Midtown Winter 2015 Alumni Newsletter

Dear Midtown Alumnus,

MIDTOWN’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR has begun with many celebratory events to follow. We’ll have our usual alumni reconnect party at our current location in September and plans are afoot for a special old-timers get-together at the original Loomis Street site in the summer.  Keep tuned!

Meanwhile, we’ve dug out from the snow (for now!) and begun the Second Semester of the school year programs. As usual, we are fortunate to have a great crew of staff, volunteers, parents, and students.  One-on-One is serving over 120 4th-6th graders via the generous time commitment of an equal number of volunteer tutors.   MAP continues its tradition of preparing 7th and 8th graders for high school and life with a challenging but fun mix of academics, clubs, sports, and character formation.  College acceptances for seniors are pouring in as they reap the fruits of COP’s (College Orientation Program’s) four-year preparation for college and adulthood that includes academic, character, and elective classes, prep for ACT testing, college, and careers, and individual mentoring.  Parents can participate in talks and discussions each time that their sons’ programs are in session. A high school student also gained sports kudos: Alejandro Munoz (‘17) helped Holy Trinity win the Boys Soccer Regional Championship. Alex scored a hat trick in the championship game and was named Conference Player of the Year.

SUMMER PROGRAMS: Despite the current cold, we are also gearing up for the summer day programs.  Applications for all summer programs are now available online, so if you have a brother, son, relative, or friend, etc., who could benefit, please have them register soon.  

ND COLLEGE TRIP: In early October, Mike Walsh and Sam Dever brought 12 frosh on an Overnight College Visit to Notre Dame.  For most, it was the first trip to a non-city, non-Chicago campus.  Domers will be happy to hear that they were duly impressed. 

TYSON FOODS OUTREACH: On Monday, October 13, Columbus Day, Brian Parker and staff took forty-six of the MAP students downtown to Tyson Foods, Inc. (formerly Hillshire Brands) to learn about product innovation, brand management, interview skills, and supply chain from professionals there. Sergio Uribe, a former Midtown tutor, helped organize the event. 

THE SUN-TIMES featured MEF in its Mentoring Month series on January 26, 2015. 


Albert Pardilla first encountered Midtown when Joe Major came recruiting at his grade school, Holy Innocents, for the MAP summer program of 1985.  “I was going into eighth grade,” recalls Albert,” and wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of summer classes.  But when my mother saw that it was something for me to do over the summer and involved education, she jumped on it.  When I saw the basketball court at the old Loomis location, I figured it wasn’t too bad.”  Albert won aMayor’s Excellence Award that first year and received the plaque and a $50 award from then Mayor Harold Washington.  His mother was interviewed by Phil Ponce, who at the time hosted the Channel 2 show The People.  “You can still see me in the film,” laughs Albert, “this little Filipino kid with his hair all matted to one side.”  He continued his involvement in the summer program throughout high school at Northridge Prep, first as a coach and then as a counselor working under Gabe Viego. 

After graduating from Loyola University in 1995 with a degree in physics, Albert landed a job as a junior engineer at MPC Products, an aerospace products company, and served as an advisor in the fall and spring MAP programs, working with program coordinator Dave Pugh.  “In 1997, Dave left the job as he was getting married and needed to make more money, just as Leo Gomez and others had before him.  “Art Thelen told me that I should apply for the job.  I can remember repeating, ‘But it’s a pay cut, a pay cut,’ and Art retorting, ‘Yes, that’s what I want you to do.’  A day later I agreed.  Why? I was young, single, and I could play basketball whenever I wanted to.”  During his tenure, he was happy to hire Juan Oconas an English and speech teacher and Jorge Pena, then a doctoral student, to teach science.  Both developed impressive projects to present to the parents, and Jorge continues to teach the college application seminar he later developed for seniors.  Albert also worked with the parenting coordinator to further develop the “while-you-wait” parenting sessions that continue as a mainstay of the program.  “We also tried to enliven the field trips,” he recalls, “including a paintball trip. The kids loved it, but I found my voicemail filled with parents complaining about their bruises. We didn’t do it again.” He recalls that Justin Gillespie, now the Vicar of Opus Dei in Ireland, was his Head Advisor one summer and that Mike Burnspreferred doing maintenance over being COP director at Robert Morris.

