From Chicago City Day School to Georgetown

City Day alumnus Michael Cardoza shares insights on how the JK-8 school nurtures, challenges and ultimately prepares its students for a bright future.

So many factors go into deciding whether or not a JK-8 school is the right fit for your child. Perhaps there is no better testament to a school’s character and success than that of its graduates.

Michael Cardoza, a Chicago City Day School alumnus, is living proof that City Day builds a strong educational foundation for its students. A recent graduate of a prestigious Chicago high school, Cardoza is planning to study finance this fall at Georgetown University.

Chicago City Day School Alumni story

“City Day is my first alma mater and it will always mean a lot to me,” says Cardoza, who attended the school for his entire elementary school career, from junior kindergarten through eighth grade. “It helped shape me and put me on my path.”

The City Day way

When Cardoza’s parents were searching for the perfect elementary school for his older sister, they explored various options before landing at Chicago City Day School. “My parents instantly fell in love with the school and the administration,” he says. For Cardoza’s family, one of the standout features of City Day is its dedicated and long-serving faculty

Cardoza notes that he and his fellow students formed a unique bond with educators over the years, which allowed them to explore topics and ask questions, all in a nurturing, intellectually curious setting. “When you know the same teachers from JK-8, you trust them and have a level of confidence with them,” he explains.

Michael Cardoza
Photo courtesy of Michael Cardoza

For example, Cardoza has fond memories of discussing finance with his then-third-grade substitute teacher. “I was interested in financial topics from a very young age,” says Cardoza. “Mr. Dow knew this and he made a point to talk to me about it, as a substitute, then as my 7th and 8th grade teacher. How many kids can say that about their teachers, especially at that grade level?”

The power of public speaking

City Day’s emphasis on public speaking is another aspect that Cardoza credits for his preparedness. The training begins early but intensifies in fifth grade, where students are expected to do things like explain the rules of a game to an audience and give speeches in front of both adults and their peers. 

The importance of this skill became particularly evident in high school, where only a handful of students had previous public speaking experience. Cardoza said he already had done so much public speaking at City Day, that it had become second nature and not something to fear.

Michael Cardoza
Photo courtesy of Michael Cardoza

“Your ability to speak in public gives you certain opportunities, like internships and independent studies,” he notes. “You can be articulate and confident.” This confidence played an important role in Caroza’s Georgetown interview, which he believes significantly contributed to his acceptance to the university.

Memorable teachers and lasting lessons

Cardoza recalls several teachers who left a lasting impact on him. One was Dow, who is the current head of the school and who originally taught history and English.

“My first interaction with Mr. Dow was when he was a substitute teacher for my third-grade class. He was challenging and rewarding to debate with and his passion for history and English was inspiring,” Cardoza says. 

Cardoza was also impressed by the unique energy that his science teacher Mr. McFeely brought to each class. “Mr. McFeely just made everyone want to learn. He is 100% knowledgeable. I loved going to his class because of his enthusiasm and excitement about science.

“Ms. Baldwin, our ‘shop’ aka design teacher, who we all called ‘Ms. B,’” was another favorite. She made sure we learned to build things with our own hands and had a lot of fun, but she didn’t tolerate any goofing off and we respected her for that,” Cardoza says. 

Michael Cardoza
Photo courtesy of Michael Cardoza

No matter the subject, it was the teacher’s dedication to the students that stood out to Cardoza. “They all got to know us, understood our interests, and would often apply that to what we were learning in class. They were able to do that because of the small class size and community we had at City Day.”

Preparing for college and beyond

Chicago City Day School’s curriculum and extracurricular activities are designed to foster students’ development in a balanced way. 

Michael participated in mandatory events like the Science Fair and school plays, which he says helped him and his fellow students build confidence and community spirit. “These activities lessen anxiety about getting in front of people and are fun community-building experiences,” he reflects. The small class sizes also encouraged strong bonds and teamwork.

Cardoza believes that the emphasis on community at City Day has profoundly shaped his approach to life and career. “The community ‘is’ the class,” he says. “There are no exclusive groups. We are all very inclusive and we all learned to work together.”

Plus, City Day instilled a strong work ethic and time management skills in its students, says Cardoza: “Not doing the work was never an option.” The school’s structured approach to projects taught him to break down tasks into manageable parts. “I still use this approach with my schoolwork today,” he notes.

As Cardoza prepares to head to Georgetown, he says that being a City Day student has given him certain advantages and a definite edge. “When I look at the top performers at my high school and now going on to college, they are almost always City Day alumni. I believe wholeheartedly the City Day work ethic and the school environment make you a top student.”

For more information about how Chicago City Day School sets students up for success visit chicagocitydayschool.org

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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