Proverbial ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ finds home in new trade school in Niles

A recent aha moment for Charlie Walsh Jr. of Walsh Partners in Elmhurst led to his dropping off a truckload of abandoned bicycles at Charles H. Walsh Sr. Academy & Career Tech High School in Niles. The bicycles were abandoned by former residents in his apartment properties located in Elmhurst.

The school, which is known as Walsh Academy for short, is named after Walsh’s father, Charles H. Walsh Sr. and opened in Niles after Thanksgiving last year. Walsh Jr. was present when it broke ground in November 2022 and during the ribbon-cutting ceremony in December of last year.

Walsh Academy is the first school in Illinois and perhaps the country to prepare students with learning differences to enter high-demand, high-paying jobs in the trades or be college-ready. The new space provides 12 academic and eight vocational classrooms.

In addition to earning a high school education, students have a state-of-the-art culinary lab, an in-house media studio, a tech lab, spaces for carpentry, construction, HVAC and small engines, a new garden and a greenhouse.

Bike repair will be added as part of the career technical education program in the future.

“When I found the abandoned bikes, I immediately thought of Walsh Academy,” Walsh Jr. said. “It was an aha moment for me and given what I saw when the school opened, the students will have this great opportunity to learn how to repair bikes. There’s plenty for them to repair,” he added.

“What is even more exciting about this donation for me is it brings back a beautiful memory of a story my Dad would tell when he was a kid at Maryville,” Walsh Jr. shared. “It turns out that my Dad and his brother Leo were the only two kids that actually had a bicycle at Maryville. Because of this, his entrepreneurial spirit started when he was very young, in the late 30s and early 40s, wherein he would charge a few pennies from his classmates and other kids, at the school, to ride his bike around ‘the courtyard.’ So I thought, what a fitting tribute to this incredible story in memory of my father. I guess life comes full circle sometimes.”

Walsh Academy Principal Ann Craig expressed her gratitude to Walsh Jr. for thinking of the students and for donating the bikes. “What a great opportunity for our students,” Craig said. “I cannot wait to see our students take these bikes apart, gain an understanding in the process and apply the knowledge that they have acquired in real life.”

The school operated as Jen School for 16 years in Des Plaines. It underwent a name, location and curriculum change in 2023. It is also a 10-time recipient of the School of Excellence Award from the National Association of Special Education Teachers.

To learn how you can support Walsh Academy, contact Ann Craig at or visit

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