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No. 8: Morgan Park Academy

The proud South Side institution also goes big off-campus.

Photo: Courtesy of Morgan Park Academy

This 20-acre campus includes six buildings, a 4,000-square-foot playground, and a 425-seat theater, but during the most memorable week of the school year, the grounds are virtually empty. Starting in sixth grade, all students at the pre-K-to-12 school participate in Project Week, which takes place in March entirely off campus. In high school, that could mean (for a fee) a 10-day trek in Iceland, a homestay in Japan, or a trip to Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley.

“We’re on the South Side trying to make our mark on the world, but we want students to leave understanding that the South Side isn’t everything, that we are part of a larger world that we have a responsibility to,” says Mercedes Z. Sheppard, head of the school.

That’s not to say exciting things aren’t happening on campus, too. Students raised money to install water bottle filling stations in most of the buildings and propelled the cafeteria to stop stocking bottled water. “That’s the benefit of having such a small community,” says Sheppard of the 136-student high school. “Students can really have an impact on life at the school.”

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