Chicago’s Very Own: Jeff Aeder and Jenifer Levine

Mollie Aeders is home on spring break from boarding school in Michigan, a high school for kids who learn differently.

The 15-year-old has dyslexia.  The Aeders would prefer their teen to be home with them and her siblings– but they found that finding the right school for Mollie here in Chicago, became very frustrating and virtually impossible.

Jeff Aeder, and Jenifer Levine

Jeff Aeder, Mollie’s father, said “going to a school that didn’t fit her profile was very tough as far as self-confidence goes and we knew that there was a better alternative.”

And Mollie knew it too “because if you wanna go to a good college, you have to go to a good school,” she said.

So the couple decided they’d build their own school, for Mollie and others like her.

“It very quickly became more than about Mollie, it became about everybody who was struggling,” Jeff said.

It took three and a half years, but now the Wolcott school as they named it, is set to open in September of 2013 on the city’s near west side.

And Mollie will be one of the first to go there.

“Wolcott will be school a rigorous college prep high school that meets the kid where they are as a kid

Would describe it, that gets them,” Jennifer said.

It costs $12 million to purchase and renovate the old Union League Boys Club in Ukrainian Village.

Jeff raised the money. “Everybody who we approached with the idea pretty much said how quickly can u get it open and how can I help while Jennifer traveled across country researching, until she got this school just right.”

“As Jeff says in this process we are one brain. So I think we probably both could not have done it without the other.”

But what’s ironic about this whole thing is that Jeff Aeder, now a very successful business man, nearly failed out of high school.

“When I left school I never thought I’d step in another one again,” he said. “I didn’t leave school saying there’s a better way, I left school saying I’m done and I never would have imagine that I’d be involved in a project like this.”

He may have been a failure at school but he’s a success when it comes to giving back.

On the heels of Wolcott, in January, he opened up Milt’s Barbeque for the Perplexed, in Lakeview.

A kosher barbeque restaurant named for his uncle Milt.

And get this, 100% of the profits made here go Directly to charity.

“I love it and I love people so to be able to come here and meet and talk to people feeling that you can bestow hospitality and make a couple smile, it’s great,” Jeff said.

It’s also where he employs youngsters, like Darius Smith.

“I was 19-years-old when he gave me my job, he gave my other friends a job and he gave another friend a job and he gave my other friend a job, he didn’t have to do it, but He did it . I took it as courage, he’s great man,” Darius said.

Jeff said “for me it’s an absolute dream come true. It is something to be in a position in life where you are passionate about what u do, you wake up every morning and look at these projects and how they’re touching people’s live. If that can’t Make you feel good, then you’re not gonna feel good.”

Jeff Aeder and Jenifer Levine, they’re two of Chicago’s Very Own.

For more information visit www.wolcottschool.org

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