Midtown Fall 2015 Alumni Newsletter

Fall 2015

Dear Midtown Alumnus,

As usual, the school year calendar includes a wide variety of educational experiences ranging from academic classes and instructional sports to electives and mentoring.  Oscar Calderon’s One-on-One tutoring program is well on the way to its 120 capacity, and Brian Parker’s Midtown Achievement Program (MAP) has 100 7th and 8th graders enrolled in Math, English, Science, History, and Public Speaking classes plus clubs in Chess, Creative Writing, Junior Achievement Finance, and Web Design. A structured program presents the theory and practice of various sports in addition to competition. Mike Walsh’s College Orientation Program (COP) offers grade-appropriate Math and English classes, ACT prep for juniors, college application and career exploration tutorials for seniors, electives in Design, Communication, and Art, tutorial and mentoring sessions, and spirited sports.  The Parenting Program, now under the capable direction of Carlos Martinez, continues to provide parents with information, resources, and support.  We are thankful that many of our teachers themselves are graduates from the programs and that alumni continue to help out as career speakers for seniors.


Midtown has received many well-wishes during this 50th anniversary year, but none as prized as an October letter from Bishop Javier Echevarría, the Prelate of Opus Dei, the Catholic organization whose spirituality inspired and informs the center.  He congratulated all those involved in Midtown and encouraged us “to continue your efforts so that many more people may have the opportunity to participate in this undertaking that has done so much good.” On Sunday, December 6th, during the Novena to the Immaculate Conception, the 7:15pm Mass at St. Mary of the Angels (next to Midtown) will also be a Mass of Thanksgiving for MEF’s 50 years of service.  All are welcome.

We held the annual fall Alumni Re-Connect Party on Thursday, October 17, with much reuniting and making new friends.  Hub Arkush gave a wonderfully frank and insightful presentation on the current Chicago sports scene, and Jerry Shepherd updated the 30 or so attendees on current activities and needs at the center. Despite some technical difficulties, we showed recent 50th anniversary promotional material, including the two-part program that appeared nationally on Kelly Wright’s Fox News “Beyond The Dream” segment.

That same morning, the Midtown Advancement Council sponsored John Kass, Chicago Tribune columnist, as the guest speaker for its Breakfast with Champions. John spoke of the history of education in Chicago, its rather bleak outlook, and the hope that programs like those of Midtown Educational Foundation give in responding to the challenges.  Breakfast with Champions hosts these programs in the fall and spring.

The 3rd annual Chili Cook-Off, hosted and managed by our friends at the Bucktown Pub, once again hit new heights as the earlier date allowed for full use of the outdoor garden.  The October 9 event, featuring high quality chili from well-known area venues, raised approximately $4000 for the Midtown Christmas Basket project. which helps several hundred low-income families have a more joyous Christmas.  Thanks to all who contributed and participated, especially organizers Brian Parker, Sam Ray, and Pub Manager Autumn Giltner and her great crew.  Thanks also to MEF’s Auxiliary Board which took care of operations and raffle sales.  If you are interested in helping to deliver Christmas baskets in the week before Christmas, please contact Carlos Martinez at cmartinez@midtown-metro.org to get registered. Friends and family are welcome!

During Columbus Day weekend, Mike Walsh and Sam Dever took 16 of our freshmen and sophomores for an overnight visit to Notre Dame, the first time most of them had stayed on a college campus.  The students toured, spoke with students and professors, and had a great time on a football weekend in South Bend. Thanks to Professor Mike Seelinger, our summer Head Advisor, for hosting the group.  The high school team will organize several local college trips as well as the traditional extended tour over Easter break.

The annual Reach for Excellence Dinner & 50th Anniversary Gala on November 3 raised 1.1 million dollars for Midtown Educational Foundation, a record for this 24-year old event.  A handful of our current MAP students, guided by Mr. Parker, contributed to that amount by selling a record $13,000 worth of raffle tickets in an hour and a half.  This year’s recipients of the Reach for Excellence Awards, John R. Ettelson, President and CEO of William Blair, and Aylwin B. Lewis, President and CEO of Potbelly Sandwich Shop, both praised the MEF’s 50 years of service as did several alumni and Kelly Wright. Thanks to all who supported the dinner! See more details of this very special event.

