Grads and current staff celebrate past and future of Northwest School

  • Written by Kelly White

  lee harwig  photo 3-1

Photo by Kelly White

Lee Harwig, a 1988 graduate of Northwest Elementary School in Evergreen Park, reminisces about her favorite times at the school while browsing through a 1987-88 yearbook.

Lee Harwig can still vividly recall walking to Northwest Elementary School every morning, just a block and a half away from her childhood home in Evergreen Park.

“My mom used to stand on the sidewalk and watch me walk to school no matter how old I was,” Harwig said. “My parents’ house is still the same. After I married, my husband and I chose to still reside in Evergreen Park.”

Harwig graduated from Northwest, 3630 92nd St, Evergreen Park, in 1988, marking 30 years since she walked the halls at her beloved elementary school.

“When I think about Northwest, I remember the teachers most,” Harwig said. “I remember each teacher I ever had, and I remember the comfort they always gave me. I’m an only child, and did not come from a big family. Leaving my mom to go to school was scary, and the teachers there were always kind and supportive.”

Harwig said social media apps, like Facebook, have made it easy to remain in contact with her former classmates. However, the school’s Mustangs in Action Boosters’ Club is making it even easier to reconnect with a 50th anniversary celebration of Northwest School.

The anniversary event will be held from 7 until 11 p.m. Friday, March 9 at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W 115th St, Merrionette Park.

Harwig isn’t the only one from the graduating class of 1988 to still love the school to this day. Ann O'Neill Crago recalls with a smile the day her dog, Maggie, followed her as she walked to school.

“My favorite memory of Northwest was when my dog followed me to school in what must have been the first grade,” O’Neill Crago said. “I could see my parents’ house from the school and I would walk every day. That particular day, Maggie actually got into the school because I let her in as I walked in the door. Having Maggie in the building with me caused quite a stir.”

allison grazevich photo 3-1

Photo by Kelly White

Allison Grazevich, a graduate of Northwest Elementary School, said she is proud to have her own fifth grade classroom at her alma mater.

Another graduate of the 1988 class, Johanna Morgan, formerly Johanna Malevitis, of Evergreen Park, attended Northwest along with Harwig and O’Neill Crago. Still residing in the community, she made the decision to send her two children to Northwest as well.

“It only made sense for them to go there since it was where I went and it is a fantastic school,” Morgan said.

Morgan, vice president of the Mustangs in Action Boosters Club, is responsible for organizing a fundraiser for the past three years, along with its other members, and gathering current teachers, parents and alumni together, with all funds going back to benefit the school.

“This year, we decided to combine the annual fundraiser with the 50th anniversary of Northwest,” Morgan said.

The anniversary event is open to everyone who has attended or currently works at Northwest, but with a main focus on the class of 1988, according to Matthew Banach, the Northwest principal.

“Northwest School has been providing a great education to students in the Evergreen Park community for 50 years,” Banach said. “We are thankful for the great students, families, and staff members that have made this school such a special place that inspires and empowers students to not only be academically successful, but to also become good citizens and friends who will be the leaders of tomorrow. The 50th anniversary will allow us to take a step back and celebrate all of the wonderful memories the school has helped create for so many people.”

Tickets for the event are $30 in advance, available through, or $35 at the door on the day of the event. Ticket price includes drinks, dinner, and live musical entertainment. A silent auction will also be held. For more information on tickets, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (708) 296-3569.

All funds raised will be going to benefit Northwest. From last year’s fundraiser, the boosters club purchased a rock climbing wall for the school’s gymnasium. The wall and materials totaled $5,465. It stands eight feet tall by 20 feet wide and it was installed over the summer. The wall was ready to go by the start of school in August.

A decision has not yet been made on how the 2018 funds will be applied. However, the boosters club in the past has also paid for buses for school field trips, school parities and purchased a water fountain.

Current teachers are looking forward to the anniversary event as well, including fifth grade teacher Allison Grazevich, who graduated from Northwest in 2006.

“I feel that Northwest has become so well-rounded; the school interacts with parents and the community as well as students,” said Grazevich, 24, of Evergreen Park. “I also love to see that Northwest has carried on so many traditions that I remember participating in. I love sharing with students that I was once in their position and loved Northwest School so much that I came back to teach here.”