If you were to go back in time 20 years, to when Northside was first founded, the halls would look empty. In fact, there were so few students that the entire student body was able to park their cars in the teachers’ parking lot. Back in 1999, only a couple dozen students attended classes at Northside College Preparatory High School, according to Ms. Fernandez, the school’s registrar. Our school has rapidly grown to accommodate over 1,000 students from all over Chicago. Today, students fill the bustling halls and infuse Northside with life.
The Northside community is excited to come together and celebrate the building’s 20th Anniversary this school year.
“Celebrating the 20th Anniversary gives us an opportunity to look back and see if we’ve fulfilled the mission and vision of the school, as well look forward to see how we continue to do that work,” says Principal Kelly Mest.
Principal Mest continues by saying, “It’s important to acknowledge what went into creating a school like Northside while thinking about what we want to do moving forward.”
This year, the Hoofbeat will report on the history and evolution of the school with feature stories on what has made us who we are today — our sports, our clubs, and our school-sponsored events. We will also profile teachers (former and current) and alumni. By diving into our past, we will be able to reflect on what is to come in the future.
“We will be using the [digital] features … such as slideshows and videos to cover the 20th Anniversary,” says Kate Clemenz (Adv. 005), one of the Hoofbeat’s Editors-in-Chief. “We will also use interactive media like polls in order to reach the student body on a more personal level.”
“The spirit of the school was initially that we were a community of learners who were going to take risks and do things differently, unsure if they were going to work out,” Principal Mest recalls. Ms. Mest taught English at Northside during the school’s very first years.
She explains that the risks the school and faculty took were what shaped Northside into what it is now. She uses colloquium as an example of one of those risks. “We were the first ones to do colloquium and no one knew if it was going to work out. We had the opportunity to create and do these wonderful things that had never been done before.” Colloquium is celebrated for allowing students to step out of their comfort zones to try something new, and it came about as a result of Northside’s willingness to innovate.
“We are getting back to a place where it’s okay to acknowledge our history. While we do have an academic reputation that we have to maintain, that’s not wholly who we are.” Principal Mest continues by discussing how the school has evolved to adapt to the community and the world around us. Events such as I-Night began as only concepts but later grew to encompass a wide range of student participants. Northside is what it is today because of the ideas of students and faculty, and their willingness to transform their ideas into reality.
“We’ve had some particularly challenging times in the last few years, whether it’s been fiscal, due to the loss of members of our community, or from the way we’ve been responding to the tensions in our larger world,” says Principal Mest. “If we did not have the empathetic community we have, we would not have come out on the other side of some of these challenges we’ve faced.”
One may reduce the spirit of Northside to mere test scores, but the true spirit of Northsiders lies in the community itself. Our willingness to innovate, adapt, and evolve defines our success as a school. The resilient spirit of Northsiders, Principal Mest acknowledges, has allowed the school to thrive.
You will find our future 20th Anniversary coverage under the Features tab. We look forward to exploring Northside’s history with you!
Your Features Editor