Glenn Wilke, MEF Executive Director, participated in Mentoring Chicago’s Youth for Success: A City-Wide Breakfast Panel on November 17, at the Union League Club. 

Alumni are once again invited as our guests at the annual Auxiliary Board Christmas Party on Monday, December 14, from 5 to 8 PM at Seasons 52 (55 East Grand Avenue).  Join fellow Midtown & Metro alumni, friends, and volunteers and enjoy a complimentary evening of food, drinks, music, and camaraderie. See details and register now.  PLEASE NOTE: You must RSVP by December 8; otherwise, you’ll have to pay $20 at the door.  (The organizers really do need to give an accurate count in advance to the venue.)


We caught up with Dan McGettrick, who was in town for the 50th anniversary dinner.  Dan served as COP Manager in the early 2000’s.  Currently he lives with his wife Denise and their three children, ages 4 to 8, in Houston. Dan works as an insurance fraud investigator for the Farmers Insurance Group, and Denise is an immigration lawyer for a local Houston firm, Fong and Associates.

Amiable and good-humored, Dan recalls his years at Midtown fondly. He had just graduated from the University of Texas and moved here because his bride, Denise, was starting DePaul Law School.  “Literally, I graduated, got married, and moved to Chicago all within three weeks.”  While researching a paper on recent Spanish history, he found references to Opus Dei and, as he investigated more, grew in admiration for the Prelature.  When he moved to Chicago and inquired about the Work, he came into contact with Midtown as one of the apostolates inspired by the spirit of Opus Dei, and became an intern and then COP Manager here under Director Matt Smyczek.

I was impressed by the genuine overall willingness that I saw in many of these teenagers to try to better themselves in ways that others may not have thought possible to them. I realized that the stereotypes about teenagers that I had and others had were wrong.
— former Midtown COP Manager

Dan emphasizes that his was not the usual Midtown staff background. “I was and am a geek who loves history and is a total non-athlete, non-sports guy.  I was honest with the kids about that.  For someone from such a background to come in and be accepted and have some impact…only God could make that happen.”  At the same time, he found his own stereotypes of teenagers transformed.  “I was impressed by the genuine overall willingness that I saw in many of these teenagers to try to better themselves in ways that others may not have thought possible to them.  I realized that the stereotypes about teenagers that I had and others had were wrong.”

Some specific memories of Midtown stand out.  Dan, who, despite his last name, is half Mexican, also thinks the boys “liked my Mexican jokes.” And they realized he wasn’t just a Texan redneck when they heard him talking to their parents in Spanish.   He considers his “magnum opus in innovation” the trip he conceived for high school students that combined touring DC area colleges, such as Georgetown and Annapolis, with a visit to the Gettysburg battlefield.  He and MAP Manager Brian Parker were, he says, like police partners.  They especially enjoyed sampling in advance the delicious food that families would bring for events like the Awards ceremony.  Dan recalls once waiting for the audience to applaud at some center event so that they could crunch down unobserved on the “best chicken with black bean flautas I have ever had.”

Dan left Midtown because of family obligations in Houston.  He recalls MEF secretary Karen Serwich telling him that “I was a kid when I walked in, and I was a mature man when I left, and I agree wholeheartedly.  It was a privilege to work at Midtown because it was a great opportunity to serve but also because it was like a loving family that took me in when I was a stranger to Chicago.”

Upcoming Events

Mass of Thanksgiving for MEF’s 50th Anniversary
Sunday, December 6th, 7:15pm (part of the Novena to the Immaculate Conception)
St. Mary of the Angels Church
1850 N. Hermitage Avenue, Chicago
All are welcome!

Auxiliary Board Christmas Party
Monday, December 14, from 5 to 8PM
Seasons 52, 55 East Grand Avenue
Free to Alumni and their Guests who RSVP by December 8

Christmas Basket Delivery
The Week Before Christmas
Contact cmartinez@midtown-metro.org to Volunteer


Leo Gomez (‘81) now works for Bank of America as the Merrill Lynch Financial Solutions Advisor. Brian Parker (‘88) was awarded a merit-based NDP (National Degree Programs) tuition scholarship for the Summer, Fall, and Spring 2015-16 semesters.  Diego Carlton (‘89) studied engineering at IIT and is currently a programmer, most recently at CIS (Computer Information Systems, Inc.), a public software provider working with database issues. Phron Freeman (‘90) works at Crawford Broadcasting as a producer of The Tom Joyner Morning Show. Phron majored in radio at Columbia and also produces a Go Get It, a video countdown show on public access on Channel 19 locally.

