Ingleside teen starts GoFundMe to save her Catholic grade school

Seventeen-year-old Susan Lutzke says her quest to save St. Bede School in Ingleside is about family.

The senior at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein and a 2020 St. Bede graduate has started the “Saving St. Bede School” GoFundMe page in response to the threat that the Archdiocese of Chicago will close the parish school next year unless it can raise $400,000 cash in hand by Jan. 26.

The shutdown would affect 194 students, including Susan’s brother, Ryan, who is expected to graduate in 2025.

An archdiocese official issued the ultimatum at the Dec. 12 school board meeting. The school relayed the word to parents in an email the following day. That was when Susan decided to act, forming the GoFundMe account. The school later signed onto the account.

So far, the GoFundMe account has raised more than $167,000, an impressive amount for a short time, but still far from the goal.

  St. Bede School in Ingleside could close next school year unless the parish and school community comes up with $400,000 cash to save it. Brian Hill/

The Lutzkes have a long history with the school. Susan’s mom, Tina Lutzke, attended from 1987 to 1995. She currently serves as the school's athletic director and chairs the annual St. Bede Halloween Hustle 5K/10K fundraiser. Susan’s sister, Kyla, graduated in 2023, and her brother, Jacob, graduated in 2019.

“It’s hard,” Susan said. “It’s different when you have siblings that are still there, especially with my brother who would have been graduating next year. I feel like it’s just like a big family, and everyone’s super close. If you come to basketball games now, there are still people that graduated years ago coming and watching.”

Tina Lutzke agreed that “everyone knows everyone, everyone knows each other's names and their vehicles when they pull in, and their kids’ names and stories.”

“It’s just a very close, tight knit community,” she said. “It’s like it’s a village.”

The archdiocese’s decision stung, especially over the holiday season, she said.

“It would be easy to give up. But all it takes is one person,” Tina Lutzke said.

She said the families are doing what they can. About 40 parents showed up at the Lutzkes’ Ingleside home to brainstorm fundraising ideas the Saturday after the announcement was made. One parent organized a tamale fundraiser, making and distributing 1,400 tamales.

The school, which serves an area that includes Antioch, Fox Lake, Grayslake, Ingleside, Lake Barrington, the Round Lake area and Wauconda, opened in 1958 with eight classrooms and about 140 students enrolled in first through fourth grades. In 2007, a new school that serves preschool through eighth grade was built.

In 2018, the school received a National Blue Ribbon of Excellence recognition from the U.S. Department of Education.

The financial slide began with the merger of the parishes of St. Bede and St. Peter in 2018. At the time, the school’s debt was $1.3 million, primarily due to construction of the new facility. The archdiocese forgave $900,000 of that amount, but the $400,000 deficit has remained.

In 2017, Illinois began its Tax Credit Scholarships program, which allowed financially needy students to earn a scholarship to attend the school. At one point, St. Bede received more than $175,000. However, the state did not renew the program for the 2024-25 school year, leaving a gap in funding for students choosing to attend St. Bede.

“When Illinois lawmakers decided to end the Invest in Kids scholarship program, they jeopardized many schools throughout the state, including St. Bede,” the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement. “These schools must now try to replace those scholarship funds, which will be difficult. We appreciate the efforts of St. Bede School, its parish community, and the generosity of all donors as we work together to make Catholic schools available to those who choose them.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich will make the ultimate decision in February.

Tina Lutzke said she has heard as long as he sees backing from the community, he might reconsider.

St. Bede School has set up a website dedicated to fundraising efforts, which includes a link to the GoFundMe page.

  Tina Lutzke and her family walk through the halls of St. Bede School Thursday in Ingleside. Local high school student Susan Lutzke, 17, St. Bede School, its athletic board and the parents association joined efforts to launch the “Fund Our Falcons” fundraising campaign to raise $400,000 to save the school from closing next academic year. Brian Hill/
  The Lutzke family, from left, Kyla, 14, Tina, Susan, 17, Jacob, 18, Ryan, 12, and Josh Thursday at St. Bede School in Ingleside. Susan Lutzke, 17, a St. Bede graduate, has joined with the school, its athletic board and parents association to launch the “Fund Our Falcons” campaign to raise $400,000 to save the school from closing next academic year. Brian Hill/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.