Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Daunting Black Line

By Justin O’Connor '20, Mundelein High School

The United States of America, historically, has been comprised of an amalgam of cultures; each immigrant group bringing its own hand to develop the syncretic way of life to which we adhere. On principle, we have yearned to be a nation which delivers liberty unto all of its citizens, and strived to reach out to those with no liberties from other nations with contradicting agendas. We are a united nation of differing peoples, all for the better.
            However, with the fusion of cultures comes friction. Xenophobia, racism, and bigotry are ever-present in our nation, and in all nations. These themes being present in our populace has led to the rise of past rulers wishing to draw a thick black line between those who sit outside the constraints of European conceptualizations of perfection, rulers wishing to push the agenda of imperial rule and imperial prosperity, rulers who pay no mind to the plights of those who they do not wish to paint a spot for in our society.
            This fact draws me to a picture taken by Oscar Moya on the border of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The image hangs in a somber blue room in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Illinois alongside other pieces painted by Moya.
            The image was titled “La Linea.” It revealed many important messages about social interaction and the aforementioned xenophobic attitudes towards cultural relations which are evidently prominent in the United States. The border wall provided a stark and obvious breakup in landscape. The rural, fielded El Paso collided harshly with the Juarez cityscape.

It showed one thing for certain: division.

            Nevertheless, I am still convinced that this intense depiction of an all-too-real reality was not Moya’s intention. The collision of these two unique landscapes revealed what is perhaps a much more important truth.

It was not the differences between the towns themselves that produced this division; it was the barrier erected between them, the daunting black line constructed to wall off and destroy unwelcome dreams.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thoughts on Columbus Day College Visits

On Columbus Day, Scholars visited colleges and universities around the country. For many Scholars, this was their first time participating in a college tour or observing a college class. This week, three Scholars from Waukegan High School reflect on what they learned during their college visits. 

Ohio Wesleyan University 

Over the Columbus Day weekend, I was given the opportunity to attend Ohio Wesleyan University, or as they call it, OWU. It was a 6 hour drive with other scholars that seemed to take forever. When we arrived at the hotel, I got put in a room with two other girls from different schools. I talked to them a lot about Schuler, and the difference between our schools. I was really proud of myself because I was branching out and talking to people that I didn't know. I was challenging myself by choice. The campus was vast, but the architecture and the small amount of people there who were connected to each other made it feel more homey. It was a small town that was a bit urbanized, but still had its history in the architecture and nature around it. I really liked the people at OWU. The student body was very diverse, and it did not seem to favor one particular type of student than another. People were very eager to answer any of my questions, so that made me feel more comfortable to ask many questions. I got to take part of a beginning acting class. It was a small class of 8 students, but both the students and the professor were very involved in what they were doing. They were very welcoming towards me, which made me feel comfortable in the class. I got to get a different outlook on how college classes differ from high school classes. I also got to take a campus tour to get more information about OWU. I looked around at the many different facilities that were available at the school, and asked questions to my tour guide who was a student there. I left the school feeling more confident about the fact that OWU is a good school to go to and I'm glad the students and faculty at this school made my short time of a few hours a knowledgeable and easing one. I would be glad to visit this schoo again, and get a deeper look on whether this is truly the right fit for me. 

By DJ Wright '18, Waukegan High School

When I recently visited Ohio Wesleyan University, I met Michael, a really wonderful tour guide and OWU senior from Costa Rica. Throughout the tour, there was something in particular that stood out to me: student life. I had been observing students all day. I attended a geography class with about 10 college students. I passed by one of the cafeterias and made note of where students were sitting and their expressions while they were talking to their friends. I watched students make flyers for an upcoming festival. Overall, I learned so much about OWU’s student body, but it was also important for me to get to know people on a more personal level. So I did and it was during the final minutes of my OWU tour when Michael said, “Ohio Wesleyan was the first university I visited in the United States, and it was the only one I applied to.” Throughout the entire day, I could not stop thinking about this. The way he described his first and only college experience in the United States was truly inspirational. He told our tour group that right away, he called his parents and told them that OWU was the one, this was home for him.

