Benito Juarez Academy High School
1450–1510 W. Cermak Road


Coordinates41°51′10″N 87°39′52″W / 41.8529°N 87.6645°W / 41.8529; -87.6645
School typePublic Secondary
MottoSoaring to new heights!
School districtChicago Public Schools
PrincipalJuan C. Ocon
Enrollment1,682 (2015–16)[2]
Campus typeUrban
Color(s)  Black[1]
Athletics conferenceChicago Public League
Team nameEagles
AccreditationNorth Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Benito Juarez Community Academy, (commonly known as Juarez High School; abbreviated BJCA), is a public 4–year high school in the Pilsen neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Juarez is named for Mexican president Benito Pablo Juárez García. The school is a part of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district. As of 2014, it has been recognized as the largest high school in Pilsen.[3] The building was designed by architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez.

The school was proposed to the Chicago Board of Education multiple times but ultimately rejected. This led to protests and boycotts from many Mexican students and families. Finally, in June 1974, the Chicago Board of Education approved $8.9 million in funding to build a high school in Pilsen. Benito Juarez Community Academy opened in 1977 and as of 2017 has a 94 percent Latino student body. The school is decorated with murals and statues that portray Mexican culture and famous leaders.[4]


Prior to the opening of Juarez, Pilsen area students attended Carter Harrison Technical High School. The Pilsen community asked for a senior high school of their own since the students had to cross gang territory to get to Harrison.[5] Other factors included racial tensions at Harrison itself and Pilsen parents worrying about their children getting into trouble away from their watch.[6] A March 1972 boycott of two area schools, the Froebel branch of Harrison and Jirka School, from Mexican origin people gave impetus to have Juarez built.[7]

Teresa Fraga, Mary Gonzales and Raquel Guerrero are the three founding mothers of Benito Juarez Community High School.[4] Gonzales was the head of the Pilsen Neighbors group.[8] In the late 1960s, the three mothers shared concerns for their own children when the only public high school available was Harrison High school. Harrison high school was located in a neighborhood plagued with gang territory and racial tension between African Americans and Mexican Americans. The mothers wanted a safe and conducive school for Spanish speaking students.[4]

In June 1973 the Chicago Board of Education approved the construction of Juarez, and the board selected the location in September of that year.[9] In June 1974, Chicago's Board of Education approved $8.9 million in funding to build a high school in Pilsen.[4] By September 1974, due to business owners wanting to increase the final payments made out to them from the loss of their businesses and factory workers who themselves were parents not wishing to lose their jobs, CPS had not yet begun construction of Juarez; this prompted area parents and students to protest and ask the workers and business owners to reconsider their stances.[10] Additional boycotts and use of "freedom schools" instead of the regular public schools occurred. In 1975 CPS acquired the land and in 1976 it selected the architect.[9]

The city closed Blue Island to prepare for the construction of the school.[5] The contractors who had the school built were Mexican-American.[9] Some University of Illinois Chicago students suggested naming the school after Emiliano Zapata, Che Guevara, or another revolutionary of Latin American origin,[11] but the parents were opposed to that idea.[12]

When the school opened, the faculty had originated from other Chicago schools.[12] The formal dedication occurred on September 16, 1977. The CPS superintendent, Joseph Hannon, attended and stated that the Juarez school represented "a community that would not take 'no' for an answer."[13] René Luis Alvarez, a professor at Northeastern Illinois University, stated that the school's establishment, "[i]n many ways", originated from the Chicano movement and its desire for greater recognition of Mexican-American history and identity.[14]

The school was established in 1977.[15] During the opening ceremony, a bust sculpture of Juárez and the flag of Mexico were presented, and the anthems of the United States and of Mexico were both played. The choice of the day of the ceremony was influenced by the fact that September 16 is the anniversary of the Cry of Dolores, the Mexican independence day, as well as near the beginning of the school year in Chicago.[13] In its first year the school had grades 9–11, with 12th grade coming later.[16]

By 1997 CPS officials were considering expanding Juarez since it became one of the most crowded community high schools in Chicago.[15]

Notable Events

2016 scholarship accomplishment

In 2016, Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen celebrated a significant milestone as its graduates earned a remarkable $26 million in college scholarships. Notable among these were scholarships from prestigious organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Posse Foundation, and the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois. These scholarships provided full tuition coverage for undergraduate and graduate degrees, offering life-changing opportunities for the recipients. Despite facing significant socioeconomic challenges, with 97 percent of students being low income and 95 percent Hispanic, the graduates demonstrated exceptional resilience and determination. The school credited its dedicated teachers, counselors, and staff for their transformative efforts, resulting in over 100 students graduating with National Honors Society distinction that year. This achievement reflected the ongoing success of Benito Juarez Community Academy in empowering its students and preparing them for bright futures beyond high school.[17]

2022 Hope Chicago partnership

In February 2022, Juarez became the first of five schools to partner with Hope Chicago. All students who were enrolled at the time of the announcement received fully-funded scholarships for Hope Chicago's 20 partner colleges, universities and other education programs across the state of Illinois. Governor JB Pritzker was present in the school building during the surprise announcement. By the end of the week, an estimated total of 4,000 students received debt-free scholarships across five different high schools also partnered with Hope Chicago.[18]

