Drivers traveling along the Kennedy Expressway are now being greeted by the smiling faces of students from Carl Schurz High School. One of three such billboards in the community, the image is part of a marketing campaign meant to promote Schurz as a high-quality option for students in the Old Irving Park neighborhood.
This is the latest in a string of projects made possible by Schurz’ diligent pursuit of business partnerships - their chosen response to the budget challenges that are being faced by all of CPS.
“We can look at these new budgets as an insurmountable problem and begin losing opportunities for students, or we can look at this as a challenge to establish new partners in our community and grow our school business bonds,” said Dan Kramer, principal at Schurz.
Over the past three years, Schurz has formed a solid partnership with CDI Corporation – a print media production company located half a mile from the school. What began as a simple donation has become a comprehensive marketing and development plan – one that includes CDI representatives working directly with students interested in business.
“CDI works with our finance academy to teach students how to build and grow a business,” said Principal Kramer. “They even helped us create our own company within the school.”
Known as Bulldog Magnet Company, this student-run enterprise prints Schurz-themed bumper stickers to be sold at school fundraisers. Students in the Schurz finance academy manage the business, while those from the school’s autism program get involved in packing and shipping the product.
“This has been great, but we’re now thinking about more long-term funding options for capital improvements,” said Principal Kramer. “The goal is to have projects that will be transformative to the school while strengthening our relationship with the community.”
Enter the billboards – images of smiling student faces with a slogan meant to celebrate both the school’s long history and its recent innovations. Administrators hope that this recruitment campaign will make prospective students take a new look at Schurz, particularly given its recent designation as an IB school.
“Since the billboards went up, I’ve received a lot of calls from the parents of perspective students,” said Principal Kramer. “I think this campaign has gone a long way toward improving our image within the community.”
By continuing to grow its business partnerships, Kramer believes that Schurz will be in a good position to fund the programs and resources that students want and need.
“It’s our way of making lemonade out of lemons,” he said. “Tough budget times have forced us to explore other funding options, which has led to partnerships and opportunities we might never have thought possible.”