Written by Jeff Vorva
It was quite an emotional Monday night at two all-girls schools that are not physically in our area, but have students from the area attending them.
The emotions ranged from hope and despair at one school to unbelievable triumph at the other.
On the same night that the Mt. Assisi community held a vigil to try to keep its school alive, the girls basketball team at Queen of Peace won its first game of the season after a long losing skid.
A few weeks ago, news broke that Mt. Assisi in Lemont was closing after 63 years of service. Lack of money and a declining enrollment were the death knells for the school on the hill.
On a cold night, hundreds of students, parents and former students put on their warmest clothes and lit candles for the cause. Multi Chicago TV camera crews were also on hand for the event in which a few tears were shed.
But tears won’t prevent the school from closing – money will.
And effort is underway to save the school with a Facebook page called Save Mt. Assisi. So far, they raised $7,000, which is a nice start, but there is a long way to go.
“This is only the beginning!” posted and boasted Beverly resident Peggy Shukstor Healy, who is the president of the school’s parents association. “Like I said [at the vigil] we all need to work together – parents, students and most important, the faculty. The attendance at the vigil showed how important this cause is and we will not give up without a fight.
“The best lesson we can teach our children is that if you are passionate about something, do all you can to make it happen. Never say never!’’
Added Mandy Burke: “I was there with my 3 1-2 (year-old) daughter, who asked me when we were walking from the car to the front of the building, ‘when do I get to come here?’ I hope and pray she has the chance to.’’
Mt. Assisi students (left photo) pose during better times a few years ago but Monday night the community hosted a vigil to try to keep the school open. On the same night, Queen of Peace’s basketball team (right photo) won its first basketball game this season after 23 losses.
Photo by Jeff Vorva
On the same night as the vigil, the Queen of Peace girls basketball team made a trip to Chicago’s De La Salle High School and snapped a 23-game losing streak with a 48-30 victory over St. Benedict in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference tournament.
For anyone who played on, or had kids on, a team that loses all their games, this is a big deal.
My son, T.J., played on a school team that was headed in that direction. The boys found every way to lose, including an overtime loss in which one of our guards put the ball in the wrong basket, which was two points for the other team. I was in Tempe, Ariz., when they finally won their first game late in the season and when I heard the news, I shouted so loudly, I think they heard me back home. And that was just a third-grade game.
Queen of Peace opened the season with 22 turnovers against Oak Lawn. All in the first quarter.
The team also lost a holiday tournament game 53-3 to Bolingbrook.
But Monday, they experienced the sweet taste of victory and did not commit a single turnover. Everyone played at least three minutes and Jelyn Chua had 12 points and six assists, Maggie Bennett added 11 points and Allie Herman had 10 points.
At the end of Monday night’s game, there wasn’t a lot of emotion displayed because of a coach’s mandate.
“I know how excited they were,” Pride coach George Shimko said. “But I told the girls to act like we’ve been there before even though we hadn’t been there before. So there was no running around the court and going crazy.’’
But once the Pride got behind closed doors, things changed.
“When you beat a team, you don’t want to gloat,” Shimko said. “But in the locker room and on the bus ride home, it was a little crazy. We’ve been through more this season than anyone else, but we are still together and no one has quit. This win was a testament to their hard work.’’