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Glenwood Academy pivots to support students during pandemic, with help from Homewood Rotary


The Homewood Rotary Club‘s support for Glenwood Academy may have changed because of the persistent pandemic, but the partnership continues to help the school fully meet the needs of the students and families. 

A student at Glenwood Academy happily receives a Christmas gift, provided with help from Homewood Rotary. (Provided Photo)

Glenwood Academy was founded in 1887 by Oscar L. Dudley and Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln. The academy was initially established in Chicago. In 1890, board member Milton George donated his 300-acre farm in Glenwood, establishing the location at 500 W. 187th St. 

Glenwood Academy has served tens of thousands of students for over 130 years. 

Under the leadership of Mary Hollie, Glenwood Academy’s current president and CEO, that tradition continues. 


“Glenwood Academy is a premier educational residential academy that strives to eliminate poverty, injustice and inequity. The goal is to change the trajectory of students and their families lives through access to increased opportunity,” said Hollie.

Its supportive learning community offers students and their families a safe haven of combined academic and residential excellence, including a military leadership program enhancing leadership skills by instilling structure and collaboration into everyday life.

Though the pandemic came suddenly, Glenwood Academy was able to pivot quickly in March by moving to remote learning and remote living situations for the students. 

The academy provides assistance 24/7 with wrap-around services for students and their families, helping them cope through the pandemic. Staff is offering regular wellness checks, counseling, supplying families food and gift cards for essential items; and special parents education through support groups, such as the Parent Café and daily contact with a variety of staff. 

Glenwood Academy was still able to provide a holiday experience with the help of Homewood’s Rotary Club. 

Staff members at Glenwood Academy got in the holiday spirit while giving gifts to families. (Provided photo)

Homewood Rotary has been working closely with Glenwood Academy for the past 30 years. The Rotary Club was established in 1936 under the motto, Service Above Self. The global organization has more than 33,000 clubs around the world. Its membership is business leaders who are looking to make a difference in their communities. 

At the Glenwood Academy, the Rotarians form relationships with each of the students, setting an example on what it means to be engaged in the community. 

Geni Cutler, Rotary’s community service board chair, says one of her favorite projects is the holiday party. 

“The kids are phenomenal and it is such a delight to do this every year,” says Cutler. 

As the holiday season approaches, Rotarians receive a list of three items students would like to receive and surprise them with one. Before the pandemic, Rotarians would start the holiday party with a pizza party where the students sang songs, spent time with members of the Rotary and were able to open up their gifts. 

In 2020, the method changed to a drive-by event, but the support was just as impactful. 

According to Hollie, Homewood Rotary provides support to Glenwood Academy in other ways as well. Members are role models for students who see people who care for them unconditionally. They develop relationships with adults that are positive and caring, leading students to believe in the motto of the Rotary Club. 

Hollie said Rotary’s sponsorship of Glenwood Academy students to Rotary Youth Leadership Awards has had a direct impact. Two freshmen students are selected each year to attend the Rotary retreat with other children from all over the world. They come back with a different worldview and empowered outlook on life. 

After returning from a retreat, Hollie fondly remembers the words spoken by one of the students.

“This has been so helpful because it made me realize no matter how little I have, I still have so much more than others, and I have to understand how I can share that with them,” Hollie restated. 

“I see a young woman who will make an impact on this world and truly believe it,” said Hollie.  

The student, now a senior, has taken what she learned and blossomed, overcoming many obstacles, Hollie said. Both Cutler and Hollie recognize that this is due to the combined efforts of Homewood Rotary and Glenwood Academy. 

Hollie’s outlook for Glenwood Academy this year is to continue to make sure the students and families are safe and have their basic necessities. She also wants to focus on personal development, such as teaching the importance of volunteerism through giving back to the community. 

Paul Styles, president of Homewood Rotary, is looking forward to expanding membership. 

“We are always looking for new members because the more people we have, the more we can do,” says Styles. 

Homewood Rotary has moved its meetings to Zoom. Members get together every Wednesday at noon. 

To find out more about Glenwood Academy, visit

To find out more about Homewood Rotary or to learn about joining the group, visit

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