He also remembers Leo Gomez giving him some good advice: during the program, focus on getting to know each kid and as many parents as possible. Albert tried to do that and only later realized fully how important it was.  “Some years afterwards, when I was walking downtown one day, a traffic officer yelled my name and then thanked me for accepting her son into the Midtown program because it had changed not only his life but also the life of the whole family. That brought home to me the impact Midtown has.” 

Albert left the MAP job after the summer 2000 program because he had married Lucia Palos and needed to make more money, and began the analytical marketing operations career that he continues to pursue.  He worked for Draftworldwideand other marketing agencies, was at the Chicago Tribune for 7 ½ years, and is just beginning as a manager of Marketing Campaign Analytics for R.R. Donnelley.  He served as a volunteer character education teacher at Midtown between 2007 and 2009, but with nine children and a home in the western suburbs, he is not as available to Midtown as he used to be.  Still, he recently has been a career speaker for the students and a guest presenter at our annual September alumni gathering.  He remains a great friend to Midtown and to so many of its graduates and legendary characters.


MAC FALL BREAKFAST FOR CHAMPIONS: On September 18, the Midtown Advancement Council sponsored a breakfast hosted by Skadden Arps at which Kristi Ross, co-founder of tastytrade and dough.com, explained the reasons for her companies’ success in financial online media and DIY investing.   Seventy-five guests attended.

REACH FOR EXCELLENCE DINNER: On Monday, October 27, MEF held its 23rd Annual Reach for Excellence Awards Dinner at the Four Seasons honoring Mr. Paul E Purcell, Chairman and CEO, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated. This event is MEF’s largest fund-raiser of the year and is crucial for keeping the lights on at Midtown.  It raised some $750,000 this year for the kids.  Midtown grad Angel Roman spoke as recipient of the Dan Jorndt award and current Midtown middle school students, future salesmen all, had a great time cajoling the adult guests into buying ever more raffle tickets in the glittering setting. You can watch Angel's speech here:

The Annual Dinner is aimed at corporations more than individuals, but Midtown alumni as individuals can contribute to the financial needs of the centers in many ways.  Some give a regular (monthly, quarterly, or annually) amount as aFriend of Midtown.  Others may attend smaller scale fund-raisers such as the Golf Outing, MAC Events, the springSoiree, etc. (See below.)   Still others join the Circle of Champions who commit to a $1000 contribution annually for three years.  However much or little you are able to give, your support is always appreciated!

CHILI COOK-OFF: The second annual Bucktown Pub Chili Cook-off on Friday evening, November 7, drew even more participants than last year and raised $3000+ to help fund the Midtown Christmas Basket Project. Thanks toAutumn, Sam, Brian Parker and all our friends at the Pub, to the Auxiliary Board, and to all who contributed!


On Wednesday, December 17, the Auxiliary Board once more organized a volunteer appreciation Christmas Party with plenty of food, drink, and good cheer.  Since Finkl Steel, for many years the generous host of this annual event, closed its Bucktown plant last year, we had to “make do” with the downtown Union League Club’s lovely, huge living room complete with fireplace, comfy chairs, and original art work.  

Mike Smith received the Volunteer of the Year award for his work on the Midtown Advancement Council, his spearheading of the creation of our summer legal apprenticeship, and his tutoring.

CHRISTMAS BASKETS: In the days before Christmas, thirty-one volunteers helped Carlos Martinez and crew package and deliver 277 baskets – actually, large plastic storage totes – filled with food, clothes, and toys. One note signed by recipients read as follows: “On behalf of the families that received a Christmas basket, HOPE at St. Pius parish would like to thank you for your generosity and thoughtful gesture!”


A half dozen hearty souls ventured out during the city’s fifth largest snowstorm to the 

Midtown Super Bowl Watch Party on Sunday evening, February 1.  The game proved almost as exciting as finding one’s way home in the blizzard afterwards.  As some of you may know, I’m originally from southeastern Massachusetts and so was particularly happy about the outcome


