Chicago’s Very Own: Father John Smyth

A new hip hasn’t slowed down Father John Smyth.

The president of Notre Dame College Prep, speeds a little vehicle around the school’s campus in Niles like it’s a race car.

This priest was well on his way to being an NBA all-star, back in the 50’s.

But the 6’5″ Smyth chose to be in the seminary, a decision that led Father Smyth to dedicate his life to children.

He’s changed many lives along the way, but it hasn’t come without trials.

Ordained a catholic priest in 1962, his first and only assignment as a priest was Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, a home for neglected, abused and troubled youth. He would stay there until he was forced to step down in  2003.

While at Maryville, Father Smyth helped to expand the programs, and send hundreds of youth to college.

But after 45 years, in 2003, then-governor Rod Blagojevich stopped DCFS funding to Maryville.

After leaving, Father Smyth founded the Standing Tall Foundation to continue his efforts to help kids go to college.

And in 2007, he came to Notre Dame College Prep.

The order of priests that founded the school left and the school was in transition. But Father Smyth rallied the troops and made the transition smooth.

One of the programs Father helped to start here is the Burke Scholars Program for down syndrome and autistic students.

Father John Smyth, he’s one of Chicago’s’ Very Own.

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