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Evanston Township High School

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School type

9–12 (freshman-senior)

Total enrollment
2,974 (2011)

Willie the Wildkit

Marcus Campbell, Ed.D


+1 847-424-7000

Evanston Township High School

August 31, 1883; 133 years ago (1883-08-31)

Eric Witherspoon, Ph.D.

1600 Dodge Ave, Evanston, IL 60201, USA

Evanston Township High School District 202

New Trier Township High Sch, Glenbrook South High School, Niles North High School, Evanston / Skokie Communi, Maine East High School


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Evanston Township High School (ETHS) District 202, is a four-year (9–12), comprehensive high school occupying a 65-acre (260,000 m2) campus in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago along the Lake Michigan shore. ETHS was established in 1883 and serves the city of Evanston and a small portion of the neighboring village of Skokie for a total district population of approximately 78,000.


The attendance area of the school is home to Northwestern University and Oakton Community College. Evanston Township High School has 270 certified staff members. ETHS is fully accredited by the State of Illinois.

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The first high school in Evanston, the Preparatory School of Northwestern University, established in 1857, was private. In 1873, public school superintendent Otis E. Haven began teaching Evanston's first public high school class in an upper room of the Benson Avenue School. In 1875, Evanston's first Board of Education voted to establish a "high school" in the room, and the first class, consisting of two students, graduated in 1876. Enrollments grew rapidly and, despite multiple relocations to various buildings, by 1882 the school took four prizes in a statewide competition and was ranked third best in Illinois. Shortly thereafter, voters in April, 1882, passed a referendum and bond issue establishing a township school. Construction began promptly in October, 1882, and the first building opened in 1883, at Dempster and Elmwood.

Enrollment grew rapidly and by 1913, despite multiple additions to the original building, 740 students occupied space meant for only 600. Crowding increased as several attempts to pass bond issues for further addition were defeated at the polls. In 1915, the Board determined to build a new school at a new location, but progress was stalled for years by a bitter fight over the campus location, which included lawsuits that went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. Finally, in 1921, the Board and voters approved a 55-acre (220,000 m2) site at the school's current campus, 1600 Dodge Avenue in central Evanston. Construction began in 1923, and the school opened in 1924 although still incomplete.

With a campus currently listed as 65 acres (263,000 m²), ETHS provides its students with many technically proficient facilities. With more than 1.2 million square feet indoors, it is the largest high school facility under one roof in the United States. The school's science facilities include a planetarium, greenhouse, and a two-acre (8,000 m²), on-site nature center/classroom. The South Technology Center (STC) houses over 200 computers in seven networked labs. Computer software is available for many courses in the curriculum. Near the school is the Edible Acre urban farming project, initiated by The Talking Farm, which is run with the help of ETHS volunteers during the growing season.

Students investigate careers in computer-based SMART Labs. An on-site day-care center serves as a lab for child-study classes. Career and Technical Education offers courses that prepare students for future career possibilities. Classes include Child Development, Business Management, Culinary Arts, where students work hands on with food, and learn how to prepare it in a safe and sanitary way, and Auto-Tech, where students run an auto-repair lab and learn engineering applications in computer-aided design, lasers and robotics using state-of-the-art equipment. Music students have their own computer lab with MIDI-enabled equipment.

The school's library, which is networked to all Illinois libraries, has a 90,000-volume collection and extensive audiovisual resources. Performance facilities include a 1,500-seat auditorium, two additional theaters, and a cable TV broadcasting studio.

There are 15 gyms, a dance studio and fitness/wellness center, two swimming pools, and a field-house with an indoor track and tennis courts. Outdoor facilities include a new track, as well as a FieldTurf stadium, baseball and soccer fields and 18 tennis courts.

