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.


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