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100-year-old Senn High School Gets Honorary Street Signs

By Benjamin Woodard | October 25, 2012 2:25pm

EDGEWATER — Mary Stoner, Senn High School class of '48, has lived just blocks away from her alma mater for most of her life.

On a blustery afternoon in October, Stoner made the short half-block jaunt from her apartment to the corner of Glenwood and Thorndale avenues, where other alumni — including Mert Silbar, class of '52, and Jan Stoner, class of '76 — gathered to commemorate Senn's 100th birthday with the hanging of "Senn Centennial Way" street signs around the campus.

Silbar said the school hasn't changed much since he graduated, other then it's developed a focus on fine arts and has grown even more diverse than before.

Senn High School is known for the wide range of nationalities within its student body. Silbar, who helped organize the street signs and is planning other celebrations, said more than 50 languages are spoken at Senn.

Kathy Khoshaba, who retired two years ago after 37 years of teaching English as a second language courses at Senn, knows something about the school's ethnic makeup.

One of the most obvious displays of the school's diversity, Khoshaba said, is its annual International Festival, when flags respresenting all of the students are displayed.

"We had to buy a couple of new flags each year," she said, because new nationalities were constantly joining the student body. She joked there's a room somewhere within the walls of Senn filled with almost every flag in the world.

The school has also been drawing young parents to the area who want their children to go to a well-rounded school, said Ald. Harry Osterman (48th).

"[The school] is really getting back to what it was in its heyday," said Osterman, who grew up nearby. "Families living here are now sending their kids to the school."

Senn's principal, Susan Lofton, agreeed, noting that every student must complete a rigorous program of study.

"We went from a neighborhood school that was a little troubled," she said, "to the first [International Baccalaureate] school wall-to-wall."

Next October, former and current Senn teachers, students, coaches and others will gather at Navy Pier for the formal celebration of the high school's 100th year in Edgewater.