As for me, although the college of my dreams will probably not be the first college I have ever visited, or the only college I apply to, I want to feel the exact same way that Michael did. I want to feel so in love with my campus - to know, deep in my heart, that this college is the best decision to help me succeed. I know I will feel this way someday, but until then, cheers to future college visits!

By Jackie Renteria '18, Waukegan High School 

Grinnell College

What is in Iowa? There are fields of corn, Trump/Pence signs, and Grinnell College. I didn't think I would like it there: there was nothing but field around the campus, the trusting environment between students and faculty seemed to be too good to be true, and, to be frank, I had never heard of the college until last year. But I got there with the other twenty-some scholars, and it was amazing. We had Italian food the night before, watched the uncomfortably sassy debate between the leader of those "with her" and the politician with the blueprint to build a great America, or something to that extent, and slept in our hotel rooms to get up for 6:30 breakfast. Before I knew it, everyone had gathered on the bus, excited and anxious, ready to see what Grinnell College had to offer us. We received two meal tickets, and I went into breakfast with a group of friends to see what it was like. Some students ate quickly, others had all the time in the world. Either way, they all seemed so old and grown. It was hard to think that I could be one of those students in less than two years. The school had its own napkins! My friends and I finished our apples, eggs, and hash browns, so we went and chose the tickets for classes that we would observe. I luckily grabbed the last Calculus 1 class ticket, and I found myself enjoying the teacher and all of her energy. As much trouble as I had finding Noyce room 2517, I found it rewardingly worth it. I met another Scholar, and we worked together on the examples of second derivatives from the professor. As we struggled, we enjoyed how much we were learning and how much we saw our subject material at school translating into this class. At the end of a class, I had a new acquaintance, a new perception of Grinnell College, and a new craving to learn about the college and what made it different.

I attended a presentation on the mission and process that goes on within the school. I was really interested in the tutorial course taken by the first year students to be introduced to their advisors and what they might want to do as a major and career. I joined a tour led by a third year student who was fun and impressed me with her backwards walking. She knew a lot about the campus, gave many interesting facts about the tech shop and library (introducing us to the jungle-gym-styled study quarters), and she was from the Chicago area. We learned about the married original and modern styles of Grinnell College architecture and saw the trust students had in one another: most students never locked their dorm doors (where there is money, food, and anything anyone would want to keep safe). Going to lunch, I found a group of friends and talked to two males about life at Grinnell. One was hilariously in the Calculus 1 class I attended. Before heading to work, the guys talked to us about the different clubs there were and how easy it was to be funded (as the endowment was a popular topic among the Grinnell students). All you needed was two people and an idea to start a club. 

For many reasons--a trusting environment, creatively beautiful ways to study, and a school pride that runs from the blood of the students to the logo on the table napkins--Grinnell College made an impression upon me that I cannot forget. It was not that it was the second college campus I had visited. It was about how I learned that I liked a campus where everyone trusted each other. It was about how I assured myself that I wanted to go anywhere where I felt safe and comfortable to be myself and enjoy my classes. I learned how excited I got about energetic teachers and classes. As I probably should have brought home one of those wickedly awesome napkins, I definitely took home a Grinnell College experience that I will never forget. So maybe I don't need the napkin, but I do need to remember what I learned and who I am when I think about and apply to colleges for the next year of my life.

By Matthew Tantengco '18, Waukegan High School

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Room Where it Happens: Scholars Reflect on Hamilton (Part Two)

This fall, all Freshman and Senior Scholars had the opportunity to see Hamilton: An American Musical at the PrivateBank Theatre as a Core Exposure. Scholars from Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep shared what they learned from the show. 

