An educational center and charter high school supporting neighborhood youth

The Gary Comer Youth Center and College Prep provide educational and recreational services to underserved youth in a 13.5-acre campus in Grand Crossing, Chicago. The expansive 80,000-square-foot youth center houses educational and recreational facilities for after-school programs while the 45,000-square-foot college prep building is a full-time high school for community residents. The bold colors and distinctive lines of the buildings serve as inviting landmarks and beacons of hope for children in the blighted Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. Inside the campus, transparency within the buildings and open courtyards emphasize a shared sense of community and responsibility that is a foundation of the academic programming.

The Gary Comer Youth Center and College Prep provided space for the very successful drill team to symbolize the potential for individual success and is a source of community pride.

2011 Selection Committee

The project began when Land’s End founder Gary Comer returned to the neighborhood with an offer to help the elementary school he graduated from in 1942. His vision grew from funding equipment and building repairs to creating a youth center that would provide much-needed space for after school and educational programs. He hosted monthly breakfasts to assess community needs, including the need to create permanent space for the champion South Shore Drill Team, whose success has had a positive impact on local youth. The drill team, arts and dance, and urban gardening were among the core set of programs when the center opened.