At Providence St. Mel, we believe …
I recently had the opportunity to visit Providence St. Mel School (PSM) on Chicago’s West Side. If you’re not familiar with the school and the good work that goes on there, spend some time browsing the website to learn about the school. Better yet, view the 2009 documentary about PSM, “The Providence Effect.”
I promise you’ll be inspired by the efforts made to provide a quality education in one of the roughest neighborhoods of the city and by the amazing results of hard work on the part of students and staff.
I spent most of the 1980’s as a teacher there, but it had been a long time since I’d been inside the school, and I couldn’t help but take note and take pride in some of the changes. The first difference I noticed was the prominent placement of images of two Caucasian women in the main hall: Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence, who owned and operated the school from the 1930’s until 1978; and Sister Loretta Schafer, the 13th general superior of the Sisters of Providence, who transferred ownership of the building to Paul Adams in 1978, allowing the school to stay open as a private school after the Archdiocese of Chicago withdrew support.
Last fall, the TODAY Show aired a follow-up story with Paul Adams — nearly 30 years after originally covering the extraordinary things he’s done and continues to do at PSM.
Another change that is impossible to overlook is that there are lots of little ones at PSM these days. Since the opening of the junior high in 1983, the school’s leadership has worked to bring younger and younger students into the school. Experience has shown that the earlier students can be brought into the system the more successful they will be. Today, the youngest learners at PSM are 3-year-olds in preschool.
All PSM students, from preschoolers to high school seniors, receive the same high quality education for which the school is known, the quality that has made it possible for a string of 30 years during which every high school graduate has been accepted into college, many into first-tier institutions.
The classrooms I visited last week were places of high energy and mutual respect between students and their teachers. The instruction was fast-paced and well-prepared, and students were held to high standards of performance and maturity. There is no doubt that PSM is a place of discipline and structure, but it’s equally clear that it’s a place of positive energy and the infectious faith that success is attainable for anyone willing to work for it.
As I entered into the PSM atmosphere again, I found myself just as proud of the things that had not changed as I was proud of the improvements over the years.
I’d be remiss if I closed without mentioning the school’s mission statement. As much as anything, the mission statement, recited each morning by the entire school community, captures the spirit of PSM; and it has captured more than a few people who have passed through the halls of the school, providing direction and inspiration long after their tenure as student or teacher has ended.
Perhaps you will find it worth a few moments’ reflection:
At Providence St. Mel, we believe.
We believe in the creation of inspired lives
produced by the miracle of hard work.
We are not frightened by the challenges of reality,
but believe that we can change our conception of this world
and our place within it.
So we work, plan, build, and dream – in that order.
We believe that one must earn the right to dream.
Our talent, discipline, and integrity will be our contribution to a new world.
Because we believe that we can take this place, this time, and this people,
and make a better place, a better time, and a better people.
With God’s help, we will either find a way or make one.