Homecoming and free hot dogs!

We are inviting all alumni, families, and current students out for this year’s version of Homecoming!  We have a very generous donation from Tyson Foods this year and we will distribute hot dogs, chips and softdrinks to our Leo Family. While this is geared towards our boys, we have enough to open this event up to our alumni and friends! So please join us this Friday, Sept. 18 from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the large parking lot.  Facemasks are required, and we will be following all social distancing guidelines.  

If you are interested in volunteering contact Ms. Al-Nurridin at falnurridin@leohighschool.org or call 773-224-9600.

 The new Leo masks and T-shirts will be for sale also! 

Back to School Jam a big success

Leo tuned up for Opening Day in a big way with a Back to School Jam at Leo on Saturday, August 8, Shaka A. Rawls Producer/Director.

On a full-service day of service to the Auburn Gresham community, Leo offered COVID testing, voter registration and census information to adults, along with a meals giveaway that has been a weekly staple since the COVID pandemic hit in mid-March and now stands at more than 12,000 meals distributed.

Parents who registered to vote or produced a voter-registration card won a raffle ticket for one of 50 brand-new children’s bicycles Leo made available. When the bikes were gone we broke out the skateboards. Each school-age child who came by received a backpack stuffed with school supplies, along with a toy or an item of sports equipment from a supply vast enough to outfit an Olympics.

“I don’t think a single child left here empty-handed,” Leo President Dan McGrath said.  

Volunteers from St. Rita High School, the Big Shoulders Fund and Alpha Psi Alpha fraternity joined Leo’s faculty, staff, parents, students, alumni and friends in manning the various booths and tables. At the peak of the day there were an estimated 500 visitors on the grounds. The horrific shooting that left 15 people wounded outside a funeral home up the street at 79th and Carpenter three weeks earlier seemed like ancient history.

“This is what can happen when a community pulls together,” Principal Rawls said. “We’re celebrating our neighborhood and getting our young people ready for education.”

Leo’s plan of action

As a new academic year approaches and schools prepare to reopen amid the COVID pandemic, “hybrid” is a word we’re hearing quite often.

It generally refers to a combination of on-line and in-classroom learning platforms schools are adopting to conform to COVID restrictions and minimize the risk of a Corona-virus outbreak. Leo, for example, will begin the 2020-21 school year in an 80-20 format: approximately 80 percent of the instruction will be on-line, and roughly 20 percent will be conducted in person for any students who seek it.

Throughout the summer, Principal Shaka Rawls, Academic Coordinator Jennifer Fleck and Technology Supervisor Santorice Ross have been hard at work developing an instruction platform that complies with COVID restrictions regarding health and safety but still maintains Leo’s traditionally strong educational focus. 

The plan calls for “On-Lion Learning”—on-line classes will be held Monday through Thursday, during normal school hours, with students logging in from home. Teachers and administrators will be available at Leo each Friday for any student or parent who seeks in-person consultation. These interactions require an appointment and will be limited to 40 students at a time, per COVID restrictions. In addition to the Friday sessions, teachers will conduct “office hours” after class Monday through Thursday and remain available on-line to any student with questions about that day’s lesson.

The Archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Schools and the Big Shoulders Fund have signed off on Leo’s plan. It’s a departure from OCS reopening guidelines, which encourage more classroom instruction. But it takes into account the high incidence of COVID in Auburn Gresham and surrounding communities. The plan will be evaluated after the first quarter of the school year, approximately 10 weeks, and adjusted, if need be.

“Along with our mission of providing a high-quality, values-based education to our students, our top priority is the health and safety of our young men and their families, as well as the health and safety of our faculty, staff and the entire Leo School Community,” Principal Rawls said. 

“I know there’s research that’s often cited saying young people are less likely to get COVID, and if they do, it’s less damaging. That may be true. But we deal with a lot of multi-generational families here at Leo. One of our students might get it and not even be symptomatic, but if he goes home and spreads it to a grandparent, we’re talking about a very vulnerable population.”

