My first semester as a Schuler Scholar...

Freshmen Scholars from various partnership schools reflect on their first semester in the Schuler Scholar Program - everything from expectations and camp to lessons learned and hopes for the future. 

Javier Cruz, Highland Park High School ‘19

Javier at Highland Park High
School's recent De-stress Fest.
The first time I heard about the Schuler Scholar Program, I thought it was a great program. I wanted to be a part of it because of the amazing help, experiences and opportunities that came along with it. I never once thought of it as being a boring commitment in high school, instead I looked at it as an opportunity that could get me through high school successfully. One of the first experiences I remember was going to camp. Something I will forever remember is the challenge by choice philosophy and all of the memories the class of 2019 made during our ten days there. We sat around the campfire with s'mores in our hands and listened to the coaches sing beautifully  and we played ninja a lot. I personally have learned a lot from the Schuler Scholar Program; I learned that asking for help is crucial, the proper way to eat at a restaurant, how to canoe, and much more. I know I will learn more things moving forward through Schuler and from high school. I am not the same person I was when I first started my freshman year and that is thanks to the Schuler Scholar Program. I feel prepared for what happens next in high school and in life.

Yveth Capote, North Chicago Community High School '19

My first semester with Schuler was a little more challenging than I expected it to be. Keeping up with Schuler and my school work was harder than I thought. Personally, it’s very hard for me to adjust to new things, but eventually I got the hang of it. Other than having trouble adjusting I’ve really enjoyed Schuler. I did expect for Schuler to be different and challenging at the same time, but experiencing it rather than being in it is different. Honestly, things like REP have helped me more than I thought they would. Having one-on-one support in English and grammar has made a difference for me. Brenda doesn’t only push me to do better but makes me want to do better. She pushes me out of my comfort zone and I've grown because of it. I also like that she constantly lets me know that if I need help with anything she’s there to assist me. In addition to REP, meeting with Sarah for extra tutoring on Algebra has also helped. I also like how she’s always so willing to be there for me. My goal for next semester is to focus on being more organized in order to better keep up with everything. I think that this will help me be more successful for the future.

Robert Chapman, Lindblom Math and Science Academy ‘1920564354512_28bfc8d735_o

Robert navigates the help maze at camp.
Camp Manito-wish for me was a phenomenal experience. When I was there, other Scholars and I were put into facilitation groups with each other, and we did many things I probably wouldn’t have done without Schuler. We went to a camp where we ate food at a cafeteria building and slept in cabins. We went zip lining, rock wall climbing, and did various other activities. Many things required me to actively participate in the group and tested me on my mental stability in different situations, but it was fun. Later, we were put in small groups with a trail leader to go on a three-day journey in the forests and canoe over lakes and streams. It was very hard to live in that kind of situation, even for just three days, but it was a good experience despite all the difficulties: no access to showers or baths, no indoor plumbing, a limit to the amount of food you eat each day so there’d be enough, etc. We went canoeing, which was very fun once I got the hang of it. We learned how to properly make fire by searching for wood and how to set up tents. One thing that this experience has taught me was to have the determination to power through each and every obstacle that comes my way. I learned this on my personal trip, when our group had to do three days’ worth of canoeing in one day. I think about this often, and since then I try to do any and everything I can in school, despite the task and the difficulties. 

P.S. Be ready for the Canoe Tip Test :)

Elizabeth Picazo, Highland Park High School ‘19

Elizabeth at a recent
chess exposure.
When I first joined the Schuler Scholar Program, I expected it to be crazy hard and only focused on school work and grades. But in my first semester of being a Schuler Scholar I have learned otherwise. Schuler is way more than just a school program, Schuler could be described as a community. Everyone in Schuler is really nice, smart and welcoming, and we all care about school and our future; at the same time every single person has their own fun quirks and amazing personalities. Walking into the Schuler program and beginning camp, I was a little scared and uneasy about what it meant to be a Scholar, but the environment and everyone in it quickly made me feel welcome. I loved the teamwork between everyone during the camp activities and sitting back at night after a long day in our cabins singing High School Musical. Schuler has given me opportunities like never before. One of my favorite memories was the Lion King exposure. This exposure was not only a lot of fun, but it helped me find a new love for musicals. Before the musical we went out to eat Thai food and it was amazing! I’m excited for the years ahead and for new memories to be created.

