Midtown Winter 2016 Alumni Newsletter

Please share this update with other alumni! If you are an alumnus and want to update your information, you can do so here.

Dear Midtown Alumnus,                 

The 50th Anniversary Year has concluded, and we are grateful to all who made it a success.  Certainly, the record annual dinner fund-raising efforts are a good reason for thanksgiving because without such support there would not be much of a program.  (In fact, other giving has been down this year, as it has for other organizations, so feel free to send in a 50th anniversary donation now.) But we are even more grateful for the year-long celebration of the spirit of Midtown which has helped so many of us to grow as persons of character and responsibility, as family and community members, and as friends and concerned, contributing citizens.  It is fitting that the celebration effectively concluded with a Mass of Thanksgiving for MEF’s 50 years of service on Sunday, December 6th at which Midtown veteran, Brian Parker, did the readings.

We’re well into our second semester with pretty much the same lineup of classes as in the first semester. We currently have a full complement of tutors and advisors and of career speakers for seniors.  Thanks to all you alumni who have volunteered in these ways and others. We’re also happy to report that the current seniors, working with Dr. Jorge Pena and their advisors, have done very well in completing their college applications and getting accepted.  We’ll have a final tally later in the spring.  Congratulations also to Midtown sophomore, Sunjay Camarillo, and his Holy Trinity High School team that won a National Innovators competition.

Summer program recruiting has already begun, and we’ll be looking for many more speakers. Alumni, we find, being from the same background as our current students, generally make the most effective presenters.  We also urge you to encourage any boys in your extended family or sons of friends to apply early to the programs. Apply here.


CHRISTMAS BASKETS: As always, the Saturday before Christmas was a busy day at Midtown as waves of alumni, current volunteers, and friends personally delivered Christmas Baskets of food and toys to needy families in the Chicago area.  Carlos Martinez and his crew (alumni staffers such as Gabe Avalos, Angel Justiniano, JJ Callan, Regino Callan, Antonio Brito, and Angel Roman) were hard at work all the previous week picking up the foodstuffs and presents, distributing them according to requests, and organizing the durable containers for smooth delivery.  In all, some 300 families received presents that we hope made their Christmas a little more joyous.

COLLEGE-AGE ALUM GATHERING: On the evening of December 29, we hosted a Christmas Break Get-Together for Midtown graduates currently in college.  About a dozen people were on hand to enjoy pizza and soda, view several of the 50th anniversary news clips, compile some pointers for current seniors on adjusting to college studies and life, and catch up with general conversation and lots of laughs. 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION PARTY: The Auxiliary Board once more organized a Christmas Volunteer Appreciation Party on January 7 at Seasons 52. (The sharp-eyed will notice that the original December date had to be changed.)  Alumni, tutors, advisors, friends, and staff once again joined together for an evening of food, drinks, music, and camaraderie. At this year’s celebration, Sam Bell received the Volunteer of the Year Award for Midtown for his work as a tutor, room leader, Auxiliary Board officer, and most recently, Midtown Advancement Council member.

Our honoree has brought to Midtown a lively, conscientious concern both for the individual students with whom he has worked and for the development of the organization that makes such service possible. His outgoing, optimistic personality, his persevering people and organizational skills, and his deep commitment to students and colleagues have all contributed to the ideal atmosphere we want in our programs. Above all, he is a good and loyal friend.
— Volunteer of the Year Award Presentation

Congratulations Sam!

SUPER BOWL WATCH PARTY: Fifteen or so football enthusiasts – a few of whom seemed more food enthusiasts – gathered in the Midtown Man Cave (living room) for the annual Super Bowl Party on February 7. We enjoyed a couple of jumbo pizzas, wings, some delicious giant shrimp provided by Mike Smith, some home-made Guacamole from Will Wittleder’s mother, and tamales from the Carlos Martinez family kitchen.  All had a good time, regardless of which team they favored.


MIDTOWN ADVANCEMENT COUNCIL (MAC) SPRING BREAKFAST FOR CHAMPIONS:  The spring Breakfast For Champions on Thursday, April 7, will feature Andrea “Andy” Cunningham whose topic will be “Getting to A-Ha”: Positioning “The Next Big Thing” for Market Success.  Ms. Cunningham is a serial entrepreneur, founder and head of her own consulting firm, and has been a PR consultant to Steve Jobs. The event will be held from 7:30-9:00AM at the Auditorium at 1871 in the Merchandise Mart, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza #1212 Details and reservations can be found here. Tickets are $25.

GLENN WILKE TO BE HONORED: St. Mary of the Angels is honoring Midtown Educational Foundation Executive Director Glenn Wilke for his years of service to education with the Guardian Angel Award at this year's Angels of Hope Dinner to be held on Saturday, April 23rd at SMA. Details here.