Leo administrators took into account Leo’s success in building an on-line platform for the final 10 weeks of the 2019-2020 school year. Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all Illinois schools closed in mid-March, which limited Leo to remote learning exclusively for the fourth quarter.

“Our students took to on-line learning very well for the most part, and the buy-in from the teachers was outstanding,” Rawls said. “So we have a track record. Given where we are and what we’re facing, this is clearly the best way for us to go.

“And we’ll make it work. We’re Leo.”

Early returns have been encouraging. Opening Day took place on Thursday, August 13. Some of the usual pomp and circumstance was missing due to COVID restrictions, but nearly 200 students turned out.

Masks in place, hands freshly scrubbed and sanitized and observing social-distancing parameters, they received their schedules, met their teachers and were given a detailed breakdown of how remote learning will work when school resumes on Monday, August 17.

“It was great to see the kids again, and to welcome the freshmen,” said Dan McGrath, who is beginning his 11th year as Leo’s president. “It’s going to be an unusual year, but we’ll make the best of it.”

One week earlier, on Thursday, August 6, Principal Rawls held a Zoom call for Leo parents, outlining our approach to the school year and the reasoning behind it. The reaction among the more than 140 parents on the call was overwhelmingly positive. They seemed to appreciate the thought and preparation that went into crafting the plan.

“I’m absolutely convinced that this is the best approach for us,” Principal Rawls said. “It’s obviously not ideal, and we’ll evaluate it as we go, but our commitment to educating our young men will be as strong as ever.”

A different Opening Day this year

When Shaka Rawls ’93 became Leo’s principal in 2016, he invited the alumni back for the first day of school to greet the students and welcome the newcomers to Leo. Alums gathered in the courtyard and shook the students’ hands as they arrived at school, a display of solidarity meant to remind the kids that by enrolling at Leo, they were becoming part of something special—the Leo Family. A reception in the cafeteria followed, featuring coffee, rolls and reminiscence. 

“Opening Day” thus has become an annual celebration, with more than 60 alums taking part last year.      

Of course, that was pre-COVID. With restrictions discouraging in-person contact and emphasizing social distancing, handshakes and face-to-face courtyard greetings were impractical and not advisable this year. So the alums were not part of Opening Day, which took place on Thursday, August 13.

“We missed the alums,” Principal Rawls conceded. “But we’re hopeful that this is a one-time deal and they’ll be back next year.”

COVID restrictions permitting, the alums also will be invited back to Leo for the annual Veterans Day observance, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 6 this year. 

Leo 2020 Sports Wrap-up

Leo’s Class of 2020 saw college preparation disrupted by the COVID pandemic, but adjustments gradually were made and plans finalized.

The sports year came to an abrupt end when Gov. Pritzker ordered all state schools closed in mid-March, but Eastern Illinois University will be the beneficiary of some of Leo’s top athletic talent, landing both football/track star Tobias Sample and track standout Dorian Woods.

Jordan Anderson, a honors graduate and National Honor Society member who qualified for the IHSA state wrestling meet, will attend Wheeling University in West Virginia on a wrestling scholarship. 

The Drumgoole brothers, valedictorian Kevin and salutatorian Kaleb, are headed for Indiana State in Terre Haute, IN. Basketball standout Kendale Anderson will attend Highland Community College in Freeport, IL., while teammate Tim Howard is bound for Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Sample won the Lawless Award as Chicago Catholic League Red Division Player of the Year in football. A standout running back, he was forced to play much of the season at quarterback because of injuries. He also qualified for the IHSA state track meet in the sprints and sprint relays his sophomore and junior years. Sample intends to play both sports at Eastern when athletic competition resumes.

Eastern recruited Woods as a track athlete after he qualified for the IHSA meet in the long jump, sprints and sprint relays as a junior. He may try to walk on to the basketball team.

A three-year starter at Leo, Kendale Anderson helped the Lions to a 62-27 record over that span, registering 14 double-doubles as a senior. He made the all-tournament team at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds in four games, including 30 and 13 in a semifinal victory over Hyde Park. At Highland he’ll be reunited with older brother DaChaun, who averaged eight points and nine rebounds as a Highland freshman after helping Leo to regional, sectional and Catholic League titles in his three seasons, achieving All-State recognition as a senior.

