ROGERS PARK — The southwest corner of Lunt and Ravenswood avenues was renamed as Azieb Gebrehiiwet Way in honor of an African immigrant who 20 years ago founded what is now a thriving, international day care business.
It all began in Rogers Park.
"Is it really true? I don't know," said Azieb Mihzun-Gebrehiiwet, 69, in disbelief after her family surprised her with the street renaming Wednesday. "It's way beyond my thinking."
Mihzun-Gebrehiiwet opened her day care — called Eyes on the Future — on Loyola Avenue with just a few students. Then, 10 years ago, she moved to the storefront at 6969 N Ravenswood Ave.
Now the center has 280 students and has expanded to the building's two other units, tripling its size.
And the business has gone international. Five years ago, Mihzun-Gebrehiiwet and a business partner opened a sister school in Lagos, Nigeria, which now offers classes through high school and will soon open a health clinic.
"It's the love for service" that keeps her going, she said.
Mihzun-Gebrehiiwet immigrated to the United States with her husband, who was attending the University of Chicago.
But they couldn't return home to Eritrea after war broke out there in the '60s.
While working in the banking industry and taking her children to a Wrigleyville day care, she decided to start out on her own.
So she founded Eyes on the Future.
As the day care's 20-year anniversary approached, her daughter, Smret Smith, wanted to do something special for her mom.
As her request, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) introduced an ordinance in February renaming the street corner.
Since then, it's been a top-secret affair.
"The hardest thing was keeping it a secret," Smith said
The city installed the new street signs Tuesday while Mihzun-Gebrehiiwet was away. On Wednesday, Mihzun-Gebrehiiwet's students, teachers and family surprised her with the honorary signs.
"They really tricked me," she said. "I want to pinch myself."
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