After 75 years, officials of what used to be Immaculate Conception High School in Elmhurst are rebranding the school to better reflect its heritage and mission.
The school, which draws students from more than 40 communities in the western suburbs, changed its name this month to IC Catholic Prep.
The new name retains the connection to Mary and the Immaculate Conception, its mission as a Catholic school and its focus on preparing students for college, said Pamela Levar, principal and president of the school.
"It really came down to us realizing that we had not clearly identified ourselves in the community," Levar said of the renaming of the school and of its new tag line — the school for independent thinkers.
"We felt we were too much of a secret as to our quality," said school board member Donald Hoffman, a retired pediatrician whose eight children and one grandchild have attended the school. "It makes it clear we're a religious school and our main focus is to prepare people for college."
IC Catholic Prep is living up to its mission. It regularly sends about 99 percent of graduating seniors to college, according to Nancy D'Amore, director of public relations and communications.
"Kids go to the colleges of their choices, and often with scholarships," Levar said.
To accomplish that, Levar said administration and faculty members work in partnership with parents to challenge and encourage students — especially freshmen — to try new things to really reach their full potential.
"The whole rebranding effort is not about changing who we are at all," said Marya Gibbons, an alumna whose oldest son is a freshman. "It's just about communicating who we are — a strong community on the scholastic level, on the religious level and in how students, parents and staff communicate with one another."
In addition to its regular curriculum, the school offers honors and advanced-placement courses. IC has a relationship with Elmhurst College under which seniors can go beyond those accelerated classes to take college-level courses at Elmhurst for college credit and at no additional cost, D'Amore said.
Beyond academic requirements, students are required to complete at least 10 hours of what the school calls "Christian service" in the community each year for a total of 40 hours before they graduate.
Enrollment, about 320 students, has been growing in recent years, according to D'Amore, who said the number of incoming freshmen continues to exceed the number of graduating seniors.
While many students come from nearby suburbs, the school also draws students from closer to home, including IC's own grade school and Visitation School, also in Elmhurst.
A little more than 10 percent of students are non-Catholic, according to the school's website. Three-quarters of those enrolled participate in a varsity sport, and 90 percent are in an extracurricular activity.
Annual tuition is $9,250. Discounts are offered for Immaculate Conception parishioners and for siblings. Financial aid, including scholarships and grants, is available.
The school, at 217 Cottage Hill Ave., offers more information on its website at iccatholicprep.org.