPBG’s commitment to the community and the people who live here.

Mike Glasser then introduced his friend and distant relative, Boomer Berman, who created a video of the Low Incidence project as it came together over the past year.  This video featured images of the transformation of the facility from old classroom to new teaching facility, and gave voice to the key people involved in making it happen.  The video played to a delighted audience that marveled at a years’ worth of work unfolding in a matter of minutes.

Upon conclusion of the video, everyone moved to the Low Incidence classroom for the main event – a first-hand view of the new facility, and a celebration of its inauguration with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Participating in this ribbon cutting were RPBG President Allen Smith; local public officials, including Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (13th District) and Chicago Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward); and Sullivan High School administrators, faculty and students, including Principal Chad Adams, Andrea Graham, and Michael Beck.  Fittingly, it was Low Incidence student and talented singer Xavier who cut the ribbon to inaugurate the new facility.

The evening concluded with dessert and socializing in the Low Incidence classroom, followed by a live musical performance by a rock band made up of Sullivan High School students in the school auditorium.  The meeting and celebration wrapped up after the band finished at about 8:30 p.m.  The good feelings from the night’s celebration are destined to last much longer.

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