Editorial: Where is Wells High School’s angel?

SHARE Editorial: Where is Wells High School’s angel?
SHARE Editorial: Where is Wells High School’s angel?

Someone, somewhere has got to fix this.

Volunteers at Wells High School,a high-poverty Chicago neighborhood school with no bells and no whistles, hustled for two years to line up about$1 million as a down payment toward converting a patch of concrete into the school’s first baseball and soccer field. They had hoped that $1 million would be matched by money from other private sources and government. By December, Wells believed their “field of hope” would soon come to life.

The project is now all but dead.

And so are the hopes of Yesenia Beal, a 10th-grader at Wells, 936 N. Ashland. Yesenia, like other soccer, softball and baseball players at Wells, practices on the patch of uneven concrete behind the school.

“When I first heard about field of hope . . . I couldn’t believe it,” Yesenia told Chicago Board of Education members at the monthly board meeting on Wednesday. “Us, Wells,was going to have a field of our own, no more hard concrete and bloody knees.”

And now?

“It was Wells’ turn to have a beautiful field, too,” she said. “When our school found out we weren’t receiving a field anymore, we were so crushed.”

There is no simple villain in this story. A cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools offered only $300,000 toward the $2 million-plus project. And, two years into planning by Wells, CPS in December informed lead Wells volunteer Susan Nusbaum that if CPS contributed money, the school system would have to take over management of the project, rather than leave control to the Cal Ripken Senior Foundation, which had agreed to build the field if enough money was raised. CPS said their cost estimate is over $4 million.

Then there was the snail’s pace of fundraising. Almost all of the $1 million raised came from national sources, brought in by the Ripken Foundation. The main donor, UnderArmour, pulled out because its grant was time-limited. Crucially, the project also faltered because no local funder — public or private — stepped up over the last two years to help raise the extra $1 million. Ald. Joe Moreno, to his credit, pledged $150,000, and the Cubs pledged $50,000, but no one else locally stepped up. If money starts flowing locally, the Ripken Foundation says they’ll come back to help.

Where is the Chicago angel who can save this project?

Where are the angels ready to do right by Yesenia and all her Wells classmates?

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