CRSM Freshman Scholars Reflect on Hamilton

“Hamilton was great! It was a life changing experience. It was interesting to see something we’ve studied for so long come to live. It was interesting meeting the cast after the show and seeing how different they are from their characters.” - Monserrate Adan '20

“My biggest take away that I learn a lot from Hamilton that I really didn’t think I will. Learn as much as I did I also never thought of earning a lot of Hamilton or even know who he was. What really caught my eye is that he did a lot for the United States. I had never learned from him in history or social studies class.” - Natalia Chacon '20

“The biggest intake from Hamilton was his life and how he thought.” - Kassandra Rodriguez '20

“My biggest takeaway from Hamilton the musical was that I understood what each person did in the time period but also their background instead of just government. Since they put things in rap I understood what they did more.” - Jenifer Soto '20

“My biggest takeaway from Hamilton: learning about who Hamilton was and what he did, learning that a legacy is like planting seeds in a garden you’ll never get to see, learning about how actors don’t always like the person that they have to be but they just do it” -Jocelyn Carbajal '20

“My biggest takeaway from Hamilton would be all the time and effort the cast and Lin put into the musical.” - Vannessa Ramirez '20

“One of my biggest takeaways from Hamilton the musical was how immigrants who come to this country can make a difference.” - Jesus Bahena '20

“My biggest takeaway from Hamilton was the reality of the actual story. It’s awesome how all the characters are actually real. Also, how most of the things in the play happened in real life.” - Jose Trejo '20

“Hamilton impacted me by giving me a new perspective on the US constitution. I normally get informed by it in such a boring way. But with Hamilton it made it pop up; it gave it life. Also I learned many things about powerful people, like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.” - Melissa Romero '20

“I think my experience with Hamilton opened my eyes and made me engaged in history. Not only did I learn new events in history but I also showed me that even though I learn things from textbook and videos, there are other ways to get information while also be interested. The musical was display that even though at the beginning people might doubt you, hard work and dedication will be visible and everyone will be impressed. Overall I am so happy and grateful we got to see this amazing work of art. I am still going strong in listening to the soundtrack and have no plans to stop.” - Yesenia Gonzalez '20

Interview with Vannessa Ramirez '20
At Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, SC Yessenia Tostado interviewed Vannessa Ramirez '20 about her experience watching Hamilton: An American Musical. 

Interviewer: How did you become interested in Hamilton?

Vannessa Well, my sister was really into the musical before I even started. She asked me if I had heard of Hamilton, and I did hear about it a lot on the internet, but she noticed and said “you haven’t heard it yet? We are going to listen to it together.” So, we spent the entire afternoon together binge hearing the entire soundtrack. She also made me look up the lyrics so I could understand what the songs were talking about and I found the songs to be really good, so I downloaded the playlist on Spotify and I just listened to it non-stop.  

Interviewer: When you first heard that Schuler would be taking the Freshman Scholars to watch Hamilton for one of their Core Exposures, what went through your mind?

Vannessa: Amy (Educational Counselor) said “We are going on a core exposure to see a musical” and I in my mind I was like “Is it going to be Hamilton?” and then she said “Hamilton” and my heart just dropped and then right after STEP I went to talk to her about it and asked about all the details and she said we’d be going until October or November and I was like “That’s so far” but it came by so quickly, so I’m glad.

Interviewer: What was it like to be there live, watching Hamilton on stage?

Vannessa: The seats were really good, I was shocked; I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to see anything, but I would still be able to hear them, but the seats were really good and I was so excited. The musical was about one minute off when it was supposed to start because it was supposed to start at two but it started a few seconds later, so I was kind of upset, but I was so excited and it just didn’t feel real, but when I was seeing it I was like “I’m watching it!”

Interviewer: What was your favorite part of the musical?

Vannessa: I’m going to say the part that I didn’t listen to, which was when Lawrence died because that was not in the playlist. Listening to it you weren’t able to hear, so that was good, it was good to see something I wasn’t aware of, and as it happened I was like, “Is this happening? I wasn’t aware about this.”

Interviewer: Is there anything else that you found surprising from hearing the musical on the soundtrack and seeing the musical on stage?

Vannessa: Yea, like with music you just have to imagine what is happening and you can’t really see their attitudes to what they are saying but on stage you can see if they are mad or upset. You just have a better idea of their attitude towards one another due to their body action and language.

Interviewer: Yes, it is so different from just listening to the soundtrack, listening to the lyrics and the beat of the song, and then seeing it live and seeing how all of the actors are moving around the stage …

Vannessa: Yes, and how into their acting they are.

