Providence St. Mel School - History

History

The school was created in 1969 with the merger of two schools, Providence High School and St. Mel High School. In 1978 the Archdiocese of Chicago tried to close down the school by withdrawing its support. The administrators of the school and community members were determined to operate the school on its own, without the support of the Archdiocese, so principal Paul J. Adams met with Sister Loretta Schafer, general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The Sisters had founded Providence High School in the 1930s under Mother Mary Raphael Slattery and still owned the Providence-St. Mel property, which Schafer transferred to Adams free of charge. In the fall of 1978, Providence-St. Mel reopened as a private independent school. A middle school was added in 1983 and in 1987 and 1993 elementary school grades were added.

When the Archdiocese of Chicago moved to close the last Catholic high school on the West Side in 1978, the principal, parents and students of Providence-St. Mel came together to help maintain the school.

During the spring of 1978, they fought back. Principal Paul J. Adams III embarked on a fight that would cement his place in history as one of America’s modern-day freedom fighters.

“The School That Wouldn’t Die” was born and the nation would soon know about Providence-St. Mel, its trials and its remarkable success rate. Numerous articles would be written and stories told about a school, a man and his students. The 1970s movie Cooley High was filmed there.

Today, Providence-St. Mel is home to more than 600 students from all walks of life. Since 1978, 100 percent of its seniors have been accepted to college.

In 1982 and 1983, President Ronald Reagan visited Providence-St. Mel School to acknowledge its noteworthy achievements. In 1993, Oprah Winfrey donated $1,000,000 to Providence-St. Mel.

A charter school was added in Chicago's Englewood community area during Fall 2006 and is known as Providence Englewood. It currently houses grades 1-5 and plans to add higher levels soon.

The October 2006 issue of Chicago magazine, ranked Providence-St. Mel as one of the most outstanding elementary schools in the metropolitan Area. Providence-St. Mel earned a place on the Chicago magazine "A+ Team," the list of select 115 public and 25 private elementary and middle schools.

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