BNSF Railway and Keep Chicago Beautiful Partner to Reopen Closed Playgrounds at Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School, Benefiting Students and the Community

by | Sep 30, 2016

Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup national sponsor BNSF Railway and Keep Chicago Beautiful joined with Chicago Public School District leaders, city and state elected officials, and local community organizations to dedicate two newly transformed playgrounds at Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School in the heart of the Pilsen Historic District of the Lower West Side community of Chicago.  

The playgrounds, which were idle for a number of years after falling into a state of disrepair, were renovated by BNSF in partnership with Keep Chicago Beautiful to provide students with access to a beautiful, safe play environment. Also, a mural recently painted on the school by Chicago Public Art Group was recognized at the event.

Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary is a Fine and Performing Arts Magnet Cluster School that focuses on combining a rigorous academic program with high quality extracurricular programs for students and their families. The school is located a few blocks from a line that BNSF has operated for decades.

Andrew Johnsen, BNSF’s assistant vice president, community relations, attended the event along with Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, Alderman Danny Solis, State Senator Tony Muñoz, State Representative Elect Theresa Mah, Keep Chicago Beautiful President Joyce Kagan Charmatz, Keep America Beautiful President & CEO Jennifer Jehn, and school officials.

“For well over a century, Chicago has been a crucial hub in BNSF’s freight rail network. Many of our employees also live and raise their families in the Chicago area,” said Johnsen. “We are committed to being a positive force in the communities we serve, and this project enables us to make a difference in the lives of these kids, and support this school’s role in the Pilsen neighborhood.”

BNSF can trace its Chicago history back to 1849, with the founding of the Aurora Branch Railroad. That 12-mile line eventually became the famed Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (CB&Q), also known as the Burlington Route. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (ATSF), known as Santa Fe, had its headquarters there for many years as well. BNSF has around 4,100 employees in the Chicago area today.