Howard played two years at Leo after transferring in from Bogan, averaging 12 points and eight rebounds as a senior and making the all-tournament team at  the Quincy Thanksgiving Tournament. 

Leo’s 2020 graduation was a memorable event!

It took place 10 weeks later than usual, and it was a decidedly scaled-down version—no music and no commencement speaker—but graduation for Leo High School’s Class of 2020 was still a memorable event.

As COVID restrictions deprived class members of much of their senior-year fun stuff, school administrators made the decision to push graduation back from its customary Mother’s Day date to Sunday, August 2 in the hope of giving the honorees a more appropriate sendoff.

The church at St. Margaret of Scotland was the venue, but COVID restrictions limited the size of the audience. So friends and family members of the graduates who did not have tickets to the ceremony joined Leo alums at Leo for a 40-car, police-escorted caravan from Leo to St. Margaret’s. The parade circled the church and drivers tooted their horns in celebration as the graduates marched in. The ceremony was streamed via Facebook Live for non-ticketholders gathered in the church parking lot.

Kevin Drumgoole was the Class of 2020 valedictorian. His twin brother Kaleb was the salutatorian. The Indiana State-bound brothers also dominated the academic awards, with Kevin earning the Tom and Mary Owens gold medal for mathematics and the Donald F. Flynn gold medal for history, while Kaleb claimed the Stafford L. Hood gold medal for English and the Dr. James Glos gold medal for foreign language.

Jammie Bolton was also a double award winner, earning the Dr. James Ahern gold medal for science and the Frank Considine gold medal for social justice. The Bishop John Gorman gold medal for religion went to David Williams.

Tobias Sample, winner of the Lawless Award as Player of the Year in the Chicago Catholic League Red Division and a two-time qualifier for the IHSA state track meet, won the William J. Koloseike gold medal for athletics. The Andrew J. McKenna gold medal for leadership went to Jordan Anderson, a three-sport athlete, honors graduate and member of the National Honor Society.

“It was kind of tough to pull this together given the restrictions, but I’m really glad we were able to give the boys a proper sendoff,” Principal Shaka Rawls said. “We faced a lot of challenges this year, and we were all disappointed that the seniors were deprived of so many things, so this was a good way to wrap it up for them. They were an exceptional class, and we’re going to remember them that way.”     

Dr. Bob Coogan, a Remarkable Leo Man

Dr. Bob Coogan was New York City-born, bred and educated, from his distinctively Irish good looks to the decidedly “Noo Yawk” accent he never quite managed to lose.

Thus he was not a Leo graduate, but he was a Leo Man, in the truest sense of the word.

The Leo Community mourns the passing of Bob Coogan, who left an indelible mark on the school during the 12 years (1954-65) he served as Leo’s athletic director while a member of the Christian Brothers of Ireland.

Bob died on April 5, Palm Sunday, at his home in College Park, Md., where he continued to live after closing out a long and distinguished career in education as an English professor at the University of Maryland. Wife Mercy Coogan and sons Daniel and Martin were by his side.

“He made it to 90, in September,” Mercy Coogan said, “but then he suffered a fall at home in October. As is often the case, things kind of deteriorated after that. His family was with him, and he knew we were with him as he gradually left us. It was a lovely, peaceful passing.

“But we miss him.”

As Brother Coogan, Bob formed an inseparable bond with Jim Arenberg, the charismatic World War II  Marine Corps hero who coached Leo’s football and heavyweight basketball teams for much of the ’50s and into the ’60s. Br. Coogan hired Tom O’Malley, who led Leo’s lightweights to the ’65 Catholic League championship and the heavies to the CCL title in ’73. He oversaw the restoration of Leo’s baseball program. And he touched the lives of hundreds of young Leo Men.

