Thursday, February 4, 2016

Education is for prisoners, too

By Ashton Hoselton, Warren Township High School ’11, Pitzer College ‘15

My name is Ashton Hoselton and I am an alumna of the Schuler Scholar Program, Warren Township High School Class of 2011, and a recent graduate of Pitzer College. Before Schuler, I never considered going to college, but Schuler taught me the value and importance of education.  They taught me that the sky is the limit if one keeps studying and I continue to see the value of education in my work today.

I am currently on a Fulbright in Uganda conducting research on their prison system. I have been teaching and conducting research in prisons both in the U.S. and Uganda for the past four years. The research is clear, prison education reduces recidivism. I have spoken with many former prisoners who shared their personal stories with me and attributed much of their success to the opportunity to educate themselves further. 

However, in Uganda only a small number of prisoners receive education. It is not a lack of willing participants or even a lack of instructors; the problem is a lack of facilitiesIt is my hope that I will go beyond simply studying the Ugandan prison system and make a positive impact by building an educational facility within the Masaka Town Prison. I have already started to raise funds for the project and developed a network of professors, NGOs, legal activists and prison officials that are willing to ensure that the construction of the project is made possible.

The potential impact of this project is huge as it not only makes a positive impact on the prisoners and the culture of the prison, but benefits their families, reduces overall crime, and turns them into skilled assets in their community.  Masaka Town Prison houses 1,300 inmates and sees many times that number of inmates coming and going each year. This one educational building can provide classes for thousands and thousands of prisoners and have a dramatic impact in Uganda.

Schuler taught me the importance of education. I want to continue to promote this ideal through this construction project that will make education a possibility for many that may not have considered it before. I invite you to learn more about my research and the Masaka Town Prison Project by visiting

Thursday, January 14, 2016

One tournament, two days, third place:
Richard T. Crane Medical Prep Scholars Take Home Big Win in CPS Debate Tourney

by Mish Gajewski, RTC Scholar Coach

Two Schuler Scholars brought their enormous talent to the table at the 2015 Performance Trust Public Debates, and walked away with a huge third place finish for Richard T. Crane Medical Prep.

Jenita Browning and Jennifer Banks, juniors in their second year as Schuler Scholars, led RTC’s debate team to third place out of 10 Chicago Public Schools, including Whitney Young Magnet High School, Lane Tech College Prep, and Jones WM Academic Magnet High School, some of the top-most selective enrollment schools in the city.

“Every tournament, we set a minimum goal for ourselves,” Banks says. “For this last one, we said we would win at least one or two.”

Banks and Browning far exceeded this goal, winning three out of five of their first sets to push them into the final four with Whitney Young, Payton, and Lindblom Math and Science Academy, another Schuler partnership school. RTC entered the finals in fourth place, but ultimately stole the third place ranking from the heavy favorite, Whitney Young.

Wins are determined by a panel of judges who monitor the competitors for their composure and confidence alongside the strength and effectiveness of their arguments. Every tournament requires debaters to concentrate on different skillsets; Browning explains that this tournament focused largely on “speaking, format of argument, and [their] overall presentation.”

“Sad to say, but at first we were confident but we weren’t confident in our success,” Browning says. “We were confident about the learning experience, but we didn’t think we were going to get that far.”

RTC’s third place pull was certainly a big “underdog” win. RTC has no seniors, so as juniors Banks and Browning represent the highest level of experience for the team.

Browning participated in debate in middle school, but stresses that the format then was extremely different and those years largely “don’t count” towards her overall experience in debate. According to her, she has only been involved in debate in a meaningful way since her freshman year.

Banks and Browning are close friends, and Banks states that this was a significant reason for her joining the debate team as a sophomore.

“I felt like mostly being with my best friend,” Banks says. “But, in a way, it’s another academic thing I wanted to do.”

Banks and Browning agree that their involvement in debate has had a great many positive effects in their personal and academic lives, even beyond supplying them with a sense of pride every time they see the trophy they earned in RTC’s trophy case.

“I was shy my freshman year,” Browning says. “I knew debate would help with public speaking and … it really opened me up.”

For Banks, she’s learned how to “create quick arguments” and “think on her feet” from debate along with amassing a wealth of public speaking skills and confidence.

Both Scholars look forward to their next meet coming in mid-January.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Morocco Greeted Me With Open Arms

Morocco Greeted Me With Open Arms

By April Rae Johnson, Warren Township High School, Class of 2016

Morocco greeted me with an open heart and I tried to do the same. From the moment that we touched down in Casablanca I was overwhelmed, but delighted to be surrounded by so many different people. We met with our in country host and we were off! It was complete immersion into an unknown culture and language, our language lessons were not called “survival” for no reason. Through our broken Arabic and French and Spanish and through their broken English, we were able to connect with the Moroccan people for the first time. We moved from Casablanca to Rabat to Marrakesh to Fes. 

