Providence St. Mel School

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Providence St. Mel
119 South Central Park Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60624
United States
Type Private, Coeducational
Founder Paul J. Adams III
President Jeanette M. Butala
Grades Pre-K12
Color(s) Purple and gold         
Slogan Work Plan Build Dream
Mascot Knights

Providence St. Mel School (PSM) is a private, coeducational PreK-12 school in East Garfield Park, Chicago, Illinois.[1] Since 1978, 100 percent of its seniors have been accepted to 4 year colleges. in 2015 100% of graduating students were accepted to Tier One or Ivy League colleges.


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]

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]

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]

Distinguished Concerts International New York City (DCINY) announced January 9, 2015 that Dr. David Baar and the Providence St. Mel School Choir were invited to participate in a world premiere performance of Earnestine Rodgers Robinson’s Exodus on the DCINY Concert Series in New York City. These musicians joined with other choristers[vague] to form the Distinguished Concerts Singers International. Earnestine Rodgers Robinson was present as composer-in-residence with DCINY’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Jonathan Griffith as conductor of the performance and clinician for the residency.[citation needed]


  • 1929 The Sisters of Providence lay the cornerstone for a new Providence High School, an all-girls Catholic school.
  • 1968 Providence High School combines with St. Mel High School, an all-boys school operated by the Christian Brothers, becoming Providence St. Mel School.
  • 1971 Paul J. Adams III begins his tenure at Providence St. Mel as the Director of Guidance.
  • 1972 Mr. Adams is named Principal and begins the mission and vision of Providence St. Mel, first by enacting strict rules that make gang association, drugs, gambling, graffiti, stealing, and fighting grounds for expulsion.
  • 1978 The Archdiocese decides to close Providence St. Mel, but Mr. Adams’s commitment and a national campaign allow for Providence St. Mel to remain open as an independent college preparatory school. Sister Loretta Schafer and the Sisters of Providence sell the school building to Mr. Adams.
  • 1980 Providence St. Mel expands by creating Grade 7 and Grade 8.
  • 1982 Providence St. Mel is featured on an inspiring story by NBC’s Mike Leonard.
  • 1982 President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan are so moved by the story of Providence St. Mel, they the school for the first time.
  • 1983 President Ronald Reagan returns to Providence St. Mel and proclaims it a “shining light” and a model for the nation to follow.
  • 1985 The varsity boys’ basketball team wins the IHSA State Championship (Class A), finishing their season with a 31-3 record.
  • 1987 Providence St. Mel expands further to include Grade 5 and Grade 6.
  • 1990 The Summer Opportunity of A Lifetime (SOAL) program begins, offering students enrichment experiences all over the world.
  • 1993 Providence St. Mel expands to Grade 1 through Grade 4, offering a foundational college-prep education to a wide-range of students. Providence St. Mel is now Grade 1-12.
  • 1996 Jeanette Butala (DiBella) begins her tenure at Providence St. Mel and increases test scores by 35% in less than three years.
  • 2000 Ms. Butala is named Principal, and Mr. Adams is named President.
  • 2000 Providence St. Mel’s lower school expands further to include Kindergarten, setting high standards at an early age.
  • 2003 Providence St. Mel is transformed with a new fine arts center and science labs, central air conditioning, bathroom renovations, a new elevator, and new lighting.
  • 2004 The Michigan State University study is released in the Journal of Educational Psychology and names Providence St. Mel as a “Model for Urban Education”.
  • 2005 The CURL study, finding 72% of our alumni graduate from college in four years, is released.
  • 2006 Jay Pritzker Academy in Siem Riep, Cambodia, is launched dedicated to preparing bright and motivated Cambodian children following Providence St. Mel's instructional model. Ms. Butala is named Chief Educational Officer. Providence St. Mel agreed to launch a charter school at the Ralph J. Bunche elementary school campus in Englewood and managed for five years.
  • 2008 Providence St. Mel’s commitment to setting high standards at an early age continues with the addition of pre-Kindergarten classes.
  • 2009 The Providence Effect, a documentary celebrating Providence St. Mel’s academic accomplishments, is released in theaters across the country.
  • 2010 Dr. Samuel C. Carter, a renowned education researcher, selects Providence St. Mel as one of the nation’s finest schools in his book, On Purpose.
  • 2011 Ms. Butala becomes the Chief Educational Officer of the Jay Pritzker Academy in Cambodia, which follows the Providence St. Mel instructional model.
  • 2014 Ms. Butala is named President, and Mr. Adams is named Executive Chairman.
  • 2015 For the first time in school history, 100% of Providence St. Mel graduates are accepted to Tier One colleges and universities.
  • 2016 Providence St. Mel is majorly renovated. Classrooms and hallways are refreshed, and the cafeteria – including a senior/parent lounge, front office, and admissions areas are transformed.
  • 2016 The Ohio State University alumni study is conducted. “Find a way or make one” is a life model with graduates exceeding norms in all educational expectations.

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" (PDF). Readers Digest. Retrieved December 22, 2009. 
  3. ^ History
  4. ^ "Linton Johnson". Retrieved April 8, 2013. 
  5. ^ "BERNIE LEAHY". Retrieved October 11, 2015. 

External links[edit]