Thousands of Chicago teenagers hopped on trains and buses to get themselves to class on the first day of school Tuesday morning. But a few students from Wells Community Academy High School in the West Town neighborhood rode to class in luxury cars. It was part of a back-to-school event put on by local businesses.
Jason Peterson is a creative officer at The Annex — an ad agency near Wells — that helped put on the party and get the top sophomore, junior, and senior to school in Ferraris and a Lamborghini.
“We wanted to celebrate the kids that are… really studying hard and doing really well, but celebrate them in a really cool authentic way,” Peterson said. “We have the coolest DJ in the city and driving to school in Lambos. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
The Annex partnered with two other marketing companies — Xtreme Xperience and Havas Worldwide — and raised more than $4,000 for Wells to buy school supplies.
Wells is one of the city’s neighborhood high schools that have been hit hard by budget cuts in recent years. In the last two years alone, Wells saw nearly $2 million cut from the budget.
Principal Rita Raichoudhuri said there are dozens of other schools nearby that Wells has to compete with to attract students.
“Folks who experience the school know that it’s a good school, but people on the outside who’ve never stepped foot inside or haven’t experienced what it feels like to be part of this learning community, don’t opt for this school because again the stigma of — it’s a neighborhood public school so it must be not so great and these other options must be better because that’s just how we’re socialized,” Raichoudhuri said.
Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @WBEZeducation.