Local school blesses, thanks members of the Chicago Police Department

By Joyce Duriga
Sunday, August 21, 2016

Local school blesses, thanks members of the Chicago Police Department

Office Cleary holds Hershell Cage Jr who was dressed up as a fireman. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Deacon Leroy Gill, right, runs the grill as the Academy of St. Benedict the African hosted a back to school barbecue on Aug. 8 to thank the local Chicago police for their support and protection throughout the year. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Students and school staff jump rope before the start of the barbecue. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Police, students and school parents at the Academy of St. Benedict the African join hands before praying on Aug. 8. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Parents and school children pray over members of the Chicago Police Department at the start of an Aug. 8 barbecue at the Academy of St. Benedict the African, 6020 S. Laflin St.. The school held the event to thank local police for their support during the school year. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Students extend their hands as Decon LeRoy Gill leads a prayer for the safety of the officers. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Hot dogs, cheesburgers, chicken and ribs were on the menu for the back-to-school barbecue. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Students and families share lunch with members of the Chicago Police Department on Aug. 8. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Antwain Triplette has friends whose children are scared when they see the police and feel they have to run away and hide. However, his three children who attend the Academy of St. Benedict the African, 6020 S. Laflin St., have a different response.

“They try to give any police officer they see a high-five and I think that’s good,” said Triplette.

His three children have learned police officers are their friends because members of the Chicago Police Department’s 7th District have taken a special interest in the school, which is located in the often-violent Englewood neighborhood. One officer in particular, Mike Cleary, regularly stops by the school to make sure the kids get in and out of school safely. Cleary has stopped by the school for so long that he’s formed a positive relationship with the students and staff. That carries over to the children’s response to other police they encounter.

“The kids love him. He’s been coming for years,” said longtime Principal Patricia Murphy of Cleary.

When staff wanted to do something to thank Cleary and the other officers for what they do for the neighborhood the idea for a back-to-school barbecue formed. The Aug. 8 event began with everyone gathered in a circle with their hands extended out in prayer over more than 20 officers. Deacon LeRoy Gill led a blessing for the officers and their families and afterward blessed the parents.

Originally the barbecue on Aug. 8 was to be held outside on the school lawn but threats against police moved it to less visible locations. Chicago news media were reporting that several area gang leaders met the week before to order killings of officers in response to the fatal police shooting of Paul O’Neal in July. As of Aug. 9, 2,459 shootings and 389 homicides had been reported in Chicago since Jan. 1, according to the Chicago Tribune.

On June 6, Terrance White, a 4-year-old who just graduated from pre-school at the academy was shot. After several surgeries the little boy is doing well. School officials regularly have to call the police for activity in the neighborhood, including shootings. Murphy told the Catholic New World, the officers are always quick to respond and she is grateful for that.

All was safe at the barbecue however and in the end some people ate and played in the gym while others ate at picnic tables tucked into an alcove outside between the school and gym. There were lots of high-fives shared between the students and the officers.

That the school and their families would reach out to the officers meant a lot to them.

“They also do a lot for the police department and we’re grateful for that and for them recognizing us and our hard work today but we police officers all the hard work that they put in every single day. We really appreciate that,” said Lt. Mark Sedevic, who is head of watch operations for the 7th district, which includes the school.

Not every school is lucky enough to have a positive relationship with local police. That’s just one of the ways the Academy of St. Benedict the African is unique, Triplette said.

“I feel this is the best school in the community for my children to attend,” he said. “I know that they don’t allow what goes on in the public schools to go on here.”

The teachers and staff care about the children excelling in life, not just school.

“They care about their foundation and how they are being raised,” he said. “They don’t come to St. Benedict just to collect a pay check.”


  • non-violence
  • academy of st. bendict the african
  • law enforcement

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