Permits secured, track completed for new Chicago Hope
August 3, 2018

Photo by Christopher Valentino
Chicago Hope Academy has built a new running track, and plans for a new school building are underway.

Chicago Hope Academy, a Christian college and life preparatory school at 2189 W. Bowler St., will expand opportunities for neighborhood students with a new building. With permits approved for construction of a state-of-the-science high school at Polk and Washtenaw, workers have just completed the new school’s adjacent track.

“It’s spectacular,” said Bob Muzikowski, Chicago Hope’s president and co-founder, noting the track is configured for “all the events—steeple chase, high jump, pole vault.”

Dedicated to nurturing and challenging the body, mind, and spirit, Chicago Hope has operated for 13 years through a combination of education, athletics, and faith.

Chicago Hope aims to build opportunities for youngsters who may not get them otherwise. According to Muzikowski, magnet schools might provide opportunities for some students, but youngsters who cannot obtain access to them often get left behind.

Currently, Chicago Hope serves 260 students. Muzikowski said the new school, slated to open in 2020, will house an additional 600 students.

“We are just packed out of our existing school,” he explained. “The building is 90 years old.”

Muzikowski bought the building, after selling his business, to open Chicago Hope Academy in 2005. Then he asked everyone he knew to contribute to help pay the bills—even his former Columbia University classmate, President Barack Obama, who stopped by Chicago Hope to shoot hoops before making his 2012 victory speech at McCormick Place. 

The president asked him “Bob, what’s your secret sauce to having a great inner-city high school?” Muzikowski answered, “Barry, if you want to fix an inner-city school, put your own kids in it.”

Muzikowski walks his talk. He and his wife have seven children, six of whom have graduated from Chicago Hope and gone on to college. His youngest is a junior at Chicago Hope. The family home sits a couple of blocks from the current school building.

This proximity allows Muzikowski to walk the halls every day. Religious slogans covering the walls have cost the school millions in government funding, he said.

Muzikowski emphasizes that Chicago Hope is not a charter school. “We are an independent Christian school and have the best financial aid package of any school in the city,” he claimed.

What helps make this possible is Chicago Hope Academy’s evolution into a large receiver of foreclosed houses. “We buy and flip as a non-profit,” said Muzikowski. “We’ve done over 200 houses.”

The investment has paid off in successful graduates. “Last year our valedictorian was accepted to Princeton,” said Muzikowski. Others have gone on to Northwestern, Brown, Notre Dame, Michigan, Wheaton College, and many others. Of course, there are graduates who opt out of college and go on into the military or a trade. “College isn’t for everyone, but we know where everyone is going,” he said.

The admissions process for Chicago Hope Academy is based on a written application, family interview, and the student’s personal desire to attend Chicago Hope. “The kids take a high school placement test—the same test the Saint Ignatius kids take,” said Muzikowski. “We do heavy interviewing, and they have to want to be here. We have kids in the 99th percentile in high school placement, and we have students with low scores.”

Each year, instead of having a prom, Hope’s entire senior class goes to Mexico to build houses for the poor. Donations and Christmas tree sales that the senior students run as part of business class fund the trip. One senior captured the experience in just a few words: “We’re doing something beautiful.”

For more information on Chicago Hope Academy, go to chicagohopeacademy.org or call (312) 491-1600.

—Eva Hoffman