Sign Up for April 21 Registration and Information Night!

Join us on April 21 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for Leo High School’s Registration and Information Night. This night is for both incoming freshmen who still need to register and for those students still lookin for their dream high school. Staff and Student Ambassadors will be here to answer your questions.

Masks required. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, please RSVP on this google form here: leohighschool.org/APRIL21

Questions? Call Ms. Crenshaw at 773-224-9600.

On the Road to Success: ROTC Participant James Foy ’18

James Foy, from Leo’s Class of 2018, is continuing his wrestling career at the University of Minnesota while participating in the school’s Army ROTC program. Foy, who finished state runner-up at 138 pounds as a senior, will be commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the army when he graduates and completes his training.

Principal Rawls Moderates a Zoom Conversation with Cardinal Wilton Gregory

By Principal Rawls

I had the absolute pleasure of moderating a conversation with Cardinal Wilton Gregory on Friday, March 5. Our entire school joined a call of over 600 people and the boys asked some great questions. What a blessing to see the highest ranking African American male in the church take time out to talk to my boys. I asked the Cardinal for a special blessing, so I’m forgiven for my actions from 1996 to 2004. I’m one step closer to becoming a saint!

Wilton Gregory made history last fall when he became the first Black American to be appointed a cardinal in the Catholic Church. He is now the Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Lions Roll Over Providence-St. Mel

By Dan McGrath

The Leo Lions aren’t likely to get much taller over the course of a six-week season, and the best they can do in terms of acquiring experience is 15 games. 

Thus size and youth loom as season-long challenges. 

But the guard-heavy roster is quick enough and deep enough to press like swarming, irritated hornets, which the Lions did in Wednesday night’s Catholic League exercise with Providence-St. Mel on the West Side. 

The Knights never knew what hit them. It was 23-7 after a quarter, 52-20 at the half and 88-45 at the finish as Leo (1-2) rolled to its first victory of this truncated season. 

Now the Knights (0-4) are not to be confused with Fenwick, DePaul Prep and the other aspirants to Catholic League royalty. But for one night at least, it was nice to see the Lions display the take-no-prisoners swagger that helped carry them to an average of 22 wins over the previous five seasons. 

And, for one night at least, Leo’s basketball future seemed as intriguing as its storied past. Underclassmen accounted for 87 of the Lions’ 88 points, with junior Cam Cleveland putting up an effortless 20 and the sophomore backcourt duo of Tyler Smith (18) and Ja’Keem Cole (17) combining for 35. 

But most of the good stuff came off the Leo press, which had the hosts talking to themselves and committing 15 turnovers before halftime. 

“Something to build on,” Coach Jamal Thompson said. “Easily our best game. We really got after it defensively.”  

Leo shot 14 free throws total in its first two games, hitting just three. The Lions shot 19 in Wednesday’s first half and 27 for the game, making 16 and remaining on the attack on offense throughout the evening. 

Leo’s sophomore team (2-1) made it a sweep for the evening, riding a 24-8 third-quarter burst to a 75-44 victory in the preliminary game. 

The Lions will have an extra day to savor their first win and make preparations for the next one. Friday’s home game with St. Joe’s has been postponed and will have to be rescheduled because the Chargers are In COVID quarantine. 

So Leo is back in action Saturday (Feb. 20), hosting De La Salle in a makeup for Monday’s snowed-out game. Tip-off is at 2 pm. 

Mr. Rawls wins Principal of the Year Award!

When a ballplayer is elected to the Hall of Fame, it’s a point of pride for him that he’s able to add “HoF” to his autograph. According to urban folklore, the honorific makes the signature worth more at card shows.

It’s not “HoF,” and it’s not likely there will be any card-show invitations, but “PoY” is a three-letter symbol of achievement that Leo Principal Shaka Rawls can add to his signature if he’s so inclined: Principal of the Year. Mr. Rawls has been selected as Principal of the Year for the Cook County region of the Illinois Principals Association, after being nominated by the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools.

“It’s my name on the plaque and I’m grateful for the honor, but this is really an award for the entire school and what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Mr. Rawls said. 

A statewide Principal of the Year will be selected from among the regional winners and announced in the spring. With Mr. Rawls coming out of the state’s most populous region with the most high schools, we like his chances. 