Student body

ETHS is a very large co-ed Title I public school with a very diverse student body, both racially and economically. From official data in 2013-14, there were 2,959 students enrolled. Of these students 1,100 were eligible for free lunch and 91 for reduced lunch. In recent years, enrollment has increased and become more diverse. "According to the Opening of School Report, this school year reflects the highest enrollment number (3,322) over the last five years at ETHS, Evanston’s only public high school. In 2015-16 ETHS also recorded its highest enrollment of students who identify as Hispanic/Latino in the history of the school. The proportion of Black/African American students (29.5% in 2015-16) has remained steady at ETHS for the past five years while the proportion of Hispanic/Latino students at the main campus has increased from the prior year (about 18% in 2015-2016 compared to 17% in 2014-2015). The proportion of White students decreased to 43.6% in 2015-16 compared to 44.7% in 2014-2015. Additionally, the percentage of Asian students at the main campus has increased slightly in 2015-16 to 5.2% and the percentage of students identified as two or more races declined in 2015-16 to 3.3%, compared to 4.2% in 2014-15. The school unique diversity provides the opportunity for students to become better citizens, gain unique perspective and engage in many meaningful debates. ETHS provides also a transitional program for refugees from around the world. These characteristics make ETHS a unique school.


Evanston Township High School’s curriculum offers all students rigorous academic coursework that prepares them for college and career. Many courses allow students to earn regular or honors-level credit. Some of the courses are extremely challenging and grading is overall very rigorous. The school offers 34 courses for AP credit. The school also offers six (6) nationally recognized Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering courses. Students who have exhausted all of the available accelerated courses in an academic area at ETHS may take advanced courses for college credit at Northwestern University through a special scholarship program. Some years Northwestern faculty teaches advanced mathematics students at ETHS. ETHS is listed as a gold medal school under U.S. News & World Report's 2016 list of America's 500 Best High Schools, at #452 nationally and #13 in the state.

Since 1985–86, 45 students have become semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search (until 1998, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search).

Ninety three percent of the students from the Class of 2015 (723 students) took the ACT. ETHS students continue to score higher than the state and national average.

Administration structure

Evanston Township High School is one of the largest public high schools in the country and has multiple levels of administration. The school itself is its own district and thus has a single superintendent, Dr. Eric Witherspoon. There are two Assistant Superintendents, Marcus Campbell, the Principal, and Pete Bavis, Curriculum and Instruction. There are four Associate Principal positions: Instruction and Literacy, Student Services, Academic Affairs, and Educational Services. Each grade level has its own disciplinarian known as a grade level dean.


Evanston Township High School is the only high school in the U.S. to claim a Wildkit as its mascot. Known as “Willie the Wildkit”, the mascot represents the unique heritage of the only public high school in Evanston, Illinois. "Wildkit" is a playful reference to Northwestern University’s Willie the Wildcat, a mascot that was adopted by the prestigious university in the 1920s. Evanston Township High School’s Willie the Wildkit mascot appears to have originated during the 1946-47 academic year. Northwestern and ETHS are known to share a "town-gown pride" that is evident through partnerships in the classroom and in other areas.

ETHS is a member of the Central Suburban League, and participates in state championship tournaments sponsored by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). ETHS has 35 IHSA State Championships.

Each year, more than 1,000 students participate on 100 sports team in 31 different sports in basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, volleyball, and water polo. Men may compete in baseball, football, and wrestling. Women may compete in badminton, cheerleading, lacrosse and softball.

ETHS offers 19 no-cut sports at the freshman level to provide 9th grade students with an opportunity to try sports for the first time.

While not sponsored by the IHSA, ETHS also sponsors a team for men in lacrosse. Both men and women may also compete as a member of the pom pom team (Pomkits). As well as on a Varsity Sailing Team, which competes at regattas throughout the country.

The following teams have placed in the top four of their respective IHSA sponsored state championship tournament:

As of 2009, the Evanston boys swimming team has 53 top ten finishes in the state finals; the second highest number of top ten finishes in state history. The boys track & field team, similarly, has 47 top ten finishes, the second highest number of any team in the state. The 25 top ten finishes by the girls track & field team is, however, a state record.

The following competitive teams have finished in the top four of their respective IHSA Sponsored state championships:

  • Table Tennis: 1st place 2011
  • Chess: 4th place (1989–90, 90–91, 2002–03, 06–07); 3rd place (1995–96, 98–99); 2nd place (1981–82, 83–84, 2005–06); State Champions (1969–70, 70–71, 78–79, 82–83, 97–98, 99–2000, 2000–01, 04–05)
  • Drama: 2nd place (1960–61); State Champions (1957–58, 62–63)
  • Individual Events: 4th place (1949–50, 60–61); 3rd place (1966–67, 69–70); State Champions (1950–51)
  • Speech: 4th place (1971–72); 3rd place (1960–61, 67–68); 2nd place (1950–51, 57–58, 70–71)
  • The 8 state titles and 23 top 10 finishes in chess is the Illinois state record.


