BRIDGEPORT — Students, educators and community leaders gathered Thursday at Air Force Academy High School to celebrate the opening of its after-school Union League Boys & Girls Club.
The club at the Air Force Academy, 3630 S. Wells St., is the first Union League club to open at a Chicago school since the start of the pandemic, according to a news release.
Students at the clubs learn about good character, citizenship and academic success, said Tom Payne, vice president and trustee of the Union League Club.
“We’re highly confident that the Union League Boys & Girls Club will become important to this school and its students, and help prepare them, along with the school, for long, successful and prosperous lives,” said Union League trustee James Gatziolis.
Two years ago, the school asked for a partnership with an organization that would support its nearly 200 students, said Principal Yashika Tippett-Eggleston.
“We asked if we could just get at least one strong partnership that would help us not only meet the academic needs, but the social and emotional needs of our students,” she said. “… The Union League Boys & Girls Club partnership with the Air Force Academy High School is my fairytale, it is my dream come true, it is the answer to my prayer.”
The Air Force Academy High School club is one of seven Union League clubs opening this fall thanks to a $1.4 million five-year grant from the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Center, a grant administered by the U.S. Department of Education, according to a news release. Those openings means there will be 19 clubs throughout Chicago by the end of this year.
More than 2,000 youth across Chicago attend an after-school Union League club where they get homework help, arts instruction, sports programs, mentorship and more, according to its website.
Over its 100-year history, the Union League Boys & Girls Club has been dedicated to serving youth in neighborhoods with the highest economic hardship index, according to a news release.
The Air Force Academy High School is a college preparatory school with a full JROTC program that is the only public Air Force academy in the United States. It’s one of six military academies in CPS and the only school in the system with multiple real flight simulators, according to the website.
The students “get a quality education here. They learn discipline, they learn a lot of life lessons here. But what you’re going to provide through the exposure to the Boys and Girls Club is something that’s going to be a life experience they’ve never had, and I commend you, I thank you all, for having that,” said Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th).
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