Des Plaines Science & Arts Academy honors Mark Anderson
The Science & Arts Academy in Des Plaines honored Mark Anderson on Friday at the Estate by Gene & Georgetti in Rosemont with the Blue Horizon Award at the schools annual Into the Blue Gala.
The Blue Horizon Award honors the deeply committed and dedicated supporters of the school's mission and core values. Recipients are recognized for their long-standing support of the school.
Here's the story of what Anderson did to earn the award:
"Twenty years ago I quit my job to stay home and figure out what the heck was going on with Joe, our older son (then age 4). He wasn't 'getting with the program' in his Chicago preschool, and the teacher tagged him as not being 'normal.'
"We took him to every type of specialist (sight, hearing, neurology, psychology ...). Finally, at the suggestion of an allergist, we had his IQ tested. On April 4,1997, Joe was identified as being profoundly gifted. For example, his reading comprehension was at an eighth-grade level.
"Later we learned that the other kids at preschool had claimed Joe was lying when he said he could read. If the teacher noticed he could read, she never mentioned it. Clearly, Joe was in the wrong place.
"We immediately began a search to find the best educational environment for him. SAA (Science &Arts Academy) had a reputation for meeting the child where he was, instead of just accelerating the curriculum at the same rate for all of the students. This matters a lot for children with asynchronous development like Joe. After turning over every stone, we decided on SAA. We moved from Chicago to Park Ridge to be closer to the school. Joe attended the SAA summer program in 1997 and enrolled there (still age 4) in fall 1997. His little brother Dan (then age 3) followed him and started in fall 1998.
"I served as a volunteer during the 1997-98 school year. I also conducted weekly science experiments for the 4- and 5-year-olds. I joined the board of trustees in the fall of 1998.
"At this time, SAA was still relatively new. It was located in an old commercial building and financed on a shoestring. Because I wanted SAA to be around for the next several years (for my sons and for all the other kids who needed the school), I worked with Don Dall and others on the board to put the school on stronger financial footing, with top-notch academic leadership.
"This took a number of years, and we had some ups and downs, including frequent changes in leadership and some growing pains. At one point there was a possibility that the new building would not be finished on time, and the school would run out of money. But every challenge made us stronger.
"I am proud of the institution SAA has become, and thankful for all of the effort put in by the board members, the teachers, the parents and the school leadership over the years. We are not sure what we would have done without SAA to provide a safe, nurturing place for our sons to learn, grow and thrive.
"Our two sons weren't -- and aren't -- the only gifted children in the world. Like many other parents of gifted children, we've done a lot of research and realize that our educational system has a long way to go if it's to successfully serve the gifted population.
"One way to begin to go that distance is to provide children with schools that offer them the best in gifted education, and the other way is to be part of a systematic improvement in education as a whole. I'm proud to play my small part at SAA as it advances the cause on both those fronts."
SAA recognized Mark Anderson for his unwavering support. His leadership continues to be a critical component of its continued success.
"Mark Anderson's long-standing commitment to Science & Arts Academy has been profound and transformative," said Tim Costello, head of the school. "Arriving at SAA as a parent just trying to find the right school for his sons, he witnessed the positive impact our educational program had on his boys and many other children.
"Mark believed in our mission and from the very beginning, generously shared his time, talent and treasure with the school. He has served on our board of trustees since 1998, and chaired the Board for eight years. While chairman, Mark oversaw the building of our new facility, an undertaking that sometimes took on the proportions of a full-time job. Some 20 years after first becoming part of the SAA community, Mark continues to serve our school as a member of our Board and current chair of our Finance Committee."
The school will celebrate its 25th anniversary in the fall of 2017. SAA serves students from 65 different ZIP codes. For information, visit www.scienceandartsacademy.org.