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When Mooseheart students “go home” at the end of a school year, they sometimes travel many hundred miles from the campus, though some stay on-campus all year long or live very close to the Child City.
However, every August, when school opens, those students reunite for another year of education, fulfilling the first half of the school’s motto: “Enter to Learn; Leave to Serve.”
The 2016-17 school year began on Wednesday, and 190 students found their new classrooms, were introduced to teachers and settled into the educational aspect of their on-campus experience.
“We’re a little smaller than we’ve been, but one of the benefits to that is our kids will get a little more of an individualized experience in the classroom,” Mooseheart Superintendent of Education Dr. Jeff Szymczak said. “We have 19 kids in the senior class and I think we’ll see some great leadership coming from them.”
While the three-year, $11.4 million Mooseheart Centennial Project wrapped up during the last school year, this is the first time students have an opportunity to begin a year with all the pieces of the project completed.
“Most of the students have a feeling they’re going to a newer school, and maybe they didn’t have that feeling five years ago,” Szymczak said.
Mooseheart has nearly 40 new students this year, new staff in the campus’ residence homes as well as some new teachers in the classrooms. Still, the overall number of students is smaller on the first day of school than in recent years. There are 90 high school students in 2015-16, 51 middle school students and 42 elementary school students.
“In the last two weeks, Kyle Rife, our Director of Admissions, has really worked hard,” Mooseheart Executive Director Gary Urwiler said. “I know our admissions committee has been busy looking to get as many children here as we can. It’s really a joy to see this many new students, and the school year is really starting on a great note.”
For more than five years, Mooseheart has held a “Back to School Bash” the evening before school starts, and this year’s event was extra special. In addition to food provided by Canteen Vending and live music, every student received a backpack filled with school supplies. Elementary and middle school students had their backpacks provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Geneva branch employees, a long-standing tradition. High school students for the first time received a backpack courtesy of Microsoft’s Oak Brook-based employees.
“The Back to School Bash has grown each year, and we really look forward to it,” Urwiler said. “It’s a great way to introduce our new students to what we do here, and bring our adults together and give everyone a sense of community.”