The first is that we are a neighborhood school. I have lived in our neighborhood over 45 years. I was here when Tast-E Hast-E was the best hotdog on Milwaukee Ave. My father was a Chicago Police Officer and my mother sold Real Estate. The year we moved into Jefferson Park, Kings Gyros opened on Milwaukee and Foster. The students who attend Taft are my neighbors. Close to 90% of our students, live in our attendance boundaries. I see my students every day at Mariano's, Jewel, Big Top Restaurant, or at Taco Burrito King (TBK) late at night. Probably a little too late if you ask me! I see them walking around the Harlem Irving Plaza or cutting their grass and their neighbors grass on Saturdays. Taft students love our neighborhood and feel safe and comfortable enjoying it. Taft students stay home. This speaks volumes about the quality of the education at Taft High School. We ARE a safe and meaningful Level 1 High School for our neighborhood families.
Over the past 10 years the families in our neighborhood have decided that it is not in the best interests of their children to spend sometimes 10 to 15 hours a week traveling to another school. Their children's time could be better used competing in sports, participating in clubs, or studying. They have come to realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side. The grass is greener where it is watered. The University of Chicago recently published a research paper, which stated what we already know. You do not need to send your child to a private school or a select enrollment school to get them accepted to a major college or university. Last year our class of 2018 had an amazing year. Close to 100% of our graduating seniors were accepted to a college or university. Our college-bound 2018 graduates were accepted to a wide range of colleges and universities including ten of the Big Ten universities Our graduating Eagles were accepted to schools in 43 different states as well as a university in Paris France.
The second reason I love working at William Howard Taft High School is that every day I come to work I am surrounded by an amazing staff and the most dedicated group of teachers I have ever had the honor to be part of in my 26 years in the field of education. Please understand that I have also had the privilege of working with some wonderful teachers at St. Patrick High School as well as Whitney Young High School. There is something special about the teachers at a true neighborhood school. We have over 200 teachers who understand that there is a time to laugh and there is a time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. For them I am very thankful. They are the true heroes in today's society. Their work touches hearts and generations.
The third reason I love being the principal of Chicago's best neighborhood school is that we at Taft are very educationally diverse. We have students who enroll in the IB program, which is the world's most demanding high school diploma program. Students in the IB Diploma Program are the most sought after graduates by colleges and universities. What we like to say here at Taft is that AP students take the elevator, but IB students take the stairs. If you can complete the IB program, you have earned the best high school diploma in the United States and in the World. We also have students who are not focused on their education (My favorites because I was one of them). What honestly brings me the most satisfaction is to shake those students' hands when they walk across the graduation stage. We look at each other, and we both know the effort it took to accomplish this goal. I whisper to every graduate who shakes my hand on stage, “Make us proud”. I have to choke back the tears when a student retorts “Thank you for believing in me Mr. G”. That is what it is all about and that is why I do what I do. When you get to be my age, you realize that sometimes, it is the journey and the struggle that makes the prize so valuable.
We also honor the uniqueness of each of our students. We encourage students to be individuals. We like students with green, red, purple, or orange hair. I personally am jealous that they have hair. We love our sports teams, but we also love our skateboarders and BMX bikers as well as all of our students in the performing arts and the NJROTC. If you want to see the true essence of Taft High School, you need to check out our International Night in May of every year.
If you are looking for a school that mirrors society as a whole and accepts all students for who they are, including their weaknesses, their quirks and all of their strengths. If you are looking for a school that understands that sometimes a student’s main concern it not just what happens in the classroom but who they are going to sit with at lunch. If you are looking for a school that understands that students do not come to school to be disruptive, that their world is sometimes falling apart and they are struggling with how to cope with the feelings then William Howard Taft High School might just be the school for you. Please remember, we do not hand pick our students. We accept every student coming through our doors and say with a big smile, “Welcome to Eagle Nation”.
William Howard Taft High School