Interviewer: Who was your favorite character from the musical?

Vannessa: I would say Lafayette because I love his rapping and his character in the musical is good because his parts are really good and the funniest character I’m going to say is King George, during the musical he was just super funny. He was like the part where everybody laughed the most.

Interviewer: Yes, King George was super funny... What did you learn from watching Hamilton? Is there something that struck you or that really resonated with you?

Vannessa:  What struck me was seeing the attitude that Burr had towards Hamilton. Throughout the playlist you could hear his attitude, but when you see it you could see how much he kind of doesn’t like how Hamilton acts and how much fame he is getting more than him, so you can see more of his attitude based on his body tension and how he looks at him.

Interviewer: How did the REP sessions on Hamilton help with the experience of watching Hamilton live?

Vannessa:  It helped because I got a better understanding. When I was reading the lyrics and had to annotate I got to understand the lyrics better and get a deeper meaning and get to go more in depth with what the characters were really talking about. Also, it was great to see all the other Scholars listen to the musical, because when we went to see it they actually knew the songs, so I was like “Yay, I am not the only one” so that was good and they were all excited to see it and that made me happy.

Interviewer: Did you like watching the documentary Hamilton’s America?

Vannessa: Yes, I did like the documentary because it was nice to learn something I hadn’t imagined. I didn’t think that it took so long to make the musical but seeing all the effort put in and all the time put into the musical makes me love it even more.

Interviewer: Why do you think Schuler exposes the Scholars to a musical as a core exposure, in general and specifically to this musical?

Vannessa: Well most people my age aren’t really into musicals so it's a chance to explore entertainment outside of television and movies. Also, this musical talks a lot about history so it is very informative too.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Room Where it Happens: Scholars Reflect on Hamilton

This fall, all Freshman and Senior Scholars had the opportunity to see Hamilton: An American Musical at the PrivateBank Theatre as a Core Exposure. This week on the blog, Scholars from Mundelein High School, Highland Park High School, and Cristo Rey St. Martin High School will share their what they learned from Hamilton. 

My Hamilton Experience
By Sierra Bouchard '20, Mundelein High School

When walking into the brightly lit auditorium in Chicago, I had no idea that seeing Hamilton: the American Musical would be one of the best experiences of my life. After a year of singing all the catchy songs nonstop, looking deeper into the history of our founding fathers, and dreaming about one day seeing the musical, it was easy to say that I was obsessed with Hamilton. Each of the lyrics spoke to me and over time, the songs became the soundtrack to my life. Of course, I wasn’t born in the Caribbean, put on the 10 dollar bill, or recognized as the founding father of our country, but somehow the life of Alexander Hamilton brought inspiration into my own. Listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, inspired me to work hard, be diligent and driven in all that I do with the hope of becoming successful like just like Alexander Hamilton. My dreams and my goals were furthered maximized after hearing Hamilton’s story in a form of rap music that was fast-paced and very exhilarating. I became addicted to listening to the soundtrack and it caused me to dream and fantasize about seeing the musical live. Sadly, those dreams were minimized when I realized that my single mother probably couldn't afford an expensive Broadway ticket to see the show in Chicago. Although my circumstances caused me to have doubts, I still had faith that I may one day be able to see it and have the story be told to me visually on Broadway. Little did I know that my dreams were coming to life when my Scholar Coaches announced that our class was going to see Hamilton the Musical live in Chicago! It didn’t sink in for me at first because I was very shocked and surprised, but seconds later I became beyond excited. I was more than blessed to have the chance to see an award winning show at a prestigious theatre as I would have never seen the show without the amazing opportunity from Schuler. I am more than grateful for the opportunity that was presented to me and excited to have shared my experience with loving friends (who were very jealous!). In my opinion Hamilton: An American Musical was a fantastic musical for Schuler Scholars to see because it brings a similar story of struggle in our own lives, and it most importantly sparks our inspiration to work hard for success.
Sierra Bouchard and Yaharia Garcia before watching Hamilton: An American Musical

