Friday, July 15, 2016

From Scholar to Staff

We recently welcomed Shavonne Kearney and Noemi Larrondo to the Schuler Scholar Program team. Both are alumni of Waukegan High School and former Scholars of the program. Naturally, we had to ask them to reflect on the Scholar experience and how their paths led them back to Schuler. Here is what they had to say…

What experiences were some of the most meaningful to you as a Scholar?

Shavonne: I loved going on exposures and college tours! We didn’t have a lot of the enrichment programs that we do now back when I was a Scholar, but we did have exposures. Having the opportunity to visit new places was such an eye opening experience and it made me all the more excited to become more independent as I was transitioning into my soon to be college career.

Shavonne with fellow Scholars on a St. Louis exposure.

Noemi: The Schuler Program gave me an immense amount of opportunities throughout my time as a high school Scholar. One of the experiences I can say was the most meaningful to me was my Summer College Program. During the summer of my sophomore year in high school I traveled to New York City to take part in their 4-week summer college program at Barnard College. This experience gave me a little taste of what college would be like some day. From living in a dorm, taking college classes and navigating a huge city that I had no prior knowledge of. It definitely helped prepare me for college.

What was one lesson that you learned as a Scholar that you still value as a professional in the working world?

Shavonne: Always Personal Best! This wasn’t a new concept to me because my parents engrained it into me starting at a very early age, but it was encouraging to know that Schuler “preaches” this as well. APB is such a valuable lesson to me because I know that as long as I follow it, I am where I am supposed to be. If I’ve done my best, there is nothing more I can do to change the given circumstance that I am in and that brings me a lot of peace.

Noemi: One of the things that I always remember Scholar Coaches and staff telling us was to use our resources. I believe this applies to everything and it has been very beneficial for me not only as a professional but on my path from high school to college to now. It is one lesson I will always carry in the back of my head.  Thanks Schuler!

How have you utilized your Schuler network throughout college and beyond?

Shavonne: Truthfully, most of the Schuler network that I have taken advantage of has been my classmates that were in the same cohort as myself. Throughout college they were a great support for me because I was able to relate with them as we were experiencing similar things. Although I haven’t been as involved with Schuler since graduation, I feel as though I have never really left this incredibly supportive community of people.

Shavonne with fellow Scholars on their Boston college visit trip.

Noemi: When I first arrived to Pitzer College in California, I felt very homesick and in a place where I felt like I didn’t belong. Within that same week I talked to a staff member from Schuler that helped me understand why I was there and why I was feeling the way I was. I received support not only from family and friends but from my Schuler Family.

That was only the beginning, once I started college I attended the Career Internship fair with Schuler to get an idea of what was out there.  When I couldn’t attend events or exposures, I relied on the simplest form to network; email. The staff is always very responsive to scholar emails and willing to help them on an individual basis. And with that being said, that is how I heard about the job opening at Schuler that I currently have. So whether it’s an event you attend or an email you receive, the Schuler Network is a great resource to take advantage of for career planning.

What made you consider Schuler as an employer?

Shavonne: I’ve always loved serving students and their families. The impact that Schuler has on them is truly remarkable. I was drawn to Schuler as an employer because I know firsthand the value that Schuler is to families and Scholars. Walking through high school isn’t easy. There’s the academics, the social scene, the extra-curricular activities, the peer pressure, etc. Adding the college preparation and application process to all of that makes it even more stressful. Having the opportunity to provide support during this incredibly exciting and stressful stage in life sounded like such rewarding experience, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do so.

Noemi: The Schuler Scholar Program had a huge impact in my life in a way that I would have never imagined when I first started with the program. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of such great organization?  Looking back at my time in high school, I want to be able to help Scholars the same way that Schuler helped me when I was in their shoes. Even though I know I won’t directly work with them, I will be happy knowing I helped with everything behind the scenes for them to have a great high school and college experience. It fills me with pride to be a part of such great program and what better way to thank them than to give back.

What is one piece of career advice you wish to share with Scholars and Alumni?

