Providence St. Mel School

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Providence St. Mel
119 South Central Park Avenue
Chicago, Illinois, 60624
United States
Type Private, Coeducational
President Paul J. Adams, III
Principal Jeanette M. DiBella
Grades P12
Color(s) Purple and Gold         
Slogan Work Plan Build Dream
Mascot Knights

Providence St. Mel School (PSM) is a private, coeducational P-12 school in East Garfield Park, Chicago, Illinois.[1] The school currently has 594 students and 50 teachers.


The school was created in 1969 with the merger of two schools, Providence High School and St. Mel High School. In 1978 the Archdiocese of Chicago tried to close down the school by withdrawing its support. The administrators of the school and community members were determined to operate the school on its own, without the support of the Archdiocese, so principal Paul J. Adams met with Sister Loretta Schafer, general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The Sisters had founded Providence High School in the 1930s under Mother Mary Raphael Slattery and still owned the Providence-St. Mel property, which Schafer transferred to Adams free of charge.[2] In the fall of 1978, Providence St. Mel reopened as a private independent school. A middle school was added in 1983 and in 1987 and 1993 elementary school grades were added.

When the Archdiocese of Chicago moved to close the last Catholic high school on the West Side in 1978, the principal, parents and students of Providence-St. Mel came together to help maintain the school.

During the spring of 1978, they fought back. Principal Paul J. Adams III embarked on a fight that would cement his place in history as one of America’s modern-day freedom fighters.

“The School That Wouldn’t Die” was born and the nation would soon know about Providence St. Mel, its trials and its remarkable success rate. Numerous articles would be written and stories told about a school, a man and his students. The 1970s movie Cooley High was filmed there.

Today, Providence St. Mel is home to more than 600 students from all walks of life. Since 1978, 100 percent of its seniors have been accepted to college.

In 1982 and 1983, President Ronald Reagan visited Providence St. Mel School to acknowledge its noteworthy achievements. In 1993, Oprah Winfrey donated $1,000,000 to Providence-St. Mel.[3]

A charter school was added in Chicago's Englewood community area during Fall 2006 and is known as Providence Englewood. It currently houses grades 1-5 and plans to add higher levels soon.

The October 2006 issue of Chicago magazine, ranked Providence St. Mel as one of the most outstanding elementary schools in the metropolitan Area. Providence-St. Mel earned a place on the Chicago magazine "A+ Team," the list of select 115 public and 25 private elementary and middle schools.[citation needed]

The Providence St. Mel Mission Statement[edit]

At Providence St. Mel, we believe. We believe in the creation of inspired lives produced by the miracle of hard work. We are not frightened by the challenges of reality, but believe that we can change our conception of this world and our place within it. So we work, plan, build and dream - in that order. We believe that one must earn the right to dream. Our talent, discipline and integrity will be our contribution to a new world, because we believe that we can take this place, this time and this people and make a better place, a better time and a better people. With God's help we will either find a way or make one! [4]


  • 1969 - Providence High School (run by the Sisters of Providence) and St. Mel High School (run by the Christian Brothers) merge to form Providence-St. Mel.
  • 1971 - Paul Adams joins Providence St. Mel as Director of Guidance.
  • 1972 - Paul Adams named principal of Providence St. Mel.
  • 1974 - Archdiocese threatens to close the school. With increased community support, imminent closure is averted.
  • 1978 - Archdiocese withdraws its support of Providence-St. Mel. On July 1, 1978 the day after the Archdiocese lease of the building expires, Principal Paul Adams announces that Providence-St. Mel will reopen in the fall as a private independent school.
  • 1982 - President Reagan visits Providence-St. Mel (and again in 1983) and serves as Honorary Chairman of the board of trustees.
  • 1983 - Recognizing the need to reach students earlier, Providence St. Mel adds a middle school.
  • 1984 - Coleman Foundation donates its first $1,000,000 to Providence St. Mel.
  • 1987 - Fifth and sixth grades added.
  • 1990 - Summer Opportunity of a Lifetime (SOAL) launched. Tom Dittmer Founder.
  • 1993 - First through fourth grades added. Oprah Winfrey donates $1,000,000 to Providence-St. Mel.
  • 1994 - Third Semester (summer) program initiated, preparing students for the academic rigors that await them in the Fall.
  • 1996 - School becomes fully networked for computers and opens three computer labs.
  • 1998 - Providence-St. Mel evaluates and aligns curriculum to national and state standards. Test scores increase school-wide eight percentage points.
  • 1999 - Test scores increase school-wide an additional six percentage points.
  • 2000 - Coleman Foundation cornerstone dedicated in recognition of its early support and new $2,000,000 challenge grant. Kindergarten added.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "Contact." Providence St. Mel School. Retrieved on April 16, 2011. "Providence St. Mel 119 South Central Park Avenue Chicago, Illinois 60624"
  2. ^ Hendryx, William M. "A School That Wouldn't Die". Readers Digest. Retrieved December 22, 2009. 
  3. ^ History
  4. ^ "Providence-St. Mel Home Page"
  5. ^ "Linton Johnson". Retrieved April 8, 2013. 

External links[edit]