Academy of St. Benedict the African shows support for police, firefighters

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Academy of St. Benedict the African shows support for police, firefighters

The Academy of St. Benedict the African hosted an end-of-summer barbecue to thank Chicago's first responders for keeping students and staff safe on Aug. 11, 2022. The event began with a prayer circle and blessing of police officers and fire fighters, students, school families and the neighborhood community. The school's students and staff have developed special relationships with District 7 police officers particularly with Officer Mike Cleary, who has made daily visits to the school for the past 15 years. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Leroy Gill slices up homemade ribs for the barbecue. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
First responders join staff and volunteers for an opening prayer before eating. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A cake expressing gratitude to first responders. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Officer Eugene Solomon makes his way through the buffet with a couple plates of food. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Volunteers fill the plate of Officer Alberto Sanchez and other members of the Police Department. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The Academy of St. Benedict the African, 6020 S. Laflin St., showed its appreciation for local first responders with its annual barbecue at the school on Aug. 11.

Over the years, the school has formed a special relationship with Chicago Police Department’s 7th District and the Chicago Fire Department’s Engine 116. Police officers and firefighters regularly visit the school, which is located in the city’s Englewood neighborhood, to check on them.

“District 7 and the Fire Department take such good care of us over here, so we wanted to thank them and we wanted to give back, so that’s how this started,” said Principal Jennifer Farrand. 

One officer in particular, Mike Cleary, regularly stops by the school to make sure the students get in and out of school safely. Cleary has stopped by the school for about 15 years and has formed a positive relationship with the students and staff.

“The kids love him. They just know ‘Officer Cleary’s here. Everything is good,’” Farrand said.

Officers also help with dismissal at the end of the day and interact with the students. During the past year, one of the younger students was shot while he was sleeping  and police officers came to a liturgy and gave him an award for bravery, she said.

“They are just present. They are present in the community. They are present with our kids,” Farrand said. “They really make sure that our kids see them as the helpers that they are.”

Deacon LeRoy Gill also ministers at the school and was the volunteer pit master for the barbecue.

“We’re so blessed that the District 7 police officers really care genuinely about the kids here,” Gill said. “They stop by, they come in and they talk to the kids. We appreciate it.”


  • catholic schools
  • chicago police

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