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Gordon Tech Renamed DePaul College Prep, Debuts Large Innovation Lab

By Mina Bloom | September 22, 2014 5:52am
  School officials unveiled a 15,000-square-foot innovation lab and held a ceremony for the renaming.
DePaul College Prep Now Has Largest 'Maker Space' in the Country
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IRVING PARK — The Catholic high school formerly known as Gordon Tech College Prep looks a lot different than it did last year — in more ways than one.

On Sunday, Bishop Francis J. Kane led a ceremony to celebrate the school's new name, DePaul College Prep, a decision that will enhance academics and bring more credibility to the private school, school officials said.

That was followed by the first public unveiling of the school's new 15,000-square-foot innovation lab, or "maker space."

The largest of its kind in the country, the so-called Steam Lab is a collection of classrooms dedicated to hands-on activities where students can apply what they've learned in the classroom to make everything from jewelry and visual art to films and e-textiles.

Simran Ali, a senior at the school, 3633 N. California Ave., was really excited to show off her light-up paper bookmark that she designed after only 20 minutes of class time.

“In physics we learned about theories, connectivity and parallel lights, and watching that play into real life is really awesome," Ali said.

Sophomore Alec Willis, who said he'll be spending a lot of time in the media room making films, called the lab "amazing."

He said he wants to be a director, and the new media room will allow him to "edit videos and make camera angles look sharp."

The partnership with DePaul University and subsequent name change, which was opposed by some alumni in January, was a "big change," according to school principal James Quaid, but one that was worth making. 

"What’s fun for the students is when the first volleyball win was the first win in the history of DePaul College Prep," said Quaid, who has served as the school principal since spring 2013. "People were just ecstatic."

Beyond that, the partnership means DePaul University graduate students and professors will consistently work with DePaul College Prep students and teachers to enrich the high school's curriculum, he said.

The school grounds will be called the Father Gordon campus to honor  the Rev. Francis Gordon, the Resurrectionist priest the school was originally named after.

"The name was needed to better reflect the relationship between [our school] and DePaul University," Quaid said.

Connected learning, he said, is a concept driven by DePaul University, and one DePaul College Prep will employ. A "forerunner in the connected learning movement," the university will help the high school with everything from marketing to tutoring, Quaid said.

Mary Dempsey, chairwoman of the school board, said there was a "real hunger" for a "strong, new" catholic school in the area.

"So many people said to us: You need a new brand and new identity," Dempsey said. "Keep the heritage, but let’s embrace the future."

Both Dempsey and Quaid said families have reacted positively to the new name and innovation lab.

Kathy Winkler, parent of a junior at DePaul College Prep, said the collaboration can only bring positive things.

"I was stressing that to [to my daughter] because she wasn't sure about losing the Gordon Tech name," said Winkler, who lives in Streeterville with her family. "The collaboration and what they can gain from being with DePaul University is only a bonus."

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