Shavonne: If I were to offer any piece of advice to Scholars and Alumni it would be to follow your heart and what you’re passionate about. Midway through college (I was a zoology major at the time), I started working with children and found out that I really loved having the opportunity to have an impact on others and where they were headed in life. Rather than continuing along the original trajectory that I had set out for myself (which was to become a veterinarian or do research in animal behavior) I decided to add a major and a minor that would lead me down a path where I would have the opportunity to work with children and young adults. This wasn’t an easy decision because it added a lot more work to my plate and another full year to my college education, but it was well worth the risk. I’ve spent the years following graduation doing what I love to do, which is working with students. Having the opportunity to impact someone’s life every day is truly a blessing and I couldn’t be more excited for this new journey with Schuler.

Noemi: Take advantage of all the resources, networking events and workshops that Schuler offers. It is the best help you can get and it will definitely help you out in the long run. Even if you think you might be fine without it, it doesn’t hurt.

Shavonne Kearney joined the Schuler team in May 2016 as the Educational Counselor at Zion Benton Township High School. However, Shavonne is not new to Schuler having been a Scholar herself while at Waukegan High School. After graduating in 2008, she went on to earn a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Zoology from Miami University (Ohio) in 2013. While in school she was active in her campus church where she served in children’s ministries and spent time traveling both nationally and abroad on service and outreach mission trips. Shavonne comes to us from North Chicago Community Partners where she held a Program Associate position. While working there she spent a majority of her time providing academic, social/emotional and enrichment support to students at Forrestal Elementary School.

Outside of work Shavonne enjoys spending time volunteering in children’s ministries with her church in addition to participating in community outreach ministries with her husband and close friends. She also loves tapping into her more youthful side where she enjoys playing sports, board games, reading, building puzzles and forts, and watching her favorite TV shows. At the end of the day, Shavonne experiences great joy when she is doing what she is most passionate about, which is helping others reach their full potential and helping them find true hope throughout difficult life circumstances and in this world. It is with that heart that she is incredibly excited to start her journey of serving students with the Schuler Scholar Program.

Noemi Larrondo joined the Schuler Scholar Program in June of 2016 as the Program Associate for AmeriCorps and the College and Alumni Program. Her responsibilities include working closely with the College and Alumni Program as they continue to grow primarily in the field of professional development and alumni outreach. AmeriCorps responsibilities will include outreach, interviewing and program implementation. Prior to coming to Schuler, Noemi worked at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep as a coordinator for the Corporate Work Study Program. She did account management and served as an HR representative for students. 

Noemi graduated from Pitzer College with a double major in Political and Chicago Studies as well as a minor in Spanish. She is also a Schuler Alumni from Waukegan High School. Her passion for education derived from working four years at Pitzer’s Office of Admissions. Noemi is excited to work with the Scholar’s in hopes of helping them navigate life after graduation.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Shenanigans

Summer has officially kicked off and while the majority of high school students are at home lounging around, perhaps already a bit bored, our Scholars have been keeping busy. Here is what they have been up to just this past week:

Summer Workshops:

Scholars have been in and out of the classroom participating in a variety of workshops to build critical skills. Below Scholars partook in an art workshop at Jack's Farm and RLHS Scholars spent some time in class learning how to code. 


Our incoming freshmen Scholars are at camp! Here are a few pictures from Zion Benton Scholars at camp and RLHS Scholars returning home from camp. 

College Visits:

Rising senior Scholars are currently located across the nation visiting various college campuses. Here are a few pictures from our Southern Swing (left) and Upstate New York (right) tour groups. 


Just because the school year is done doesn't mean our exposures have ended. Here Round Lake High School rising sophomore Scholars went to downtown Chicago as part of an "Exploring Spaces" exposure. 

We will keep you updated as the fun continues. How have you kept busy this summer so far? Share with us in the comments below!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

College Visits: Tips for this Summer

by Veronica Vasquez, Round Lake High School '17

Hello everyone, my name is Veronica and I am a junior scholar at Round Lake High School. I’ve recently been on the junior spring break college trips where we visited 10 colleges in the span of 5 days (2 colleges per day) in Massachusetts and Connecticut. I want to share with you a bit about my experience and tips for your next college visit.

1: Take notes
For the most part, we attended an info session, went on a tour, and got to eat a meal at every college we visited. Something I learned from the college trips is that is very important to take notes to refer back to because colleges will start to blur together if you don’t write down what you liked and didn’t like. The info session will usually be led by a dean or admissions officer and include everything regarding academics, admission requirements, and financial aid packages. Tours, however, will typically be led by students and will cover the social, living, and community aspects of a college. Although no one student will represent the college as a whole, your tour guide’s attitude towards their own experiences will have an effect on how you perceive the school you’re visiting.

