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Simeon High School Alumni to Celebtate 50th Anniversary With Gala

By Wendell Hutson | October 17, 2014 5:35am
 Kerwin May is a 1974 graduate of Simeon Career Academy High School on the South Side.
Kerwin May is a 1974 graduate of Simeon Career Academy High School on the South Side.
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WEST CHATHAM — The alumni association at Simeon Career Academy High School will honor the late Neil F. Simeon at a gala next month celebrating the school's 50th annversary.

His daughter, Sharon Simeon, will attend the event to represent her father for a special presentation in his honor, according to Brian Smith, president of the alumni association.

The "Blue & Gold Extravaganza" gala runs from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Nov. 8 at The Legacy, 11901 S. Loomis Ave., and marks the school's 50th anniversary. Tickets are $55 and can be purchased online or at the door. Proceeds will go toward college scholarships for Simeon seniors, said Smith, a 1974 Simeon graduate.

"Our goal is to raise $50,000 since this year marks 50 years the school has been open," Smith said. "But whatever we raise, it will be used to provide scholarships to needy students."

Smith, a 56-year-old forensic investigator for the Chicago Police Department, knows first-hand what a difference it makes for students to receive college assistance.

"I applied for a scholarship for low-income students my senior year but was turned down. I told my counselor Patricia Graham what had happened and she helped me reapply for the scholarship," Smith said. "She knew my family could not afford to send me to college and was furious I did not get the scholarship. Well, with her help, I ended up getting the scholarship, which helped me earn a bachelor's in criminal justice from the University of Illinois-Chicago."

The alumni association has 3,500 active members, as well as many former principals and teachers, including Graham.

Due to their NBA schedules, Simeon alumni Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker won't be able to attend, said William Smith, a 1978 graduate and member of the alumni association.

Smith said William Johnson, a 1987 graduate who played in Super Bowl XXX for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and relatives of late basketball star prospect Ben Wilson, are coming.

"Simeon has a strong brotherhood when it comes to sports especially football known as The Blue Machine," Smith said.

Alumni recalled how Simeon, 8147 S. Vincennes Ave., was originally housed inside the former Kroger warehouse, 8235 S. Vincennes Ave., and was named Westcott Vocational High School before changing its name in 1964 to Simeon.

In 2003, the warehouse was demolished and a new school building was built, which today has 1,402 students, according to CPS data.

For Kerwin May, a 1974 alumnus, the biggest change for the school came in 1998 when it changed its name from Simeon Vocational to Career Academy.

"The name should have stayed vocational because Simeon was known for its vocational classes," said May. "My favorite class was auto mechanics. That class taught me a lot at a time when you could graduate from high school and get a good-paying job as a tradesman.

"Boy, I had some good times in the warehouse," May added. "These Simeon kids nowadays don't know anything about the warehouse."

Earlier this year the school discontinued its electricity career and technical education program due to low enrollment, said Principal Sheldon House, but reinstated the program in August after Chicago Public Schools officials said it formed a partnership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 to assist with job placement for students.

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