The spiffy new digital marquee dispensing up-to-the-minute Leo information from the school courtyard is one small reason to be grateful in this season of gratitude.

If the marquee were to list other reasons, it wouldn’t get to all of them if it tried for the duration of Thanksgiving weekend.

The marquee, a gift from the Leo Alumni Association, is a symbol of Leo’s arrival in the Information Age … and of its resilience. After years, if not decades, of fighting off rumors of imminent closure, we spent money on a visible improvement that combines practical and psychological value: Along with school news, the marquee sends out a powerful message that Leo isn’t going anywhere.

Why would we? Enrollment is trending upward—we have added more than 30 students over the last two years, and the state-supported, tax-credit scholarships that go into effect next year will make a Leo education more appealing and more affordable to more young men and their families.

The brand new technology lab that opened last spring is another attraction. It backs our claim that our 91-year-old facility is still capable of providing a state of the art education.

In his second year as Leo’s Principal, Shaka Rawls ’93 is both a dynamic school leader and a first-rate educator whose improvements to the curriculum have our students more college-ready and ready to succeed in their pursuit of higher education.

Shaka’s live-wire enthusiasm is also contagious. Kids feel good about being at Leo, and it shows in their performance.

The Big Shoulders Fund remains solidly in our corner, providing scholarship assistance to the school, professional development for our teachers and invaluable enrichment opportunities for our students. We reciprocate by supplying student helpers at Big Shoulders functions year-round, and this exposure enhances Leo’s well-earned reputation as an inner-city school that works.

In the past year alone, two families were so impressed with the young Leo Men they met at Big Shoulders events that they have signed on as student sponsors. Partnerships with the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Blackhawks have been similarly productive—we have students working for the Blackhawks on game nights, and Leo is regularly used as a site for Bears Care events benefitting needy families in the Auburn-Gresham community.

I’m obviously proud of the work we’re doing at Leo, and proud of the young men we’re producing—proud to a fault. And I’m beyond-words grateful for the support that makes the work possible.

On a wet, windy, foul-weather day, the alumni turnout for Opening Day of school was fantastic. We had beautiful weather for our Soldier Field football game, and the largest crowd by far among the six teams competing in the season-opening tripleheader—don’t think our kids didn’t notice. It didn’t rain, but it snowed and was bone-chilling cold for our annual Veterans Memorial observance, and yet the crowd was as large and hearty as ever as Alumni vets came out to pay their respects to those who served and provide our students with a living history lesson.

Thus it’s not a tough sell to convince our kids that they’re part of something special, this Leo Family. They know they are, and they’re grateful.

Just as I am.

Facta non Verba.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. God bless.

Dan McGrath ’68, President
Leo High School