    At ETHS, students compete in contests in math, science, forensics, world languages, speech, writing, and many other subjects. Examples include the Geometry Bridge Building Contest, the Regional Science Bowl Competition of the Society of Hispanic Engineers, and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual essay contest. Students can participate in more than 80 clubs and activities at ETHS, including Ambassadors, Best Buddies, Chess Club, E-Squad Step Team, E-Town Tuners Car Club, ETHS Dance Company, Gender Sexuality Alliance, Hip Hop Club/Slam Team, Latino QUEST, NAACP, Rock Climbing Club, Student Council and Senate, Table Tennis Team, and Ultimate Frisbee.

    ETHS hosts 3 dances during the school year: Homecoming Dance, Frosh/Soph Formal (grades 9-10), and Senior Prom (grade 12). Student-led publications include the national award-winning Evanstonian newspaper, the EvanstONION satirical newspaper, the Paper Clip, and the school yearbook, The Key. ETHS has four honor societies: the Lighthouse Chapter of the National Honor Society (juniors and seniors), the ETHS Chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society (juniors and seniors), and ETHS-based honor societies (sophomores and freshmen). Student vocal and instrumental music groups and theater companies perform at least one public performance a month.

    In February, the school hosts a regional jazz music festival attended by nearly 50 schools, featuring performances, clinics, and an evening concert with a guest artist.

    Speech and Debate

    Students from Evanston captured the IHSA State Championship in Speech in 1951, Policy Debate in 1968, 1971, 1979, 1993, and 1995, Lincoln-Douglas Debate in 2004, 2014, and 2015, and Public Forum Debate in 2015. ETHS is the first school to ever hold the Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas titles in the same year.

    The ETHS Speech and Debate program has risen to national prominence in the last half decade. The Debate team earned its first National Speech and Debate Association (formerly the National Forensic League) National Championship in 2012 in Congressional Debate. In 2015, the team captured two more national titles when it won the NCFL Grand National Tournament in Lincoln-Douglas debate and the NSDA National Championship in Extemporaneous Debate. In 2014, ETHS was named a National Debate School of Excellence by the NSDA, indicating that Evanston had placed among the top twenty schools at the NSDA National Championship Tournament.

    The team sponsors an annual debate tournament, the Dead Presidents Invitational.

    Notable alumni

    Some especially well-known alumni include

  • George Ball '26 (US Ambassador to the UN under President Lyndon Johnson)
  • Robert Carter '63 Evanston Alderman, ran for State Senate IL.
  • Lester Crown '43 (American businessman & son of Henry Crown)
  • Joan Cusack '80 (Academy Award-nominated actress)
  • John Cusack '84 (Golden Globe Award-nominated actor)
  • Jeremy Piven '83 (actor known for role of Ari Gold on Entourage and Harry Gordon Selfridge in Mr. Selfridge)
  • Gordon Segal '56 (founder and CEO of Crate & Barrel)
  • Emery Moorehead '72 (professional football player, member of the championship 1985 Chicago Bears)
  • James Zagel '58 (US federal judge, presided over the conviction of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich)
  • Karen Finley '74 (American performance artist and educator)
  • Anders Holm '99 (actor and comedy writer known for Workaholics)
  • Zach Gilford '00 (actor known for Friday Night Lights)
  • Jessie Mueller '01 (Tony-award-winning actress known for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Waitress )
  • Lena Waithe '02 (actress and screenwriter known for Master of None)
  • Lauren Lapkus '03 (actress and comedian known for Orange Is the New Black and Jurassic World)
  • Ethan Bensdorf '03 (Second Trumpet in the New York Philharmonic)
  • Notable staff

  • John T. Riddell was a football coach at the school and invented the removable cleat, and later invented the plastic suspension football helmet. He later founded Riddell, the sporting goods company.
  • References

    Evanston Township High School Wikipedia

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