ROOFTOP SOIREE:  The annual Rooftop Soiree, which besides being a great party also raises money for the MEF programs, will be held on Friday evening, May 20, at a new location, Ignite Glass Studios.  Tickets & Details.

GOLF OUTING: Golfers, save the date for the 23rd Annual Golf for the Kids Outing on Monday, June 20, 2016, at Schaumburg Golf Club. Details here.

As usual, we plan to hold the usual late May 3-Man Basketball Competition and the June Alumni Family Picnic but will send details on these later in the spring.


We thought it might be of interest to highlight in each alumni letter some aspect of the current Midtown experience so that you’ll be aware of the full range of offerings.  We’ll start with Mr. Parker’s school year program for 7th and 8th graders as outlined below.


  • A. Weekday Class Periods: (Tu-7th, W- 8th): English, Math, Character Development, and Instructional Sports
  • B. Saturday Class Periods: History, Debate/Writing (7th grade), High School Prep/ High School Writing (8th grade), and Competitive Sports
  • C. Saturday Club Period (students do a different one each quarter): Chess, Creative Writing, Computer Science, and Business Skills
  • D. Individual Advising on academic and personal development and high school preparation


Please don’t be shy about sending in updates. It helps us all to hear how past Midtown participants are doing! Email Jerry Shepherd with updates.

Rudy Lozano (‘94) is the Program Manager for The Fellowship Initiative affiliated with JPMorgan Chase. According to Chase, “TFI enrolls young men of color in a comprehensive, hands-on enrichment program that includes academic, social and emotional support to help them achieve personal and professional success.” Fernando Rabiela (‘94) has worked for 16 years at Verizon, where he is now an advanced telecommunications technician.  He and his children still perform their own music as The Socialists and will next appear at The Empty Bottle on March 19. After giving a career talk to Midtown seniors recently, he claimed that his “life has come full circle!”

The Chicago Tribune announced that Antonio Godinez, a ‘99 grad from Lane Tech and now the boys soccer coach at Mount Carmel, has been named the Daily Southtown Coach of the Year.  His Caravan team “won the Catholic League South title for the second time in three seasons and captured their first regional championship since 2007, [earning] respect on and off its campus.” Antonio commented to us that “[m]y first coaching experience was at Midtown. Actually, here’s an interesting story that I have never forgotten. Pablo Rodriguez, a former professional soccer player who played for Puebla, was working at Midtown that summer. I was a coach. We formed a great relationship, and he told me I should pursue coaching.” Congratulations, Antonio! See the full story.

Mario A Garcia (‘06) is now a Banker at BMO Harris Bank. Salvador Gaytan (‘06) attended Northeastern Illinois University, where he earned a BS in Computer Science in 2009.  He is now a Cloud Consultant and Senior Developer for SMB Help Desk. Rudy Orozco (‘13) is majoring in Political Science at DePauw and is the DJ for a weekly 2-hour show on local radio. Efrain Araujo (‘14) continues to study architecture at UIC and to work for Midtown’s COP program. Arturo Favela (‘14) is majoring finance at UIUC. Peter Fonseca (‘14) is studying at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and playing center mid on their soccer team. Mariano Gomez (‘14) is majoring in English at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where he recently began an improv theatrical group. Leo Portillo (‘14) is majoring in communications with a specialty in writing for TV at Illinois State University.

Angel Roman (‘14) continues to major in biology at UIC. He also works in Midtown’s programs and is a volunteer tutor in One-on-One. Cris Jackson (‘15) is majoring Sports Management at Lakeland College, where he is on the football team. The team won the NACC championship this past fall. Humberto Ochoa (‘15) is majoring in economics at UIUC, where he was recently named an Ambassador for the Gates Millennium Scholars. He works with students at Farragut High School interested in applying for the scholarship. Marcellus Polk (‘15) is studying accounting at Blackburn and has practiced with the basketball team as a walk-on.

Joey Kelly, a former summer advisor, is currently finishing his studies at the University of Dallas and is Student Body President. “I hosted a town hall meeting tonight and have been traveling around Texas talking to other student governments,” he said in a November 11 email. Ray Jilek, a former Summer Support Crew Head and a current teacher and coach at St. Patrick’s, married Mary O’Donnell on November 27. 2015.  Former tutor, Ben Gibson, married Chelsea Davis, current MEF staffer, in Texas on January 30.


He has benefited so much from his sessions, it’s amazing! His confidence has skyrocketed. Thank you for all you’ve done for my son!
— Current ONE parent
I want to sincerely thank you for being a mentor and a great friend to me throughout my life…. I thought it was necessary to reach out to you because I wanted to let you know that my success would not be possible without your guidance. At an early age you were a role model to me and a strong influence in my life to be successful and a good person.
— Alumnus to a Program Director

That’s it for now!  Be in touch if you’d like to help or need help.  We hope to see you soon!

Best to you all,

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