Why Commute to Fenwick?

Leading into Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 26 – Feb. 1), a sophomore student shares his Fenwick story – and explains why traveling from La Grange to Oak Park is worth it.

By Jack Henrichs ’22

Standing 6′ 4″ tall, the “Stork” cast a long, lean shadow during his freshman football season for the Friars in 2018. (This past season, his sophomore team posted an impressive 6-1-1 record.)

On a warm spring day at the end of 7th grade, I received a text message from my mom: “We are going to Fenwick’s Open House tomorrow.” Why would I be going there? I live within walking distance between two high school campuses where ALL of my friends would attend.

I argued with my parents until it was pointless. We attended the Open House and, of course, they loved Fenwick. They mentioned strong academics, Catholic values, small class sizes. I don’t remember much about that night, but I did pass the entrance exam that fall. My life was ruined. Or so I thought.

I didn’t even know how to tie a tie on the first day of school. I kept thinking about how my friends were walking to school, wearing shorts and T-shirts and excited about high school. I was one of the only kids from my junior high school at Fenwick. When my dad drove a neighbor and me to the train station, we passed the public school. I took a car, train and bus to school. This seemed absurd. But I had been practicing football since the end of June with my new team, so I was excited about seeing my football friends in my classes.

Jack heads out for his first day of sophomore year this past August. (His mom, Michelle, made him pose!)

Joining the football team made my transition to Fenwick so much easier. The first few days of freshman football summer camp were difficult though. I was nervous because I didn’t know a single person on my team. There were kids who were already friends with former elementary and middle school classmates, but there were also kids like me who knew no one around them for the first few practices. After several days of learning plays and running drills, we were all becoming friends. We knew we were going to be with each other for the next four years, and we were excited to prepare for our first high school season.

“Joining the football team made my transition to Fenwick so much easier.”

Ted Hendricks, the original “Stork” (and NFL Hall of Famer), prowled the gridiron for the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s.

I entered the school year with a new nickname —“Stork.” Head Freshman Football Coach, Mr. Vruno, approached me before a drill and asked if I knew who “The Stork” was. I had never heard of him, but he explained that Ted Hendricks was a 6’7” outside linebacker (and one of the best NFL players of all time), with my similar height and name. When a football coach gives you a nickname, it sticks. Teammates, classmates and teachers often call me Stork. A mom even called my mom “Mrs. Stork” last year. Joining a team had impacted my experience in ways I never thought it would, and it made my high school experience much easier.

School started and although I didn’t have many of my football friends in my classes, I saw them in the hallways, and we’d hang out before school. By the end of the first month of school, I was doing more work than I had done in my entire middle school life! I adjusted well to new teachers and classes, and even attending Mass (which was new for me since I attended a public school). I actually liked the prayers before classes and Mass was a reminder for me to keep God in my life.

The Henrichs family resides in La Grange, Illinois.

My English teacher, Mr. Schoeph, made the class fun and interesting. He hopped up on desks and acted out stories for us. The grammar lessons were not as entertaining, but I knew they were important. Freshman year is said to be the hardest. And to me, it was. First semester was a challenge, but it prepared me for second semester, which went much smoother. I’m also glad I didn’t have many football friends in my classes because I met so many new people. The school days were busy and exhausting, with football and then basketball after school every day and heavy homework every night. So when the weekend came, it was like a summer day. I felt like I deserved a break because of how hard I had worked.

‘Do you want to transfer?’

At the end of the year my parents asked me if I was happy at Fenwick or if I wanted to transfer. They insisted I give it a try freshman year and said we would reevaluate the decision in June. Several friends took the train home with me on the last day of school, and I couldn’t imagine going to school anywhere else. I still had my neighborhood grade school friends, and I had my high school friends. It’s the best of both worlds.

Sophomore year has been much easier than freshman year. My workload may seem less, but it’s about the same because I’ve adjusted to the academics and expectations. I played football again this year and am still called “Stork” everywhere I go. I am also looking forward to our football team playing in Dublin [Ireland] in August.

The nine-mile trek from La Grange to Oak Park — by car, train and bus — is well worth it, Jack now believes.

Each day I enter Fenwick, I pass under the large mural in the foyer with these words: Prayer, Study, Community, Preaching. Fenwick is the foundation where I met my closest friends and is preparing me for all of life ahead of me. This school is a special place that will give me many opportunities in my future, but for now I’m going to make the most of my last two and a half years here.

It’s never easy to admit when our parents are right, but I know my parents made the right decision in choosing Fenwick High School, and I am grateful.

A day in the Life of Fenwick senior Kevin Waring (Burr Ridge)

About the Author

La Grange resident Jack Henrichs attended Cossitt School and Park Junior High. As a Fenwick student-athlete, the 6’ 4” sophomore participates in football and lacrosse – and sings in the boys’ chorus.


One Reply to “Why Commute to Fenwick?”

  1. From alumnus James V. Fineran ‘62:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Jack Henrich’s ’22 article on the joys and challenges of commuting from LaGrange to Oak Park. I did it every school day and every football practice day from September, 1958 to June, 1962. Before we were able to drive or get rides (15-20 minutes) we took a West Towns Bus to Cermak and Oak Park Ave.; transferred and got off at Washington Blvd. and Oak Park Ave. Only the guys from Hinsdale and beyond infinity took the Burlington to Oak Park Avenue in Berwyn as Jack did. It made for late arrivals home during football season.

    I thought it was really interesting that Jack went to Cossitt and Park Junior(the former all-girls Nazareth Academy in my day). That must have been a bit of an adjustment. Having graduated from Saint Francis Xavier, the religious atmosphere was, at least, somewhat familiar. I was very happy to read that Jack made the transition.

    There were many boys from SFX who attended Fenwick. From the SFX Class of 1958; Harold Long, Joe Tate and I were named to the 1961 Chicago Catholic League All Star Football Team. Wayne Pier captained the Friars basketball team. Bob Brandt was a baseball star and John Mason was a perennial boxing champ. None of us would have traded our Fenwick years for anything … long commute or not.

    I hope Jack has a great season (if there is one). I look forward to welcoming him as a Fenwick alumni in 2022.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *