San Miguel School on Chicago's West Side Receives a $3 Million Donation from Lands' End Founder Gary Comer
Independent inner-city school receives 3-year sponsorship
CHICAGO, IL - January 23, 2004. San Miguel Schools - two independent, non-tuition driven, private middle schools for impoverished children living in inner-city neighborhoods received a $3 million gift for its West Side campus in the Austin neighborhood from the Comer Science and Education foundation of Gary C. Comer, founder of Lands' End clothing catalog company. The gift follows two recent donations from Mr. Comer, including a $1.2 million gift to San Miguel School in July 2002 when the Austin school was founded.
The gift will help fund general operating costs for the San Miguel School Gary Comer Campus, which currently offers fifth and sixth grade classes. Seventh grade classes will start in September 2004 and eight grade classes in 2005. The Gary Comer Campus on Chicago's West Side is one of two San Miguel Schools in Chicago. The other campus is located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Over 97% of the kids attending the schools qualify for the government's free and reduced lunch programs.
The two neighborhoods where San Miguel Schools are located - Austin and Back of the Yards - are located in the congressional districts that present the highest high school dropout rates in the state of Illinois. Despite these alarmingly high dropout rates, San Miguel Schools are able to reach an 88% high school graduation rate through its proven alternative methods and practices. San Miguel also offers a graduate assistance program which provides tutoring and financial assistance for San Miguel Alumni to attend some of the best high schools in Chicago and be supported until graduation.
"I am proud to be a part of the accomplishments of the San Miguel Schools. The Austin campus is an outstanding model of what can be done to improve inner city children's education," said Mr. Gary Comer. This is a first step towards breaking the educational barrier that perpetuates the cycle of poverty. It is a known fact that a kid who drops out of school, gets into gangs, gets involved with narcotics and is incarcerated costs society 1.7 to 2.5 million dollars! It is time we realize that this is not the answer. Our hope, effort and support must be proactively placed into reforming education through a successful model like San Miguel Schools. This gift will further enable the San Miguel's Austin Campus - named San Miguel Gary Comer Campus - to continue its successful job of educating kids who are most in need. Furthermore, my fervent hope is that this will inspire others to support both San Miguel Schools in Chicago, and place the schools on solid financial ground".
"We are deeply grateful for the extraordinary commitment that Gary and Frances Comer have made to the children and families in the Austin neighborhood", said Brother Ed Siderewicz, president of San Miguel Schools Chicago. "Gary is providing wings for an educational model that empowers children to excel and succeed. These kids have already demonstrated some phenomenal results. They are our future leaders. A dream would be if this gift inspired another angel to step up to do something similar for our Back of the Yards Campus."
Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Gary Comer started Lands' End in 1963 and is currently retired.
San Miguel Schools, sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, utilize a new educational model for teaching kids in inner-city neighborhoods where violence and poverty compromise the future of youth. Students are accepted based on financial need, academic underperformance, and proximity to the school. Offering 8 hour extended school days, small classroom sizes, a year-round calendar, a 9:1 student to teacher ratio and an emphasis on reading and math, San Miguel School students typically improve one to two full grade levels in the first semester. San Miguel Schools have the goal of having students perform at or above grade level by graduation, when they are expected to attend some of the best high schools in Chicago.