The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) celebrated the opening of its therapeutic riding arena on Feb. 25.
CHSAS students who are part of the school’s FFA hosted the grand opening, and they displayed their maturity by beginning the ceremony with respectful protocol.
Breaking ground in April 2017, the arena is beautiful and large, measuring in at 164 feet by 80 feet. According to CHSAS Principal Bill Hook, the $1.8-million facility was funded by the school, with additional help from a teacher.
CHSAS received $100,000 for the arena in 2014 when teacher Maggie Kendall won the Farmers Insurance “Thank a Million Teachers” contest.
Officials said anyone interested in horseback riding can use the arena. CHSAS students in general-education and special-education programs will take advantage of the facility, as will other Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students throughout the city. First responders who are recovering from trauma will also benefit, and local residents will ride there as well.
The arena is another unique amenity that will attract visitors to Beverly, Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood and make these neighborhoods more attractive to home buyers and business owners.
CHSAS Local School Council Chairman Tim O’Brien said he previously called the school a “hidden gem” of the Southwest Side, but that description isn’t accurate anymore because the word is out.
The facility is a valuable option for the thousands of students in CPS special-needs programs and the thousands of athletes participating in activities with Special Olympics Chicago.
People with special needs already interact with animals at the school, and the arena enhances those activities. As people demand more mental-health support for police officers, the arena can be integral to a local effort.
As 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea said at the grand opening of the arena, it will be a “home” for riders.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson expressed her eagerness to tell principals throughout the city about the “wonderful facility,” and she emphasized how much she enjoyed her visit to CHSAS.
The exterior of the arena is a shade of red that is reminiscent of a traditional barn. The interior is brightly illuminated, adding energy to the positive vibe of helping others.
Eli’s Cheesecake President and CHSAS Business Advisory Council Co-chair Marc Schulman summed it up best, saying, “It’s another great day for the Ag School.”
In fact, it was a great day for the community.