100% of students, staff at Pilsen high school received COVID vaccine

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One Southwest Side high school has created a safety bubble in a Chicago neighborhood where vaccine hesitancy is high.

And on Wednesday, the Pilsen school is taking its COVID protection measures a step further.

One hundred percent of the students and staff at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in the Pilsen neighborhood are fully vaccinated, a huge accomplishment in a community lagging behind vaccination rates in other parts of Chicago.

The school hit that milestone in September.

On Wednesday, a booster clinic has been set up to stay ahead when it comes to COVID safety.

"We're anticipating that boosters are going to be necessary for our students to be deployed to offices, which is a big part of our program here at Cristo Rey is our corporate work-study program," said Morgan Collier, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School executive vice president.

Alina Aleman is a senior.

She does her work-study for Google, which helps cover the majority of her cost of education.

She feels safer knowing everyone around her is vaccinated.

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"It gives me the opportunity to have a normal senior year, to go back to work because I didn't work last year," Aleman said.

The leadership team at the school made the decision last spring to require that students and staff be fully vaccinated before the school year.

Antonio Ortiz said in an area where vaccine hesitancy is high, it was a risk, but one they were willing to take.

"We overcame the hesitancy by having conversations, and we really asked something of our families, which was to trust us and to engage us in conversation," Ortiz said.

Now, a sense of pride fills the student body.

Senior Nicholas Diaz said he feels less worried about getting sick.

"I feel that I can learn safely. I'm in this safe community. I'm able to focus on more important things like my education instead of 'am I gonna get sick?'" he said.

School administrators said, on average, they have seen less than 1% of their student population out per month due to COVID.

They said that's proof that the vaccine works.

"We feel quite a bit of pride but also a sense of responsibility that when we're given the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of vaccines, and we will do anything to keep our students safe," Ortiz said.
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