We also like his performance.

“This is a terrific honor for Shaka, and certainly well-deserved,” Leo President Dan McGrath said. “It says ‘2021’ on the plaque, but the award really symbolizes all he has been able to achieve in his five years here. I can’t imagine there’s a principal out there who’s had a greater impact on his or her school than Shaka has had on Leo.” 

Dr. John Glimco, who oversees Archdiocesan secondary schools as Associate Superintendent for the Office of Catholic Schools, presented Mr. Rawls with the PoY award in a ceremony at Leo on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The COVID pandemic and the restrictions it has necessitated have disrupted schools nationwide, but Leo’s ability to keep functioning smoothly is an example of the leadership PoY selectors recognized in choosing Mr. Rawls for the award, Glimco said.

“All of us at the Arch are very proud of Shaka, and delighted that a Catholic school principal is the recipient of what is a really prestigious honor.”

Josh Hale, President and CEO of the Big Shoulders Fund, also attended the presentation. “Shaka’s the best,” Hale said. “His leadership, his commitment … what he has brought to Leo makes us proud to work with you guys.”

Leo’s streak of graduating 100 percent of its seniors has reached 10 years during Mr. Rawls’ tenure. Enrollment has increased by nearly 60 percent in his five years, with the largest freshman class in 15 years and the highest overall enrollment in 12 years in the building for the current school year.

But he’s far from finished. “This is no time for touchdown dances,” Mr. Rawls said. “Let’s get to work.” 

Major General Walker reflects on his time at Leo

South Side native-turned-general commands 25,000 troops providing security for Biden inauguration

By STACY ST. CLAIR
CHICAGO TRIBUNE |
JAN 19, 2021 AT 6:05 PM

Growing up in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, William J. Walker longed to be a soldier like the ones he saw on “Combat!” a 1960s television drama about American troops fighting in France during World War II.

But even in his wildest boyhood dreams, Walker — now a two-star general — acknowledges he could not have imagined his current reality.

As commander of the D.C. National Guard, the major general is overseeing more than 25,000 troops providing security for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in the wake of a domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago. It’s the largest military presence for a swearing-in ceremony in modern history, far surpassing the 9,500 Guard members mobilized for Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

Unlike four previous inaugurations Walker has been involved with, the majority of National Guardsmen in D.C. this week are armed. The heavy military presence has drawn comparisons to war zones around the world, but Walker said that his troops are there upholding their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution.

“The image we’re projecting is a safe and secure environment for the peaceful transition of presidential power,” he said. “We’re asking the residents of the Capitol area to be patient with us, to understand what we’re trying to do. I know there is some inconvenience, but I hope they understand that it’s necessary.”

The Pentagon has been performing background checks on the National Guardsmen tapped for inauguration mission security, and 12 were removed Tuesday because of alleged ties to right-wing extremist groups. Walker’s spokesman said the general could not comment on the vetting process, citing security reasons.

None of the 300 Illinois National Guard members sent to D.C. for the inauguration have been relieved of their duties because of security concerns, a spokesman said.

Walker joined the military in 1981, enlisting as a private with the Illinois National Guard. Though he later transferred to the New Jersey National Guard, he said he has always felt gratitude toward the Illinois Guard for giving him his start.

He shared that appreciation with several Illinois troops Monday when he met with them at the U.S. Capitol. Amid his many obligations this week, Walker said it was important for him to seek out the units from his home state and share his story.

“I talked to the privates and I talked to the officers,” he said. “I told them you can go as far as your ambition will take you, you just have to be focused and disciplined.”

Walker said much of his focus and self-discipline was shaped by his Catholic upbringing and education on the South Side. He attended St. Sabina grammar school and dutifully served as a parish altar boy at 10:15 Mass each Sunday morning.

He also attended Leo Catholic High School, where he said he thrived under the strict rules and the confidence instilled in the all-male student body.

“The education I received at Leo Catholic provided me the tools to do whatever I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” Walker said. “The discipline, the structure, the order — they provided it to me.”

Those tools proved useful as Walker embarked on an ambitious career path. In addition to being inspired by “Combat!” Walker said he was equally fascinated with “The Untouchables” and hoped to be a federal agent too.