“I didn’t know too many people when I transferred into Leo for my junior year, after St. Ignatius dropped football,” recalled Ray Siegel ’65, an All-City tackle for the Lions as a senior. “I was struggling a little, but Brother Coogan called me aside and gave me a pep talk about expectations that settled me down. He was a guy you could talk to about anything. My relationship with Brother Coogan was one of the highlights of my time at Leo.”

As if his A.D. duties didn’t keep him busy enough, Bob also served as chairman of Leo’s English and Latin departments, and as golf coach, assistant basketball coach,  Alumni Association director and Father’s Club moderator. In his “spare time” he was president of the Chicago Catholic League and an advisory board member to Mayor Daley’s Youth Foundation. Inducted into the Leo Hall of Fame in 1992, he was a tireless advocate for Leo and the Leo Mission.

Tom O’Malley recalled Brother Coogan’s irresistible powers of persuasion.

“When I graduated from Loras, I was accepted into a management-trainee program for a department store chain,” he said, ”but Brother Coogan talked me into coming to work at Leo for about half the salary. My dad said, ‘Tom, I thought you went to college because you were smart.’ “

Leo President Dan McGrath believed Bob bore a striking resemblance to illustrious fellow New Yorker Al McGuire, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame who coached Marquette to the NCAA championship in 1977.

“You’re not alone,” Bob told McGrath at the Leo Alumni Banquet in 2013. “Once I was on my way back to the brothers’ house after a night meeting and I stopped to buy gas. I was standing by my car and another customer came up to me and said, ‘How’s it going, Coach? You down here recruiting?’ That guy also thought I was Al McGuire.”

Bob eventually left the brothers, married Mercy and raised their two sons. But his lifelong love of learning remained one of his defining characteristics. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Iona College, a Master’s from DePaul University and a Doctorate from Loyola University Chicago. He was drawn to Renaissance literature as a specialty and wrote two books and numerous scholarly papers on the subject.

Bob often referred to his Leo tenure as the best years of his life and said his Leo experiences helped shape him into the man he became. Many of the students he influenced at Leo would say essentially the same thing: Bob Coogan not only helped them, he inspired them to  become the men they are today.

Robert J. Coogan: Facta Non Verba 

 

Tim McCarthy ’67 retires as Orland Park Police Chief

The Leo Family extends best wishes and hearty congratulations to Tim McCarthy ’67, who is retiring as police chief for the Village of Orland Park after 26 years.

“It’s time,” he said, indicating a desire to spend more time with Jan, his wife of 47 years,  and their seven grandchildren.

McCarthy is an authentic American hero. As a member of President Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service detail, he took a bullet for the President during an assassination attempt by deranged gunman John Hinckley Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 31, 1981.

Presidential Press Secretary James Brady and Washington, D.C., police officer Thomas Delahanty were wounded in the shooting, as was Mr. Reagan when a bullet caromed off his limousine and struck him between the chest and shoulder.

Several eyewitnesses, including Secret Service colleague Jerry Parr, the detail’s leader, credited McCarthy with saving Reagan’s life by moving into a position between Hinckley and the President and shielding Mr. Reagan when the shooting started. McCarthy was shot in the chest and underwent surgery for numerous internal injuries, but was able to return to work a few months later.

Although he always downplayed his heroism as a matter of “following my training,” McCarthy received numerous awards for valor, including a special “Facta non Verba” citation from the Leo High School Alumni Association. A member of the Leo Hall of Fame, he was named Alumni Association Man of the Year in 1983.

McCarthy played football at the University of Illinois, graduating with a degree in finance in 1971. He spent 22 years with the Secret Service, eight with the Presidential detail and his last four as Special Agent in charge of the Chicago office. He retired in October 1993 and became Orland Park’s police chief the following May. In a statement, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau thanked McCarthy for providing “steadfast and dependable leadership to the men and women of the Orland Park Police Department” throughout his tenure.

“This has been an absolutely great run,” McCarthy said. “Time catches up with you … and it’s time.”