Hamilton: An American Musical
By Quetzali Gomez ’19, Highland Park High School

My name is Quetzali Gomez and I am a new member of the Schuler Scholar Program. On Sunday October 23, I got the opportunity to head into the city to watch Hamilton: An American Musical. When we were first told the news, I was really excited. I had heard good things about Hamilton from other people and I went home that day and listened to a couple songs from the soundtrack. When I first heard the music, I really enjoyed it but I wasn’t sure what the meaning behind the lyrics was. I didn’t know much about who Alexander Hamilton was either. During my REP meetings, however, I read more about his life and his importance in our history.  It was really interesting to me how he had gone through so many ups and downs in his life but he still managed to leave a significant footprint. Through the learning I did in REP, I got more excited for the event and I was eager for the day to arrive. 

Time went by so quickly and then there we were, sitting at The PrivateBank Theatre. I was so amazed by the number of people in the theater and I could tell how everyone was so excited to be there. Then it started and I remember everyone quieting down so quickly; it was insane. While I was watching the musical, I remember having moments where I could not believe I was actually physically present. The actors were so talented and the way they portrayed their characters was so impressive. The musical itself was really interesting. It was about the life of Alexander Hamilton, who was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The beginning of the play started off by explaining his life as an orphan. It also showed us the different people he met along the way like Aaron Burr, his future wife, George Washington, and more. It went in depth about his struggles while the revolution was going on as well as his personal life at home. The musical itself was so well put together and did a great job summarizing and explaining Hamilton’s importance in history. But, we always have a favorite part, right? Although I loved every second of the show my favorite part had to be the music. It was the music that created the theme of the show. Also, just listening to everyone’s voices and the lyrics behind the music was so satisfying.  Overall, watching the musical was such a great experience and being able to have this opportunity was wonderful.
HPHS Scholars at Hamilton and Educational Counselor Kerry Pearson with Hamilton tickets

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Keepers of the Game Movie Analysis

By Christian Watson '20, Warren Township High School

Last month, scholars from WTHS went to view a documentary at the Milwaukee Film Festival titled “Keepers of the Game.” It offered interesting perspectives on gender, women in sports, and moments when you might clash with your own culture.

What was the movie about?
The movie was an amazing coming of age documentary. It’s about a group of teenage girls that live on an Indian reservation. They face some of the hard challenges of overcoming your culture’s ideas and morals. The girls love lacrosse and have a passion to play it. Although their culture doesn’t have the same beliefs, they strive to change that. Their culture has always had the belief that the only gender that played lacrosse was men. So, when this group of girls start to play the sport, they are frowned upon and not supported by everyone in the community. Their school tells them that they will not be funded, and to continue they need to find their own funding. They start having fundraisers and raise enough money to keep the team going. Eventually people start becoming more accepting of the idea of women playing lacrosse. Even important people in the community accept it. The clan mother sits the girls down and tells them that their culture is adaptable. She lets them know that they have her permission and support to play the game. After, the girls continue to go through many struggles. One girl even quits the team. Yet, the girls still persevere and rise above it all. They win some, and lose some, but they never gave up. They all learn friendship, teamwork, and perseverance. The girls eventually go on to play their rival school and win. They become the Keepers of The Game.
What did you think about the film? 
Honestly, I loved it. The movie was very inspirational and interesting. Now, before I get into my full opinion I want you to think about the word: “Documentary.” When I hear the word I think of a long, boring movie. I never hear my friends say, “Let’s watch a documentary.” I would have to say that this film changed the connotation of the word “documentary” in my mind. I learned that for a documentary to be interesting, it has to be about a certain topic that you like/are interested in. Now, my opinion. I loved this movie. Throughout the movie...I cried: I felt a connection with the girls, and I respected them so much. I cried because the girls were so perseverant and inspirational. I felt a connection with them because I have certain beliefs that my “community” doesn’t have. I had so much respect for the girls because they stood up for what they believed in and they never gave up.

Scholars Christian Alcantara ’19, Kaylyn Wright ’17, and Christian Watson ’20 at the Milwaukee Film Festival.