“When I was supposed to be doing homework, I was watching those two shows,” he said, laughing. “They inspired me.”

After graduating from the University of Illinois at Chicago and earning a master’s degree from Chicago State University, Walker took a job with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He rose from an entry-level agent to deputy assistant administrator before reaching mandatory retirement.

Throughout his 30-year DEA career, he continued to serve in the National Guard, with deployments that sent him all over the world. He became a full-time officer with the National Guard in 2017.

“I’ve been blessed,” he said.

Walker said he returns home to Chicago about twice a year. Each time, he seeks out Gino’s East pizza and Mass at St. Sabina. He has met with the Rev. Michael Pfleger on several occasions but was unaware until a few days ago that Pfleger had been removed from the parish after a 40-year-old sexual abuse allegation was announced this month.

“I like Father Mike and I think he has done a lot for the community,” Walker said. “I believe in him and I hope things turn out favorably for him.”

Walker last visited Chicago in 2019, when the Leo High School Alumni Association named him its man of the year. A recipient of the Bronze Star and multiple meritorious service medals, Walker is one of the most accomplished military leaders in the school’s history.

Since his visit, the school has begun offering the military aptitude test to students each year. Four Leo graduates also joined the Army after attending an all-school assembly honoring the general.

“He’s such a strong, confident individual. He made a great impression,” said Leo President Dan McGrath. “For the kids to see someone like that from the neighborhood — not just from the school, but from the neighborhood — who had accomplished so much, it meant something.”

Major General Walker ’75, led National Guard troops for Biden inauguration

Chicago South Sider, ex-St. Sabina altar boy, led National Guard mobilization for Biden inauguration

Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard who oversaw the military mobilization for Joe Biden’s inauguration, graduated from St. Sabina, Leo, UIC and Chicago State.

BY LYNN SWEET
Jan 17, 2021, 7:51 pm
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

WASHINGTON — Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard in charge of the massive military mobilization for Joe Biden’s inauguration in the wake of the deadly Capitol siege, is a former St. Sabina’s altar boy and Leo High School graduate who grew up at 75th and Aberdeen.

By inauguration day, when President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were sworn in at a heavily fortified Capitol, there were between 22,000 and 25,000 guard members in parts of the city, Walker said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

While the security concerns are extraordinary and the threat level high, it is routine for National Guard members from around the nation to come to Washington to bolster inauguration security.

There were some 8,000 National Guard members deployed to the city for President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration and about 7,000 in 2013 when President Barack Obama was sworn into a second term, Walker said. The troops came from every state, including Illinois, which over the weekend had 267 National Guard members in the city.

There was unprecedented security here because of the Capitol attack by a Trump-supporting mob on Jan. 6, leaving five dead. There were multiple law enforcement agencies in play — all under the Secret Service — and troops in Walker’s command were the most visible.

The National Guard’s job is to support U.S. Secret Service, the Capitol Police, the Park Police and the D.C. Police Department. National Guard troops also provide security for members of Congress and their staffs around the Capitol, the White House and the National Mall.

Meeting this mission and moment is Walker, 63, who attended St. Sabina grammar school and continued as an altar boy while at Leo, graduating from the school at 7901 S. Sangamon St. in 1975.

Walker was the Leo High School Alumni Association Man of the Year for 2019, with the association calling him “one of the highest ranking and most decorated military leaders in Leo history.”

Walker’s undergraduate years were at the University of Illinois at Chicago; his master’s is from Chicago State University.

Walker’s military service started with the Illinois National Guard in 1981, which ran concurrently with his time as an agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

He was with the DEA in Chicago for a year and from there Walker did stints in various cities and abroad. He worked in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the 1990s and after the 9/11 attacks, he spent a year in the Pentagon.

In all, Walker has been with the National Guard and DEA simultaneously for 30 years.

Walker said as a young boy he wanted to be an Army officer, and watching the “Untouchables” as a youth “inspired” him to be a DEA agent.

“As a kid growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I always knew I wanted to serve. I had two ambitions, and I’m at the summit of those ambitions,” Walker said.