Luis Perez (‘93) and wife had twins, one boy one girl, Liam and Soleil, on Sept 8. Luis also reports from their current home in Texas that “my son comes home from school and tells me his classmate went to Metro this summer. It turns out her dad. Roberto Garza, went to midtown 30 years ago.”  Fernando Rabiela (‘94) has been a telecommunications technician for Verizon for the past 15 years.  “Our family band, The Socialists, is still playing.  Our website is www.thesocialists.org, if anyone wants to keep tabs on us.” Fortunato “Nato” Herrera (‘94) is a union carpenter currently working on development of the new construction at Malcolm X College. He has “a great wife Zandra and four lovely daughters, Vivianna, Victoria, Natalie, and Noelia. Nato reports that he remains a proud member of the Chestnut Mountain Hunting Club, along with his brothers Jack and Tony, and fellow Midtown grads Cesar Martinez and Juan Moreno. Mike Perez (‘95) and his wife Lisa, who is a nurse, have three children.  Saul Urrutia (‘95) is a Billing Assistant at the law firm of Rusin and Maciorowski.

Jason Hammond (‘01) attended Midtown in 4th-7th grade. He now has a BS in Biomedical Engineering Technology from DeVry and is planning to work at Walter Reed Hospital in DC.  Midtown he says “was one of the three greatest things that happened to me.  I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.”  Fidel Garcia (‘02) attended Marian College in Wisconsin, where he majored in Criminal Justice and played on the Varsity basketball team. He has worked at Mundelein High School, where he is currently boys’ sophomore coach and an instructional aide.  Julian Johnson (‘04) currently works at the Reggae Island Jerk Chicken restaurant on 51st and Halsted on the South Side. “My cousin, his friend, and I just opened and are running the restaurant. My cousin’s friend is training/grooming me to be the assistant manager. I’m really excited about it because eventually I want to open my own restaurant. There’s a lot of work involved, but I love doing it.”  Ricky Amaro (‘06) is a CPS employee as a SECA, 2nd year, assisting K and 1st grade diverse learners at Tarkington School.  Mario Garcia (‘06) has a degree in business management and works for Sears in Management of Hardline Sales. He is getting married in May, 2016.

Armando Guillen (‘08) is currently an assistant teacher of special education at Calmeca Academy Elementary School. He has an associate’s degree with a focus on psychology and is continuing his studies at Chicago State this fall.  Gabe Avalos (‘09) has gained membership in the prestigious national Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society. He is now also Senior Program Assistant at Midtown. Christian Arevalo (‘11) graduated from U of I, Urbana-Champaign, last May with a degree in Marketing and Management from the Business School. He is currently working at TCF Bank and is a new tutor in the One-on-One program. He eventually hopes to work in marketing for the alcohol industry. Jesus Zermeno (‘13) is in his third year of chemical engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Current tutor Sean Madison is now “working for a startup called Foxtrot Delivery Market, and I'm going to be running their Operations team there. The company delivers high end market items from an app in under an hour. I'm very excited about it!”  Former Midtown coach and teacher John Hartzmark now teaches English at Fulton High School and has been named Teacher of the Month.

Testimonial from Current Parent: “I just wanted to take a minute to thank you and Midtown for all your time and dedication you offer to the young boys in our city.  Midtown has made a great difference in my son's … life.  Since attending the One on One program last school year, [my son] did improve his grades and improved his Terra Nova Scores.  I believe working with his tutor/mentor on test taking preparation helped him very much.  Secondly, after attending the summer program this past summer, [my son] seems more focused.  He keeps talking about how he has to do better in school in order to achieve his dream of becoming an Engineer.  I never heard [my son] speaking this way before.  I believe we owe this to your program and are looking forward to starting the program for the new school year.  Once again thank you, and may God bless you.”

Best to you all,

Jerry Shepherd, Midtown Director on behalf of the Midtown staff:
Brian Parker, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Calderon, Mike Walsh, Gabe Avalos