Celebrating the New Year and Chicago’s St. Therese Chinese Catholic School

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St. Therese Chinese Catholic School, 247 W. 23rd Street. PHOTO: Fabie de Silva

Perhaps you’ve heard about the upswing in enrollment in Chicago’s Catholic school system. It may be most evident at St. Therese Chinese Catholic School in Chinatown. This national Blue Ribbon School is bursting at the seams with about 300 students. And the wait list for potential students is now well over 400. That means parents who want their kids to attend St. Therese need to sign them up at least four years in advance.

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My pal MJ Tam designs the programs and posters for the benefit every year.

Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of emceeing the annual benefit dinner for St. Therese. I leave more impressed by their high-achieving students and faculty every year. While the bulk of the student population is Asian, St. Therese fosters a great mix of children from all walks of life. The fundraiser always features performances by the students. There are impressive pieces played on violin and piano, traditional Chinese dances and Taiko drumming. I especially enjoyed this year’s choir songs in Swahili and Mandarin.

IMG_8126Principal Phyllis Cavallone-Jurek and her staff have had such success running St. Therese, there is a desperate need to expand. The current campus is outfitted with the latest in technology. The classrooms are packed to capacity for advanced instruction in English, Mandarin and Spanish. But there is no playground. So the small basement auditorium also serves as the gym and lunchroom.

After saving the school from near closure just a few years ago, administrators are now eager to expand in order to meet the demand for a St. Therese education. There are hopes for a second St. Therese campus within an Archdiocese building in nearby Bridgeport. But just getting the place up to code will cost millions.

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Silent auction “biddaholic” Adam Pry.

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I love my gifts from St. Therese: a beautiful Year of the Snake plate, a lucky charm, chocolates and gummy candy!

I’m sure the benefit dinner didn’t raise nearly enough money. But a lot of people will keep working hard to churn up the funds. I’d like to thank guest Adam Pry for having the winning bid on my silent auction donations of a studio tour and dinner for a second straight year. He is an awesome person with a big heart. Adam has no affiliation with St. Therese. He and his girlfriend attend the benefit because of mutual friends and a love for the cause.

According to the Chinese zodiac, the sign of the Snake represents wisdom and self-control. It’s supposedly a year to burrow and prepare in order to advance and succeed. St. Therese School seems to be doing just that.

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