Suzie Navarro, Zion Benton High School ‘19

Suzie at  camp taking
a quick photo break.
Camp may seem like a scary experience if you're not an outdoors person or have never been away from home. I had never gone to camp before, nor had I ever been more than a day away from home. Yet, camp was one of the best experiences I ever took part in so far as a Schuler Scholar. Yes, the bus ride to camp was long, but I was able to meet and learn about the other Schuler Scholars on the six hour drive. Every day at camp seemed more like a one day field trip rather than a week, and I never felt homesick.  My favorite moment at Camp Manito-wish had to be participating in Wells Fargo, which is a capture the flag kind of game. We also got to go zip-lining, rock wall climbing and participate in the low ropes and high ropes courses and other fun games and activities. Towards the end of  camp, I went on trail with a small group for about four days, where there was only a little help and it was all on us to take charge. During trail, we canoed almost all day to get to where we had to go, getting little breaks here and there. At first, it seemed a little scary, but once I got the hang of the canoe, I’d say it was much more fun. Overall, camp was really fun and it increased my leadership skills, as well as partnership in groups.

Daisy Rojas, North Chicago Community High School '19

My first semester with Schuler was a very interesting and challenging experience. I did expect this from the program, because I wanted them to push me. One program that did this throughout the semester was the Reading Enrichment Program or REP. The REP sessions helped me improve my English grade. During the sessions, my Scholar Coach, Brenda, would always help me with my vocabulary and since I've been studying with her, I feel more comfortable with it. Another program that really pushed me were the mandatory study sessions we had in the beginning. They were helpful because they gave me time to do extra credit work in two of my classes, History and English. They also gave me the opportunity to study with a peer and I found that really helpful as well. I believe that the Schuler staff will help me be successful next semester, because they push me to keep on going, to keep on studying, to always do my personal best. They are also there when I need help on an assignment. Not only will the Schuler staff help me be successful but I will also help myself. I believe I can be successful because I know what I’m capable of doing no and I’ll try to push myself even more throughout the years.

Nancy Pulido, Waukegan High School ‘19

Camp Manito-wish was definitely an experience that I was not exactly expecting. I did not expect to canoe as much as I did nor did I expect the food to be so good. During camp we were able to observe everything without distractions. We were surprised by what we usually never notice. Everything was so quiet and relaxing. It was a great environment to grow, and we did. In those 10 days we learned the true meaning of leadership. We weren’t just leaders but also followers, for what is a leader without followers? Both “trail” and the high ropes course showed us what it would take to step out of our comfort zones. Now in high school, it’s clear that the transition was easier because of camp.

When we entered high school we already had a family of people who we could trust and get help from. We were prepared by learning how to use our resources and step out of our comfort zones. That was camp. Trail was hard core camping and the high ropes course was a hard core playground. The best thing about camp was that we were able to take risks and make wise decisions, bringing us all a step closer to becoming more responsible and independent people. Camp gave me a reminder of my commitment and continues to be one for many of us as we work hard in our freshman year.

Campamento fue sin duda una experiencia que no me esperaba exactamente. No esperaba remar en una canoa tanto como lo hice. Ni me esperaba que la comida estuviera tan buena. Durante el campamento, pudimos observar todo sin distracciones. Nos quedamos sorprendidos con lo que por lo general nunca notamos. Todo era tan tranquilo y relajante. Fue un gran ambiente para crecer, y lo hicimos. En esos 10 días aprendimos el verdadero significado de liderazgo. No éramos sólo los líderes, sino también los seguidores, por lo cual, que es un líder sin seguidores? Tanto "rastro" y las circuito de cuerdas nos mostraron lo que se tarda en salir de nuestras zonas de comodidad. Ahora en la escuela secundaria, es claro que la transición fue más fácil ya que fuimos parte de este campamento.

Al entrar a la escuela secundaria ya teníamos una familia, personas que podemos confiar y obtener ayuda de. Estábamos preparados por aprender a usar nuestros recursos y salir de nuestras zonas de comodidad. Ese fue el campamento. Las caminatas eran acampar núcleo duro y el alto curso de cuerdas era un parque infantil núcleo duro. Lo mejor de campamento fue que fuimos capaces de asumir riesgos y tomar decisiones sabias, trayéndonos todo un paso más cerca de convertirnos en personas más responsables e independientes. Esta experiencia me dio un recordatorio de mi compromiso y continúa siendo uno para muchos de nosotros que trabajamos duro en nuestro primer año.

