Students and staff members at Maryville Academy’s former Jen School are enjoying expanded facilities and a new school identity. The school, now known as Charles H. Walsh Sr. Academy & Career Tech High School, moved into a former elementary school building with 56,000 square feet of learning space at 6935 W. Touhy Ave. in Niles in November. Walsh Academy, a ministry of Maryville, offers students aged 14-22 who have special needs a curriculum that combines academic courses and emotional learning with enhanced career technical education programs. The goal is to prepare students to enter high-demand trades or be college-ready. “We give students the opportunity to learn a trade of their choosing, whether they are college-bound, trade school-bound or directly employment-bound,” said Ann Craig, principal and director of educational services. “They’ll have the ability to get a job and to keep a job. What we’re really trying to do is help kids become successful and happy and self-sustaining future in the future, helping students to reach their full potential.” Doing so is directly in line with Maryville’s mission of helping “children and families reach their fullest potential by empowering intellectual, spiritual, moral and emotional growth,” Craig said. “It couldn’t fit any better,” Craig said. “It’s providing for families, enriching families’ lives. Education is the first step in enriching anybody’s life. … It’s the one thing you can’t take away from anybody.” The new building was part of a long-standing vision for the program, Craig said. It has room for 12 academic and eight vocational classrooms, including a state-of-the art culinary lab, an in-house media studio, a tech lab and spaces for carpentry, construction, HVAC and small engines as well as a new garden and a greenhouse. When the school was located on Maryville’s Des Plaines campus, it was housed in a former residential building, and had to fit its vocational programs in wherever it could, Craig said, by, for example doing carpentry projects in the maintenance staff’s space. The school’s 40 students, who come from 18 Illinois school districts, are enjoying the expanded space, the natural light that comes from big classroom windows and traditional school amenities, such as a gym located in the same building, Craig said. Its namesake, the late Charles H. Walsh Sr., was a former chairman of the Maryville board who spent most of his teen years at Maryville when it functioned as an orphanage. While there, he learned how to attach the soles to shoes at Maryville’s St. Mary’s Training School, Craig said. After leaving Maryville, he joined the military, went to college and built a successful career in business, eventually becoming a part-owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls, she said.