Richards High School Principal Dr. Mike Jacobson and several staff members at the high school, 10601 Central Ave., Oak Lawn, walked for 24 hours on a treadmill to raise money for student scholarships starting bright and early on New Year's Day. (Supplied photos)

Richards High School Principal Dr. Mike Jacobson and several staff members at the high school, 10601 Central Ave., Oak Lawn, walked for 24 hours on a treadmill to raise money for student scholarships starting bright and early on New Year's Day. (Supplied photos)

Richards’ Principal walks 24 hours for a cause

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By Kelly White 

Most people spend New Year’s Day relaxing. Richards High School Principal Dr. Mike Jacobson spent it on the treadmill.

For the second year in a row, Jacobson inspired generous donations of more than $20,000 on New Year’s Day by walking 24 hours on a treadmill without stopping. All of the money raised goes directly to benefit student scholarships.

“Honestly, it’s very inspirational,” Richards senior Jordan Tooles, 18, of Calumet Park, said. “You don’t see many staff members putting themselves on the line to earn scholarship money for students. It shows you how much Dr. Jacobson cares about his school and the students who walk through the door.”

Also serving as Incarnation Catholic Church’s Youth Ministry Director, Jacobson has witnessed a degree of need like never before through the parish’s Adopt-A-Family program organized by the Archdiocese of Chicago and The Giving Tree – which supports abused women and children. He began to wonder how many students attending Richards may be in need of financial assistance as well, and more than just during the holiday season.

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Richards High School Principal Dr. Mike Jacobson and several staff members at the high school, 10601 Central Ave, Oak Lawn, walked for 24 hours on a treadmill to raise money for student scholarships starting bright and early on New Year’s Day.

“What inspired me was the need the kids have for this money,” Jacobson said.

The pandemic has also encouraged Jacobson to give even more.

“I was and am really bothered by the negative impact the COVID lockdowns had on the kids,” he said. “They have really been negatively impacted.  I don’t think many people understand how much has been taken from them and how this has negatively impacted their adolescence and formation.  I thought the least the adults could do was try to get the kids a little more money to pursue their dreams.”

The money goes to fund the myriad of scholarships that the school gives out to our graduating seniors. Each of these have their own criteria and process, which means Richards is able to award money to kids with a variety of post-graduation plans.

“This walk means so much to me because these kids mean so much to me,” Jacobson said. “Kids from blue collar areas are often shortchanged on a lot of things in this world where your zip code is so important. At Richards we do all we can to be sure they aren’t shortchanged here.  This money is often a catalyst for the lives of these kids.  Even if it is only a few hundred dollars, it can be what gets them to pursue a dream. That is the Richards Vibe.”

Jacobson’s 24-hour walk took place on New Year’s Day morning bright and early at 8 a.m. until January 2 at 8 a.m. on a treadmill that was setup right in the lobby of the Richards Theater.

“The walk is actually really difficult and painful,” Jacobson said. “I do it because I like the message it sends and the money it raises. These kids deserve more and it is up to people like me to suffer a but to be sure they get it. This is why I hope people readily give. We have a responsibility to do so.”

Last year, due to COVID restrictions, Jacobson had several staff members, students, and local area community members join him on the walk in the luxury of their own homes. This year, more than 30 staff members and students participated in the walk right alongside Jacobson.

“Good leaders lead by example and motivate others by their words and actions,” Deborah Swanson, Math Teacher and Activities Facilitator at Richards, said. “The Richards community is fortunate to have Dr. Jacobson who saw a need last year and put his feet to work by creating the New Year’s Day Walk. The money raised from this event helps make dreams come true for many of our students.”

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