Melissa Martinez, Lindblom Math & Science Academy ‘19

Melissa works with her team during
a blindfolded activity at camp.
When I attended the information session last year I never expected the Schuler Scholar Program to be this amazing and helpful. I thought the program was only going to help me learn about different colleges and apply, but it has surprised me. The Schuler staff helps us with the transition to high school as well as with subjects like reading, math and science. They provide tutoring and help with any assignments and teach us techniques that we can use in class and when learning on our own. They are always in the Schuler room after school and are always happy to provide help. When I heard about the exposures we would be going on at the information session last year, I thought they were going to be fun and a reward for the hard work we do. Don’t get me wrong they do that, but they also help by teaching us skills we will need to know for the rest of our lives. At the etiquette dinner, for example, we learned how to be respectful of others and have better manners. These are things we will need to know in the long run since we wouldn’t want to be at a dinner party when we are older and make a fool of ourselves in front of coworkers or maybe our boss. This program helps us tremendously. I feel like it is already having an impact on me, and I’ve only been in this program for less than a year. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Carlos Renteria, Zion Benton High School ‘19

Carlos and fellow Scholar De'Andre Alexander.  
Camp Manito-wish was an amazing experience for me. When I was there, I ate lunch with a bunch of strangers, I slept in cabins and did team building activities throughout the day. The last three days we were there, we went on trail. During the activities and trail I learned a lot of lessons. The best lesson I learned at camp was that it is always OK to ask for help. I learned this from an activity in which we had to go through a maze blindfolded. Before I attended camp I believed that asking for help was for those that could not accomplish a task, but after doing an activity where the whole point was to ask for help I realized that help is not just for those that are incapable of doing something. When we went on trail, I felt a lot more comfortable asking for help from my fellow peers and leader. This helped me a lot throughout the past semester because I felt that it was OK to ask for help from my teacher and classmates. Overall Camp was very useful in my studies, because without the lessons that I learned, school would’ve been a lot harder. 

Aneliz Vargas, Highland Park High School ‘19

Aneliz in the Schuler resource room
at Highland Park High School.
Coming into the Schuler Scholar Program, I had heard many things about the program. To be honest, I thought it was going to be harder than what I know now. While it's still not easy, I've found that Schuler can also be a really nice place to relax and it’s not scary at all asking for help from any of the Scholar Coaches. While I was at camp, I had a lot of fun and it required me to think a lot. The leadership skills from the activities we did helped and I can see them apply to what I do now. The best lesson I learned at camp was definitely about knowing my comfort zone because it’s helping me today in high school. During one semester in Schuler, I’ve been exposed to cultures and arts that I wouldn’t have without it. This has definitely given me experience, and insight on other arts and cultures that I knew little about. I look forward to learning more and gaining more experience with Schuler. I especially love how caring the Schuler family is and how easy it is to talk to anyone in the office. I’m proud to be a Schuler Scholar because this is such a great program and that it’s helping me get to college.  

Erik Gonzalez, North Chicago Community High School '19

In my first semester with Schuler I have learned many new things. For example, when we are with our REP coaches I've learned how to analyze a poem and written literature. In the writing STEP I’ve learned about other people's thoughts and controversial topics. In the math STEP I’ve learned more about mathematics with Sarah. What I expected from the program is exactly what Schuler provided, like push me to the fullest, engage in conversations and meet new people like I did at Camp Manito-wish. The programs that Schuler provides and that are beneficial to me are the STEPs. I don’t like talking in a group setting but STEP pushes me in order to make me feel comfortable talking to a group of people, it really has helped me. Another event that Schuler has provided is Camp Manito-wish. During camp I got to meet new people from other schools like Maine East and Cristo Rey. Camp also helped me to get to know people from my school better and from others. I believe that they will help me be successful and push myself out of my comfort zone. I’m very timid so I believe that if I can push myself then things will work out to be easier, because that is what we do in many of our Schuler programs, like STEP we share our thoughts and opinions. Also, I could be more focused or be more successful in my classes.


  1. Coming from a scholar that's now a senior in college, the learning and growing never stops. Enjoy your adventures as a Schuler Scholar. It's a lifetime commitment that you'll be so thankful for!


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