“He’s an icon in this neighborhood,” by Jeff Vorva

‘He’s an icon in this neighborhood’: Injuries kept Michael Holmes from the NFL. His head, and his heart, brought him back to Leo.

By JEFF VORVA
DAILY SOUTHTOWN 

JAN 04, 2021 AT 12:13 PM

If Michael Holmes hadn’t suffered leg and knee injuries in 1980, there are no guarantees he would have been an NFL player.

Those injuries, however, didn’t help Holmes in training camp when the Buffalo Bills gave the former Illinois running back a quick look before taking a pass.

“I could still run in a game,” he said. “But the cartilage was deteriorated, and I could only seldom practice. You can’t do that in the pros.”

One of the most decorated sports figures in Leo history called it a career after a season with the Chicago Fire in the American Football Association.

Who knows how far he could have gone if injuries hadn’t cut short his career? Holmes doesn’t dwell on that.

After stints working with Mayor Harold Washington’s planning department and coaching and teaching at Fenger, Holmes came back to Leo. He has spent 30 years at the school as a teacher, coach and administrator.

Holmes will be the fifth recipient of the Leo Lions Legacy Award at the school’s scholarship benefit, which will be held Jan. 12 as a virtual event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Holmes follows Andrew McKenna, William Conlon, Thomas Owens and William Sheehy as legacy honorees.

Holmes’ biggest supporters laud his ability to change the lives of hundreds of students over the years, and he doesn’t think that would not have happened if he had made it to the NFL.

“I probably wouldn’t have been involved personally, but I probably would have been involved financially,” he said. “I think God needed me to be personally involved. That’s the blessing that I look at it as. Yeah, you can always give money, and we have some alumni who give a lot of money and we are appreciative of that.

“But for me, being a kid from a neighborhood, I needed to be back here. I believe God puts you where he needs you the most. He needed me at Leo High School and doing the things that I’m doing.”

Holmes was the head coach of the football team from 1993 to 2000 and took the position over again in 2007. He still holds that spot. In 2013, the Lions won 10 games, just the seventh time in school history with double figures in victories.

In the late 2000s, Leo was at a crisis stage with less than 125 students, and the possibility of closing the school up loomed large. Dan McGrath took over as president of the all-boys school in 2010.

McGrath said Holmes has played a big part in recruiting students. Now, the school has close to 200 students, and next year could be in the 210 range.

“His dedication to the kids and his dedication to the school is remarkable,” McGrath said. “He worked with Harold Washington. Mike could have had a (more comfortable) life but decided that Leo was in his heart.

“He’s an icon in this neighborhood, and even students who have never stepped foot in Leo High School know who he is and respect him.”

One of Holmes’ former students and players is Shaka Rawls, who’s now the school’s principal. McGrath said Rawls has been another key player in boosting Leo’s enrollment.

Rawls, meanwhile, praised Holmes.

“Michael Holmes has been an influential figure in my life since I played football for him back in the ’90s,” Rawls said. “He’s a main reason I am working at Leo.

“I’m not sure where I would be in life, much less working at Leo, had it not been for the investment he made in my life.”

Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

David Gross ’22 interviews Chicago Bear Anthony Miller

By David Gross

Leo High School Class of 2022

Anthony Miller of the Chicago Bears is my favorite NFL wide receiver, so I was really excited when the Bears offered me an opportunity to interview him.

Miller, 26, is in his third year with the Bears, joining them in 2018 as a second-round draft choice from the University of Memphis. He was the 51st overall pick and the sixth wide receiver taken in that year’s draft.

The interview took place on Tuesday, Dec. 15, via Zoom; Miller was at the Bears’ Halas Hall training center and I was at Leo. He covered many things, including the Bears’ playoff chances, which are still alive after the December 20 30-27 victory over the Minnesota Vikings that evened their record at 7-7. 

I was a little nervous at the start, but he helped me relax by telling me to call him “Anthony” rather than “Mr. Miller.”

Anthony had chosen Black Lives Matter as his message for the “My Cleats, My Cause” game the week before, and he addressed the significance of his decision: All lives can’t matter if Black lives don’t matter, he explained, adding that he would support the movement even if he were not Black because he believes in the equality of all people.  

