Fenwick, St. Catherine-St. Lucy school announce new partnership

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Sharon Leamy (left), principal of St. Catherine-St. Lucy School, and Dominican Father Richard Peddicord, president of Fenwick High School, prepare to sign a new partnership between their Oak Park schools on April 16, 2021, at St. Catherine-St. Lucy. The partnership includes a $200,000 matching gift alumni challenge, creation of the Fenwick Center for Academic Excellence at St. Catherine-St. Lucy, establishment of the St. Catherine-St. Lucy and Fenwick Partners Scholarship Fund and a mutual sharing of school facilities. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

On April 16, Fenwick High School and St. Catherine-St. Lucy School, both located in Oak Park, announced a new partnership that will provide resources and support for grammar school students to attend Fenwick High School. It also includes sharing a newly renovated gym on St. Catherine-St. Lucy’s campus.

Fenwick has committed to raising $200,000 for the new partnership, which is called “Bridging the Gap: Linking the Future.” The first $100,000 will go toward constructing and equipping the new Fenwick Center for Educational Excellence at St. Catherine-St. Lucy. This center will build upon an existing tutoring program in which 30 Fenwick students visit the school each week to offer academic help to St. Catherine-St. Lucy students.

The other $100,000 will go toward establishing the St. Catherine-St. Lucy and Fenwick Partners Scholarship Fund at Fenwick. St. Catherine-St. Lucy School sits on the border of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and many of its students come from that community. The new partnership, which was inspired by Fenwick alumni and friends, will give five students a year the opportunity to receive a nearly tuition-free scholarships to attend the high school.

“I love our school community. I’m excited about this,” said Sharon Leamy, principal of St. Catherine-St. Lucy School. “It’s a win-win for both schools.”

Leamy said the tutoring program especially has grown over the years and benefits students on both sides.

“It is beautiful to see the bigger kids working with the little kids and how those relationships evolve,” Leamy said. “And to open up Fenwick to our kids so that they think of Fenwick as an option for them is awesome.”

In the past, a few students from St. Catherine-St. Lucy have attended Fenwick but not many, she said.

“One of the significant things for our school is the financial help that Fenwick has promised to our students,” she said.

For Dominican Father Richard Peddicord, president of Fenwick High School, collaboration between schools is important. 

“I think Catholic institutions should not think of themselves in their own little silos, particularly two schools that are so close together with similar missions,” he said, adding that Fenwick and St. Catherine-St. Lucy are located just a few blocks from each other.

“It helps, of course, that a handful of Fenwick alums helped lead the way for this partnership to get started as well,” Peddicord said.

Dan Doody, who is a member of the community resource board at St. Catherine-St. Lucy, is not a Fenwick graduate, but many in his family are. He is part of the group of people behind the partnership.

Beyond the new partnership, the group of alumni and friends also raised money for a new playground at St. Catherine-St. Lucy and donated money to renovate the gym, which will be used by both Fenwick and St. Catherine-St. Lucy students.

“The way I love to think about this is the students who’ve been coming to St. Catherine-St. Lucy have never realistically thought about Fenwick as being an opportunity for them,” Doody said. “Kids are coming here and not thinking at all that ‘I can get there.’ Now they will.”

Families from St. Catherine-St. Lucy will also receive free passes to games and other events at Fenwick throughout the year.

“Fenwick is really going to be encouraging them to come and get used to the place,” said Doody.

It all is being done to help bridge the gap between the Oak Park and Austin communities.

“When we get this thing going, it’s going to be transformational for this community,” he said.

Students who graduate from Fenwick also have access to its strong alumni network.

“It’s one of the strongest alumni networks in the country. You say you’re a Fenwick grad and doors just open up to you. It’s really phenomenal,” Doody said.


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