2: Do your research
Knowing some of your interests before going on college trips can really be beneficial because then you can ask about them when you visit in person. You don’t have to know what your dream school has to have, but you should have an idea of some things you want it to include. Be sure to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to expose your own interests in doing so. If you want to know how much the school gets involved in its sports, then ask about it. But do make sure you do your research before-hand since many of your questions can probably be answered by the school’s website.

3: Explore
Make sure you pay attention to the vibe you get when you visit a school. Do you feel welcome there? Can you see yourself studying in a comfortable environment? Are the students who go there the kind of people you want to surround yourself with? These are the questions that the college’s website can’t answer for you, but questions you can explore yourself to ensure when you do make the ultimate choice, you can feel good knowing you’ve made a thorough decision. Some personal traits I looked at in a school were its diversity, the housing choices over the four years and how big the school was on social activism.

On my college trips, I only really liked the first school we visited and some people walked away not really feeling geared towards any of the colleges, and that’s okay. Even if none of the colleges really ignited a spark inside you, college visits are still extremely beneficial in helping you learn what you like and don’t like.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

#ThrowbackThursday: College Scholars and Alumni Reflect on their Transition to College

Next week, the Schuler Class of 2016 will be participating in our annual “You’re Graduating, What’s Next” panel and discussion to help them and their families with the transition to college. College Scholars and Alumni will be in attendance at the event to help facilitate discussion and answer questions. In preparation for the event, we turned to our experts (College Scholars and Alumni) and asked them to share some of their thoughts, advice and reflections about their own transition to college process and first year. Happy reading!

Scholars at last year's What's Next event enjoying treats...

What was one aspect of the transition to college that you found challenging?

Deciding how to manage everything I wanted to do and prioritizing it so I'm not overwhelmed.
Kamila Lada, Round Lake High School ’13, Mount Holyoke College ‘17

I came from a place where I was the best of the best - that changes in college. You are with people who were the best at places that are better than where you came from. You need to work harder to get where you want to go, but it's always doable.
Holly Schiltz, Round Lake High School ’15, University of Richmond ‘19

“Understanding, exploring, and celebrating my identity as a person of color on a majority white campus.”
 Jasmine Raizel Martinez, Warren Township High School ’14, Vassar College ‘18

Keeping in touch with home.
Julia Relova, Warren Township High School ’14, Davidson College ‘18

After my first semester of college, I realized I would have to adjust my study habits and techniques. I could not study the same way in college as I did in high school.
Christian Navarro, Round Lake High School ’14, Muhlenberg College ‘18

Trying to figure out the line between what I want to do and what my parents want me to do.
Michelle Flores, Waukegan High School ’15, Ithaca College’18

Balancing friends from home and new friends in college. I would feel terribly guilty if I wanted to go out with new friends instead of video chatting with home friends. I did eventually find a balance, but it only came after I realized that I would not be able to maintain all of my friendships from high school.
Raeven Jones-Kelley, Waukegan High School ’12, Haverford College ’16

Something that is overlooked is the weight gain...trying to control the freshman 15. Its real.
Batmanlai Ontogtokh, Maine East High School ’14, Yale College ‘18

What was something you thought would be a big challenge that proved to be easier than you thought?

Being away from my family for so long.
 Jose Olvera, Highland Park High School ’15, Davidson College ‘19

Making friends. I didn't think I would find my group of friends, but I did and I miss them so much now that we have graduated.
Claudia Nunez, Round Lake High School ’12, Occidental College ‘16

Academics in itself-- the difficulty did increase, however handling it wasn't that big of an obstacle. One on one time with professors and smaller class sizes played a vital role in this.
Bree Booth, Warren Township High School ’15, Muhlenberg College19

If you could go back in time and give yourself three pieces of advice before heading off to college, what would they be?