After a rough weekend, our young men help to bring Auburn-Gresham back to life

After a rough weekend, our young men help to bring Auburn-Gresham back to life

Physically, Leo High School was not harmed by the wave of looting and rioting that struck pockets of Chicago in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of policemen in Minneapolis on May 25. Our sturdy old building at 79th and Sangamon is intact, unscathed … defiant, as if to say, “Nobody messes with us.”

But why would they—we’re good neighbors.

Emotionally, psychologically … Leo was damaged to its soul. Several stores were pillaged in the surrounding Auburn-Gresham community, casting a negative light on the neighborhood we have called home throughout our 94-year history.

Worse, the oft-repeated television image of young African-American males dashing out of vandalized stores with arms full of stolen loot only fueled a perception too many unaware people already hold: that all young African-American males are criminals or aspiring criminals.

“What can we do?” As the violence played out, that was the dominant theme of our discussions … discussions that involved our students.

We decided we can replace rhetoric with action, and so we did.

On Thursday, June 4, some 50 Leo students and an equal number of parents, alumni and friends of our school gathered bright and early on a warm, muggy morning. Their goal: to transform the hurtful narrative about young African-American males into a more positive, constructive one, reflective of the young men we’re proud to work with at Leo.

And bring Auburn-Gresham back to life.

The day began with a march to St. Sabina, at 77th and Racine, where our students took part in a “Stop Killing Us” rally Fr. Mike Pfleger organized to call attention to George Floyd’s death and the escalating issue of police violence against unarmed black men.

Back at Leo, it continued with a neighborhood clean-up project; teams of six fanned out along 79th Street, a half-mile from Racine to Halsted. They raked, they swept, they pulled weeds, they disposed of trash and litter. They observed social distancing. They used equipment donated by our friends at Notre Dame, DePaul Prep and Nazareth high schools. They worked hard all morning to help a wounded neighborhood recover.

By 1 p.m., that neighborhood’s residents were lining up for a meals giveaway.

In conjunction with the Big Shoulders Fund and our ever-generous Alumni Association, we have been distributing meals twice a week to our Leo families and our Auburn Gresham neighbors since late March, when the economic effect of COVID-19 restrictions began buffeting the community. That community is a food desert in the best of times, and with its few grocery stores either looted or shut down as a precaution against looting, the need for meals was especially acute.

With a big assist from Big Shoulders and our alums, Leo came through. The distribution system we set up in the main parking lot operated with clockwork efficiency and abundant good cheer despite the heat as we handed out nearly 500 meals (and roughly the same number of COVID masks) in 90 minutes.

Some food remained as the 2 p.m. shutdown approached, so we stayed open another hour and fed more people. Most came by car, some walked up from nearby homes, some wandered in off the streets … literally. Point of origin didn’t matter. No one was turned away. And what was left was delivered to our friends at St. Leo’s Veterans Home.

It was a long, exhausting day, but a productive, beautiful day at Leo High School.

“I am overwhelmed by all of this,” Principal Shaka Rawls said as the tents were struck, the tables folded and the parking lot cleared.

“We needed it, and we did it.”

It’s how we roll at Leo, folks.

Facta non Verba.

Dan McGrath

Candid conversations with Cops and the Community

In light of current, tragic events, Leo High School is following our beloved motto, “Facta Non Verba,” which means “Deeds Not Words.” We are inviting you to have a candid conversation with our students about the climate we are living in and how they can effectively lead change in their communities. We are inviting police officers, government officials from Federal and State Agencies, and Lawyers and Judges. We are asking for you to engage students on matters that they should know and how to communicate with law enforcement.  We want to also open a platform where both parties can understand how the other feels and begin to reconnect as humans during a time of polarizing rhetoric. If you are willing to engage, please complete this form in its entirety. 

Thank you for the work that you do, God Bless!

Please fill out the link below if you are interested or you can forward this to someone who is willing to participate. After you fill out this speaker request form, (https://forms.gle/H9GzZnfXRNA8AbVe8) we will contact you to go over details and availability before your session is scheduled. If you would like to reschedule your upcoming session, please contact Mrs. Danielle Patterson at dpatterson@leohighschool.org.