Chicago Jesuit Academy expands campus, student body

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Chicago Jesuit Academy expands campus, student body

Located in Austin on Chicago’s West Side, Chicago Jesuit Academy is an academically rigorous tuition-free Catholic elementary school for students and families from resilient communities impacted by historical disinvestment. With small class sizes, extended school days and an 11-month school year, the school celebrated the completion of their campus expansion and welcoming girls to the school on Oct. 28, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The exterior of the new addition on Dec. 5, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Third graders Sinn’cere and Kohen work with intern, Ms. Roberson, in a small group session on Dec. 5, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Ms. Huffman assists fourth- and fifth-grade girls in their classroom. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Fourth and fifth grade girls work an assignment in their classroom. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Fourth graders Ariyah and Baylee work together during humanities class to complete a research assignment. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Fourth and fifth grade girls work an assignment in their classroom. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A display in the school’s entrance celebrates the first girls class. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Alan, a seventh grader, Andres, an eighth grader and Robert, a sixth grader, take notes during their experiment in class. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Ms. Ozog, a volunteer, works with a student on couches in the hallway. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Chicago Jesuit Academy, 5058 W. Jackson Blvd., is expanding in the city’s Austin neighborhood. In the fall of 2023, the school dedicated a $30 million wing with new classroom space, new science labs, space for special education sessions and social workers, accompanied by lots of natural light.

The lower and middle school is also into its second year, welcoming girls into the formerly all-boys school.

Chicago Jesuit Academy is a Nativity-model school and does not charge tuition for its students. Everything is paid for through fundraising and donations.

The first Nativity school was founded by the Jesuits at the Mission of the Nativity in Lower Manhattan in 1971 to serve Latino boys from low-income families who were having difficulty succeeding in local high schools. Since then, over 60 Nativity-model schools have opened with a mission of serving low-income families across the United States.

Students in Nativity schools receive intensive education and also are accompanied past eighth grade graduation into to high school and then college and employment. The schools also help families and students tap into summer options like camps, and help older students get summer jobs or internships. 

In February 2007, Chicago Jesuit Academy purchased its campus from St. Martin de Porres Parish and the Archdiocese of Chicago. By August 2007, the north wing of the former Resurrection/St. Martin de Porres school building had been renovated to become the permanent home for the academy. In the years that followed, Christ the King Jesuit College Prep developed the western portion of the property to create a new high school.

Currently, 177 boys and 66 girls are enrolled in the school and administrators hope to grow to over 400 students in the next few years.

The school welcomed 16 girls in a mixed third and fourth grade classroom in the 2022-2023 school year with more enrolled this past fall.

The students are separated by gender for classes, but come together for cocurricular activities at the end of the extended school day.

It is not difficult to find support for the school’s model, said Matthew Lynch, president of Chicago Jesuit Academy.

“You don’t have to go very far to talk to somebody with resources about what educational opportunity looks like on the West Side of Chicago,” he said. “Thankfully what we’re able to say now is that we know that this works.”

Almost all of CJA’s graduates also graduate from high school and continue with college, the military or trade school and go on to live successful lives, Lynch said.

“You have to start with each child’s unique context,” Lynch said. “We’re all made in the image and likeness of God. We all have unique gifts, and we need to figure out what those gifts are. Then school needs to be the place where we develop and refine those gifts. I think if we’re really doing our job right. we’re sending students out into the world committed to using those gifts in the service of others.”


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