Veterans Day is a time for our country to recognize the brave men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. On this Veteran’s Day, CPS is recognizing one Army veteran in a very special way.
This afternoon, CPS joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, and the Southwest Middle School community to announce a proposal for this school to be named in honor of Sergeant Robert J. Richardson – a beloved CPS teacher and decorated Army veteran.
This recommendation was made by the Southwest Education Action Committee, and will be presented to the Chicago Board of Education for a vote during its December meeting.
Sgt. Richardson taught in CPS high schools for 25 years. But before he became a JROTC instructor — before he began teaching students the value of discipline, service and loyalty — he served his country for a quarter century, fighting in the Korean War and completing two tours in Vietnam.
Known affectionately as “Sarge”, all that this Chicago native ever wanted to be was a soldier. So when health concerns forced an early retirement from the Army, he could have become bitter and resentful. Instead, he chose to pass on what he loved about the military to CPS students.
Sarge taught at several CPS high schools, but found his niche in the JROTC program at Lincoln Park. As much a mentor as he was a teacher, he shepherded over 200 cadets per year through that program, guiding them with focus, enthusiasm, and the belief that they could reach higher and achieve more.
When it was announced that the new Southwest Middle School might bear his name, letters of support began pouring in from Sgt. Richardson’s former students. A Lincoln Park graduate named Varanya recalled how he helped her go from a wild, rebellious teenager to the District’s City Corps Commander –the highest ranked JROTC cadet in Chicago –despite her almost leaving school after becoming a teenage mother.
Alberto, another former cadet, wrote of how Sgt. Richardson changed his outlook on life. How he taught him to believe that there would be brighter days ahead, and that the measure of a man’s success was if he helped to fill the world with good people.
Sgt. Richardson passed away in 2015, so the students who attend the school that may bear his name will never have the privilege of meeting him. But just by walking through those school doors each day, they will become a part of his legacy, and he will become a part of their life story.