2022 shooting

On December 16, 2022, Brandon Perez, aged 15, and Nathan Billegas, aged 14, were killed by gunfire on school grounds following a dispute about their gang affiliation. Two other students were wounded by gunfire. The shooting took place shortly after the end of the school day, as students were walking out of school. It occurred outside the school's buildings, at a pathway. A 16-year-old ex-student of the school was arrested and charged in the deaths.[19][20]

Eslabon Armado appearance

On May 9, 2024, the popular Mexican band Eslabon Armado made a surprise appearance at Juarez, distributing free tickets to students for an upcoming concert at Allstate Arena. The band, known for record-breaking releases such as “Ella Baila Sola” and collaborations with artists like Peso Pluma and Junior H, appeared in the school's cafeteria during 4th period, where they were met with a large incoming crowd of students from all parts of the school. The band also visited Curie High School on this day. Tickets and posters for the event were being distributed, and the band was also seen signing a guitar for a student.[citation needed]


The school is located at Blue Island and Cermak avenues.[10] The campus was designed by Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez; it is centered around a three-story patio intended as a point of assembly for students and a community center, and the design features similar to Aztec pyramids were intended as an homage to Mexican culture.[9]

The school includes "La Esperanza," a 1979 mural depicting the struggle for Mexican-American young people. It was professionally commissioned by mothers who had advocated for the construction of the school. The artists were Malú Ortega y Alberro,[21] Jimmy Longoria, Oscar Moya, Marcos Raya, Robert Valadez, and Salvador Vega.[5] Various other murals with Mexican nationalist and pre-Columbian motifs were painted by Mexican-American artists.[9]

Juarez was expanded in 2010 to include a larger campus, an auditorium, and a soccer field. Technology is integrated, and there are ten modern computer labs.[citation needed]


Juarez is one of many schools to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program to incoming students. 11th and 12th graders (Juniors, Seniors) can be enrolled into IB's Diploma Programme (DP), a two-year educational programme intended to better prepare students for college.

Additional programs offered by the school include Advanced Placement (AP) courses in Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Chinese Language and Culture, Computer Science, English Language and Composition, English Literature, European History, Physics, Psychology, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature, Statistics, Studio Art–Drawing, Studio Art 2–D Design, U.S. Government/Politics and United States History.


The school provides a diverse range of extracurricular activities that students can participate in after school on specific days. Information on schedules are available on the school's website.

Students from The Spanish Club volunteering for the school's 'Posada' event in 2023, Led by teacher Ana Patiño and student Kamran Shafi.

Below is a list of the current extracurricular activities available to students:


Juarez competes in the Chicago Public League (CPL) and is a member of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA).[22] The school's sport teams are nicknamed Eagles. Juarez boys' cross country were Class AA in 1995–96. The boys' soccer team were Public league champions in 1995–96, Class AA in 2007–08 and Class 2A in 2010–11.

See also


  1. ^ "Home".
  2. ^ Chicago Public Schools: Juarez
  3. ^ Riley, Chloe. "Benito Juarez Teachers Feel 'Harassed' After Criticizing Attendance Policy" (Archive). May 7, 2014. Retrieved on December 8, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "How Pilsen's Founding Mothers Built a High School". WTTW Chicago Public Media - Television and Interactive. 2017-10-13. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  5. ^ a b c Acevedo, Carlos. "Benito Juarez Muralists Reunite: A History of Struggles, Aspirations and Unity" (Archive). Lawndale News. September 8, 2011. Retrieved on December 8, 2015.
  6. ^ Alvarez, p. 88.
  7. ^ Alvarez, p. 89-90.
  8. ^ Jackson, James A. (1975-09-17). "Pilsen celebrates a victory". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. p. 3-1. - Clipping from
  9. ^ a b c d e Alvarez, p. 92.
  10. ^ a b Alvarez, p. 91.
  11. ^ Alvarez, p. 93.
  12. ^ a b Alvarez, p. 94.
  13. ^ a b Alvarez, p. 78.
  14. ^ Alvarez, p. 80.
  15. ^ a b "Finding Room to Grow: Benito Juarez High School Expansion Study." City Design Center, University of Illinois Chicago. 1997. Retrieved on December 12, 2015.
  16. ^ "Juarez high sets enrollment dates". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. 1977-08-07. p. Section 1, Page 12. - Clipping from
  17. ^ "Benito Juarez Students Earn $26 Million in College Scholarships in Pilsen". DNAinfo Chicago. 2016-06-30. Retrieved 2024-05-19.
  18. ^ "Free Ride: Hope Chicago surprises Benito Juarez Community Academy's entire student body with full college scholarships |". Retrieved 2023-12-12.
  19. ^ Community mourns students killed outside Benito Juarez high school, calls on officials to address violence in schools Chicago Tribune, December 18, 2022
  20. ^ Prosecutor: Gang dispute led to shooting at Chicago school Associated Press, February 12, 2023
  21. ^ Huebner, Jeff (February 1996). "The Outlaw Artist of 18th Street Marcos Raya: His Life, His Work, His Demon". The Reader. SunTimes Media. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  22. ^ IHSA: Chicago(Jaurez)