Josephinum Academy offering full-tuition scholarships to 2024-2025 incoming freshmen

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Students from Josephinum Academy carry the school banner in the opening procession at the 46th annual African American Heritage Prayer Service on Feb. 23, 2024, at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Josephinum Academy of the Sacred Heart is a little tired of being a “hidden gem.” Leaders are hoping a plan to offer full-tuition scholarships to all incoming freshman next year will help it generate a little attention, as well as boost enrollment numbers.

Josephinum, the oldest all-girls high school in the Archdiocese of Chicago, has been on 1500 block of North Oakley Boulevard for all of its 134 years. Leaders say its special gift is the way it helps students from all over Chicago develop their own passions, character and identity.

With the sunset of Illinois Invest in Kids tax-credit scholarship program, the school had to do something to persuade families of potential freshmen that the school could be an affordable option, said President Richard McMenamin.

The answer is the THRIVE Scholarship, which is to be offered to the first 40 students who apply for ninth grade in 2024-2025. With a total enrollment now of about 100, that would make for a larger freshman class than the school has had in recent years.

“We wanted to turbocharge our enrollment, provide our students and their families with the flexibility to get a superior quality education and rebuild our enrollment,” McMenamin said, noting that Josephinum had about 140 students before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic and related shutdowns led to a steep enrollment drop at Josephinum, McMenamin said, noting that the pandemic was hard on many students who come from working class families and often travel long distances by public transit.

Some had to go to work when their parents lost jobs or hours, others had to stay home to care for younger siblings. Some families were uncomfortable putting their daughters on public transit for hours each day.

Monique Norington-Joseph said that for girls who come from neighborhoods that are economically depressed, a Josephinum education offers a pathway to success.

Norington-Joseph is a 1992 graduate of the Jo, as it known, who went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, worked in corporate communications, earned a master’s degree in public administration, had four children’s books published after she married and had a child and then was recruited to work at her alma mater.

“Part of my reason for coming back was I wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to me,” said Norington-Joseph, director of community partnerships and student life. “It revolutionized my life. I was more focused. It was an empowering environment. They really emphasize developing your character and who you are.”

Principal Colleen Schrantz said that’s the goal.

“It’s definitely a feeling. It’s an experience. It doesn’t feel like a typical high school or Catholic school,” said Schrantz, who has been principal for five years after serving as assistant principal for a year. “It’s nothing that can be explained easily. We have the ability to take these young people and mold them and  are able to provide a small, family-like atmosphere and environment. We get to know them and their stories. They find more confidence in who they want to become. We work on independence. We work on advocacy.”

And, despite being small, she said, the student population is diverse. Students come from more than 40 Chicago-area ZIP codes, and there are students who come from countries including Eritrea, China and Ukraine.

The results are clear, McMenamin said, noting that Josephinum graduates outstrip their peers from similar neighborhoods on measures such as college enrollment, college retention and college graduation.

McMenamin said the school is able to offer the THRIVE Scholarship because of the generosity of board members and other donors, who raise enough money every year to cover 85 percent of the school’s operating expenses. Staff are working with the families of existing students who are losing Invest in Kids scholarships to find other financial aid or scholarship opportunities as well, he said.

While the school is committed to offer the THRIVE Scholarship only for the 2024-2025 school year. McMenamin said, his “hope and expectation” is that it will be renewable in future years.


  • high schools
  • josephinum

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