In Fes we met the host family of one of our group leader’s from her study abroad before we met our families. It was a fantastic look into the connections that are forged in a homestay and how long they can last. We were greeted warmly with mint tea and candies, kissed and hugged by the grandmother, and regaled with stories of her time in that house.

 Here is a picture of us! I am the one on the front right with the backpack.

Then we went off into the mountains to meet our host families. I could not have been placed with a more loud, loving family. My eleven days with them was certainly the most difficult, both emotionally and physically, but it meant a lot to have had them. I made so many human connections that would have been impossible to make in a shorter amount of time.

Here is a picture of me and my brother Mrwan. He wouldn’t smile for the picture so I had to tickle him.

Not only did my time in Morocco teach me about those around me, it was also a fantastic time to reflect on myself. It was a unique thing to be plopped into a new country with other students I did not know. I had time to reflect on my place in a group dynamic, all of the students spent a lot of time together. I figured out a lot about myself, and the group allowed me a safe space to express myself. I found a lot of confidence among them that I lacked before, and I could never recreate the time I had with those amazing people.

To learn more about the Schuler Scholar Program, visit us at

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Surprises at Camp Manito-wish

by: Novena Christal, Schuler Scholar, Maine East High School, Class of 2019 

What surprised me the most about Camp Manito-wish was how open I was to new people and new situations.  Camp Manito-wish is different from the life I am used to, yet being a part of camp made me feel like I was a part of a community.  The whole place radiated positive energy and I was surprised to learn how easily I opened up to my new Schuler family from Maine East.  By the end of camp, I felt really comfortable with people I barely knew 10 days before.  

Camp was also an opportunity to interact with Schuler Scholars from other schools.  We spent a lot of time with them and shared many fun memories together.  Additionally, I had the opportunity to interact with the Scholar Coaches, who supported us and encouraged us, especially when we knew we could not do things on our own.

The newest experience for me was trail.  Right before leaving, I couldn’t help but think, “What have I gotten myself into?”  After the first night, though, I realized that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.  It actually felt really good to disconnect myself from the outside world and just worry about the here and now.   

The longer I was at camp the more I began to notice the small things about life that make it so amazing.  I truly believe that trail went so well because of our Trail Leader, who did not just teach us how to survive in the “wild,” but made the whole experience one to remember.  Overall, my experience at Camp Manito-wish has left me with so much more confidence for when I will be introduced to new people, ideas, and environments.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Going Back in Time with Million Dollar Quartet

by Danielle Ochoa, Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, Class of 2016

After the show, CRSM students met two of the Million Dollar Quartet actors.
Million Dollar Quartet is a musical theatre performance based on the 1956 event when Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded together at Sun Records. Million Dollar Quartet revealed the artists’ backgrounds, such as the fact that Elvis was hired to play music that African-American artists like Chuck Berry were already playing. Since racism was so prevalent at the time, white children were not even allowed to touch or even buy a record made by an African-American artist. Everything appeared to run smoothly in the music business, but racism caused an unfair effect on the African-American artists’ sales. Elvis was making more than Chuck Berry because of the color of his skin. These artists changed music as we know it, and the actors and actresses of Million Dollar Quartet portrayed these artists in a humorous and talented way.

Danielle with Lance Lipinsky, or
Jerry Lee Lewis in MDQ.
I had the opportunity to see this performance twice at the Apollo Theater. I have always loved 1950s and 1960s rock ‘n’ roll music, which has inspired me to write a few of my own pieces of music. The performance is full of energy and gets you on your feet and makes you feel like you are in the 1950s. The overall message of the play is that you should never forget where you come from. Three of the four artists left Sun Records to go to a bigger and richer record label. Jerry Lee was grateful for the opportunity to play for Sun Records, but record label does not define how “good” of an artist you are.

I also learned that you should believe in yourself even at the lowest of times. Sun Records studio used to be a car shop that was then renovated into a studio. Everyone has to start somewhere and use what they have. I make music on my 30-year-old guitar that was handed down to me by my godfather, and I record on my laptop. As I said earlier, big record labels and high tech gadgets don’t define your talent. As it’s well known Elvis and Johnny Cash are legends who started off playing in a car shop.

After the show, my peers and I had the chance to meet the two cast members who played Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. They inspired me to continue learning new tricks on guitar. Million Dollar Quartet was an unforgettable performance that I encourage everyone to see. 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll music was known to the older generation as a “fad”, but little did they know that it would impact pop culture as we know it today.