Growing up in Memphis, Anthony said he was aware of racial inequality, but that his only experience with overt racism was being randomly pulled over by police, “which is a pretty common thing in the South.”

The transition from Memphis to Chicago has gone pretty smoothly, Anthony said, adding that he looked forward to coming to Chicago because “it’s a big, exciting city,” although he is still getting used to the cold weather.   

Memphis, he added, was the inspiration for much of his “Drip”—his style, which, he said, makes him one of the more fashion-conscious Bears. As he builds on his “Anthony Drip,” he said he’s avoiding designer stores and doing more shopping at Black-owned businesses and boutiques. He’s also supporting his girlfriend’s up-and-coming clothing line, and as a Nike athlete, he has his choice of Nike wear at his disposal.

Anthony’s girlfriend gave birth to a baby in June. Not that there’s any upside to a pandemic, but Anthony said COVID restrictions are keeping him at home more, enabling him to spend time with his 6-month-old son and bond with him.

Anthony believes that running track in high school helped make him a better football player in that it improved his conditioning and his speed. He’s known for an exceptional burst off the line that makes him one of the more dangerous slot receivers in the NFL, though he said he views himself as an all-around receiver who happens to line up in the slot primarily. 

Anthony said he didn’t really have a favorite wide receiver growing up, but he looked up to Steve Smith Sr. because he was small but tough and didn’t back down from anyone. He likes to watch film of Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs and the other top wideouts to see how they run routes and get open.   

He said he “didn’t hold it against” the five wide receivers who were taken ahead of him in the 2018 draft, but that it gave him motivation to prove he was as good as they were. He also said he paid no attention to “mock draft” projections that ranked him from 10th to 20th among wide receivers because he knew he was better than that. Also, he saw from the Bears’ depth chart that he’d have an opportunity to play right away as a second-round pick, and that gave him additional motivation as well.

The Bears’ wide receiver group, with Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney and himself as the leaders, is among the most underrated in the NFL, Anthony believes. 

Anthony said he’s conscious of the fact that pro athletes are expected to be role models because so many young people look up to them. He accepts that responsibility and said it makes him feel good to know that young people look up to him.

Anthony has 45 catches for 462 yards and two touchdowns this season. He’s also being used as a punt returner. He impressed me as a really good guy who works hard to perfect his craft and has a really great future ahead of him.

Editor’s note: The interview Leo junior David Gross did with Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller on Tuesday, Dec. 15 came about through the Bears’ partnership with Invisalign. More on that later.

The Zoom call—Miller was at the Bears’ Halas Hall training center and David was at Leo—began at 2:30 p.m. We had a hard stop of 2:50 because Miller had to get to a meeting, and just before 2:50 a Bears PR rep started wrapping it up. “Last question, David.” 

Said Miller: “Hey, the meeting’s just down the hall. I can stick around. If you’ve got two or three more questions, David, ask away.”

Leo President Dan McGrath, a longtime sports journalist, told David he must have really made a connection, because “in my 40-plus years of interviewing athletes, never once did I have one volunteer to stick around and answer more questions.

The Bears have a promotional agreement with Invisalign, an ultra-modern orthodontics firm that bills itself as an alternative to metal braces for teens and adults. David didn’t know it until the interview was over, but because he was chosen to conduct it, he will receive a free Invisalign treatment to correct an overbite that makes him a little self-conscious about his smile.

His dad Gary, a Leo grad from Principal Rawls’ era, was near tears when we told him. “I’ve been trying to scrape together the money to get that boy’s teeth fixed, and now it’s going to happen,” he said.

Pretty cool to be able to do something nice for a great Leo family.

Khalil Mack and Anthony Miller chatting up Leo kids within three weeks of each other. Not bad for a scrappy little school on the South Side. Further proof that the sun never sets on the Leo Empire.

Text to give to the Leo Scholarship Benefit

We have a TEXT TO GIVE way to donate to our 2020 Scholarship Benefit honoring Coach Michael Holmes. Just text LEOLIONS to 243725. It’s an easy way to donate to the Benefit. Thank you! The Benefit will be live streamed on Tuesday, January 12 at 6 p.m. central. (www.pjhchicago.com/leo-scholarship-benefit)