Gabriel Gutierrez (‘90) reports that he is “living outside of D.C. with my wife and two kids. I spend my days designing malaria vaccine for clinical trials.” Carlos Mazzoni (‘90) is a chemical operator for Thermo Fisher Scientific and lives in Haledon New jersey. Osiel Martinez (‘94) sent an update: “I am currently working at Fisk Electric as a project supervisor, specializing in physical security and video surveillance. I am married and raising three children, two boys, ages 7 and 4, and a girl, 18, now attending the University of Texas, San Antonio. We currently reside in San Antonio TX [where] I coach Pop Warner football.  I have so many fond memories of Midtown. I had great One on One mentoring with Brian Parkerand Jim Palos, among others. I would have to write a book to do it justice. Midtown gave me the confidence to get through adulthood. I would not be where I am if not for Midtown. Thank you.” After graduating from Gordon Tech, Gabriel Alfaro (‘99) attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he obtained a Masters in Education Policy.  He has been an advisor and Study Skills teacher in the Midtown Summer Program.  Currently, he and his wife Jessica live in Pamplona, Spain, where he teaches English and is beginning a PhD in English at the University of Navarre.

Angel Avalos (‘01), who holds a BA and BS in Criminal Justice from UIC and paralegal certifications from Loyola, is currently a paralegal at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP.  Jason Hammond (‘01) now works for Siemen Medical in the field of Biomedical Engineering Technology.  What stood out for him at Midtown was “the balance between academics and sports and the friendships I made.”  The programs had “an enormous impact” on him and “taught me the value of hard work and dedication.”  John (‘01) and Angel Sadofsky had their first child, Millie Grace, on January 27th.  Ray Calderon (‘02) works as a sales engineer for Cisco Systems, networking professionals.  Ray obtained his Business degree from Indiana University and currently tutors at Midtown.  David Mondragon (‘05) graduated from Lane Tech in 2005 and obtained his degree in computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He is now a software developer specializing in data analytics at Produce Pro, a consulting companying serving the produce industry.  David is also a kayaking instructor on the Chicago River and practices kickboxing. He returned to Midtown this year as a One-on-One tutor. 

Leo Gomez III (‘06) has returned to Chicago and is now a Business Analyst at alligatortek, a local business which provides custom software solutions for its clients.  Rudy Villalba (‘07) now works for Tactical Power, a part of American Trade School, where he helps develop software for the army.  Rudy makes probabilistic models that are used to troubleshoot equipment used in the field.  “Traveling,” he says, “is my favorite part of the job.  I go to different bases to get information about the equipment for which we are developing the software.” Gustavo Quinteros (‘07) is a full-time student atNortheastern Illinois University majoring in Physical Education with a Health minor. He is also working part-time as an agent with Rising Realty in Bucktown.  “My favorite memory of Midtown is the summer program which included classes at Robert Morris College. Midtown made a difference in my life by giving me solid advice during our weekly meetings, teaching me the importance of helping others in need, setting goals, dedication, staying motivated and humble, and faithful.” Malik Brewley (‘08) has a new job as advanced crew camera OP and director for Free Spirit Media in Chicago.  “Free Spirit Media provides education, access, and opportunity in media production to over 500 underserved urban youth every year.” Edwin Martinez (‘08) is an Outreach Worker Intern at YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

Carlos Valerio (‘11) graduated from an Aspira Charter School and then completed his certification in CNC (Computer Numerical Control).  He is finishing an internship with General Machinery and Manufacturing, operating the machines which produce precision machine parts and components. He plans to move to Houston soon to work for Elwood Machining and Welding.  He has a daughter, Diayana. This spring Alex Murillo (‘12) has an internship with Southwest Airlines in their Flight Operations Department and will be helping with Safety Analysis in Dallas, Texas. Jose Munoz (‘14) graduated from UIC College Prep last spring and is now studying chemical engineering at Dominican University.  David Castillo (‘14) is a freshman at Ripon College where he is studying Business Management and participating in Ultimate Frisbee and the Young Democrats Club.  Micheil Pruni, 2014 summer advisor, was on the roster of the champion Ohio State football team although he was injured early on.  He’s hoping to be ready for next season.

CURRENT TESTIMONIALS:  One story among many: Mr. Parker recently discovered that a 7th grade student went from all U’s (=F’s) his final quarter before entering Midtown last summer to 4 A’s and 3 B’s his first quarter of 8th grade. We all can continue to help unlock potential!

Best to you all,

Jerry Shepherd, Midtown Director on behalf of the Midtown staff: Brian Parker, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Calderon, Mike Walsh, and Arturo Baranda