1. Hit the ground running! College is fast-paced. If you don't start strong, the entire semester becomes an uphill battle.
2. Don't leave room for "what ifs.” It's your experience. Take control and enjoy it!
3. A bad grade shouldn't determine your self-worth. Everyone struggles. Be the person who turns the struggle into motivation to succeed.”
Richard Via, Round Lake High School ’15, Occidental College ‘19

1. Be patient.
2. Take advantage of all resources your campus offers/educate yourself about those resources.
3. Have fun!
Jocelyn Hernandez, Round Lake High School ’12, Denison University ‘16

I would tell myself to explore as much as possible into topics I didn't have in high school. It will stink to look back and feel like you missed out on something super interesting because you were too afraid to leave your comfort zone. I would also tell myself the quantity of my friends is not nearly as valuable as the quality; these are the people who will be like family to you for the next four years. They're going to be the people who cuddle you on bad days (and there will be bad days) and tell you everything is going to be alright. They're also the people who you're going to make lifetime memories with, so choose wisely. Lastly I would say get involved but balance, whether it's a varsity sport, club sport, Greek life, a club/ hobby. Find people who like to do the things you like to do and do the things you love to do. You WILL have free time, and if you waste it doing nothing, you'll have no great stories to tell but don't make yourself so busy you don't have time for self care!
Alaina Toatley, Warren Township High School ’14, Vassar College ‘18

I wouldn't worry as much as I did; I was worried about time management, making friends, adjusting to college, etc. Looking back, it was a waste of time and energy to worry about something that I: 1) couldn't do anything about at the moment and 2) ended up not having to worry about at all  because the transition was so smooth.
Lucy Stan, Warren Township High School ’14, Colgate Universiy ‘18

1. Meet with teachers weekly.
2. Even when you feel lazy take a walk around campus.
3. Plan better with meeting friends and going to clubs and try not to work so many hours  
4. In orientation it is okay if you forget peoples names and its okay if you meet only one person you connect with, you will find more.
Jesus Acosta, Warren Township High School ’15, Muhlenberg College ‘19

Look for opportunities to move forward always. Ask for help. Take a break whenever you need it.
Catherine Ramirez, Waukegan High School ’12, Grinnell College ‘16

1. Don't be afraid of a professor! Always go to office hours the first week and just introduce yourself. Professors can open so many doors for you during your time at school.
2. Self care is not selfish. Mental health is so important and it can be hard to remember that when all your friends can talk about is how many all nighters they pull. Remember to keep up with your healthy sleeping and eating habits! Exercise is an amazing stress reliever and you can sometimes take free group exercise classes that your college may offer!
3. Don't freak out if your "plans" for college aren't exactly going as planned. You will hit a lot of bumps in the road (cliché but true!) and the plans you used to have will change and adjust to your new passions, interests, and choices. You will definitely learn you can't "plan out" the future and that's okay.
Natalia Nevarez, Round Lake High School ’13, Lafayette College ‘17

Any advice, thoughts, or reflections you would like to share with the Class of 2016? Comment below!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

One Man’s Dream in a One Man Show

by Anahi Alcoser Bravo, North Chicago Community High School '19

Anahi, Yveth, Brian, Jeremias, Alondra, Oliver

Brian Quijada’s life was a moonwalk, Michael Jackson’s anti-gravity lean, away from an exciting career. Brian Quijada was raised in the Chicago suburbs to two immigrant parents from El Salvador. “Where Did We Sit on the Bus” is Brian’s one man show full of music, dance and witty comedy. The show consists of Brian making up sounds, combining them and singing over them, which is called live looping. He makes sure to always bust a dance move anytime it is appropriate.

The title “Where Did We Sit on the Bus” as he tells us comes from a time in grade school when he asked his teacher during her lesson about the civil rights movement where did “we” (Latinos, Asians etc.) sit on the bus during these times of segregation. Aware of the fact that the segregation was towards African Americans, the teacher couldn’t respond and said that “we” weren’t there at that time. This made Brian think, “how did 'we' get here?" This is the question that people of color have and is one of the many uncovered topics of school.

Throughout the play Brian tells his experience of growing up Latino in a suburban community. He also talks about the adversities that come with being able to get in to the entertainment industry, and his families worries about his future.

A problem that people of color in America face today is how they define their identity. In addition, their stories of how they came to America aren’t brought to attention in classrooms and history books. They aren’t always covered in the lessons like in Brian’s case, but they are still very important.

Brian’s talent never failed to surprise me. As a young Latina I find it inspiring that another Latino has accomplished their dream in a place where we face more challenges. His performance showed that he is passionate about what he was doing. What I learned from Brian’s play is that not all of us came to America the same way, but it’s still important to know that we are here and our stories are told.