The first day of the 2022-23 school year had all eyes on the Excel Academy of South Shore, as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot selected the school, part of the Chicago Public Schools’ Options Network, as the location for the city’s back-to-school press conference. Members of Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) executive leadership team including CEO Pedro Martinez and CEdO Bogdana Chkoumbova also participated in the press conference.

Excel Academy South Shore Executive Director Dr. Anthony Haley kicked off the event with a warm welcome and introduction of the mayor. The visit to Excel was one stop on Lightfoot and CPS’ tour of schools in celebration of the first day of the new academic year.

“I’ve seen excited students, parents, principals, teachers and staff,” said Lightfoot. “And the unifying thread between all of these different schools, different campuses, different demographics is the excitement and enthusiasm to be back in school, in-person.”

The selection of Excel Academy South Shore as a site for this year’s press conference helps highlight the efforts of faculty and staff to ensure students receive the support needed to finish their high school education. Excel Academy is an accelerated school-of-choice for students, ages 15-21 years old, who have fallen behind in their studies. Students can earn up to five credits per semester and 10 credits per year, allowing them to graduate in two and a half years or less.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot welcomes Excel South Shore students on their first day of school during press conference.

“This is a great honor and opportunity to highlight programs such as ours, across the Excel Academy campuses and those that are a part of the CPS Options Network,” said Kevin Sweetland, regional director of the Excel Academies. “We’re proud of our role in assisting and bringing students back to the district, and we look forward to continuing this year.”

Following the press conference, Lightfoot, Chkoumbova and Martinez visited various classrooms and met with students and faculty to kick off the day.

Mayor Lightfoot and CPS executive leadership, alongside Excel administrators, visit students on the first day of school.

“I’m pretty excited to be back in school. I wanted a photo with the mayor because she plays a big role in my city, and I want to play a role in my city,” said Excel student Alonso Sable. “It means a lot to me and shows me that she’s humble. Getting a photo with the mayor, that shows I’m going all the way up!”

Mayor Lightfoot and Excel student Alonso Sable

Mayor Lightfoot and Excel student Alonso Sable

“At Excel, if you come in here and do what you got to do you, if you really want to come in here and get your education, you can get it done quick,” he said. “The more you get it done, you learn something and get staff support. Whatever you need.”

We wish all the students, educators and families of Chicago an outstanding school year!