Wednesday, October 7, 2015

 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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dr. Dave Stovall’s Presentation: Colloquial Speech versus Academic Writing

by Kiara Tabb, CICS Ralph Ellison, Class of 2017

When I was an eighth grade student, I wrote an essay about Animal Farm by George Orwell. Upon receiving my essay, my teacher could not believe I wrote such a great paper about the Bolshevik Revolution and its allegorical connection to the novel. Given the way I spoke to my friends in class, my teacher assumed that I would not be able to craft a grammatically correct and well-structured essay. More often than not, people in my community are judged based on how we speak, dress, or present ourselves.

On January 9th, 2014, Dr. Dave Stovall of the University of Illinois at Chicago spoke to the Schuler Scholars of CICS Ralph Ellison about the differences between colloquial speech and academic writing. Colloquial is defined by as, “used in ordinary or familiar conversation; not formal or literary.” He addressed this difference by beginning with an activity where he asked us to call out words we use while text messaging friends. Abbreviations like “wyd” (what are you doing?), “lmk” (let me know), and Dr. Stovall’s personal favorite “wybo” (What have you been on?) soon filled the board. He then asked, “Would someone who isn’t used to communicating with you understand what most of these mean?” Most of us Scholars responded with a simple “no” as we realized his point. Dr. Stovall was illustrating that you have to think of writing as another form of communication.

Within his message, he emphasized the importance of considering your audience. You have the abbreviations and slang for friends and the commas and semicolons for teachers and professors. Dr. Stovall really helped me reconsider how I think about academic writing. Much like my teacher, certain people may judge you based on your writing, so it is important to think about who will read your writing and write like a complete stranger is reading your work.

Another very important message Dr. Stovall left us with was that we, as students, have the power to think and create as opposed to being told whether or not we can think and create. Now, thinking and creating as a student is just as important to me as giving my personal best.

Dr. Dave Stovall was a captivating speaker and I loved every minute of his conversation with us. He helped us enjoy academic writing a little more than we did beforehand and helped us better distinguish the best time to use each form of communication. I know my takeaway point was that no matter where you come from, if you work hard you can—no, you WILL—succeed in life. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Team Waukegan Weighs in on the AmeriCorps Scholar Coach Experience

Waukegan's four AmeriCorps Scholar Coaches at Cloud Gate ("the Bean") in Chicago.
Today we have a special post: a group interview with the AmeriCorps Scholar Coaches at Waukegan High School. At our WHS program, there are three AmeriCorps SCs who focus on reading and one who splits his time between reading and math:
  • Wujun Ke, University of Chicago ’13 – AmeriCorps Scholar Coach
  • Michelle Keohane, Kalamazoo College ’13 – AmeriCorps Scholar Coach
  • Marty Kezon, Kenyon College ’13 – AmeriCorps Scholar Coach
  • Ronnie Sullivan, Wabash College ’13 – AmeriCorps Math Scholar Coach
They kindly gave us an interview about their experience and what you might expect as an AmeriCorps SC with the Schuler Scholar Program. Thanks, Team WHS!

What do you look forward to most on a day-to-day basis in your job as an AmeriCorps Scholar Coach?

Wujun: I always look forward to Reading Enrichment Programming because I get to discuss good books with bright and motivated high school students. In the process of responding to essential questions or journaling, my Scholars sometimes have flashes of insight that teach me something I hadn’t thought about before. My favorite part of the job is to learn from and alongside my Scholars.

Ronnie: I look forward to spending time with Scholars and other staff members.  Each of the Scholars has his or her own unique set of interests, style of communication and sense of humor, and getting to know them individually has been one of my favorite tasks.  Our staff has a wide range of interests and personalities, too, but we all work well together.  I love that I get to come into work every day and spend time intelligent, hardworking and enthusiastic people.

What has been your most memorable moment as a Scholar Coach so far?

Wujun: My most memorable moment was reading my Scholars’ Family History essays from Freshman STEP. The essays gave me a glimpse of the Scholars’ parents and their struggles to provide a better life for their family in the United States. I was impressed by how much empathy the students had for their parents and how much joy they find in their family.

Marty: One wonderful moment came when a Scholar declared her affection for John Green’s Looking for Alaska. A bit reserved and careful in what she shared, this Scholar had trouble connecting with Green’s novel, partially because she felt so different from the protagonist. Yet when I asked that she journal on the novel’s ending, her response overflowed with feeling.  She had forged a connection with the book and could not wait to put it on the shelf with her other favorites. One goal of reading enrichment is to help Scholars develop a love for literature. While this is far from a simple task, I think we’re doing good work when we can affirm the pull of words and narrative. This particular moment made me remember how it felt to love a book in high school, to reach the final page and cry for an ending that I knew was coming all along. We don’t have this experience each time we pick up a book. But when that connection happens—yes.

Ronnie: My most memorable moment happened at Camp Manito-wish.  My trail group travelled through the Nixon portage – a half-mile stretch of land followed by about a hundred yards of swamp, over which we had to haul all of our canoes and equipment.  We emerged from the portage muddy, tired and mosquito-bitten, and many of the Scholars felt ready to give up.  As we rounded the next bend in the river, the grey swamp suddenly transformed into a field of white wild flowers, with hills and forests rolling in the background.  The Scholars’ attitudes changed in an instant, and they said they had never seen such a beautiful place.  One Scholar said that seeing the field made the whole trek “completely worth it.”  The serene beauty of the field had an effect on me as well, and the memory of the excitement and wonder it produced in the Scholars will remain with me for a lifetime.

Do you feel your time with Schuler has prepared you for your next steps in your professional life?  Why?

Michelle: In the back of my mind, I have always considered a career as an educator, but my school didn’t have a teacher certification program.  Schuler has been a perfect transitional position as I continue to explore my interest in education.  I get to go to work in a high school every day and plan my own curriculum without the pressure of managing a classroom of 30-35 students.

Marty: I’ve always been strangely resistant to the idea of having a “professional life,” but my time with Schuler has helped me consider the goals of my professional life in light of my personal one. Working as a Scholar Coach has allowed me to return consistently to questions like: Who am I as a worker? Who am I as a co-worker? a mentor? an organizer? an improviser? While reflection like this can arise in any environment, Schuler has been my occasion to take a hard look at the work that I can do in this world, both as a professional and as a person. I feel better equipped in my own sense of purpose because of my time here.

Ronnie: Until the spring of my senior year of college, I thought that I wanted to go to medical school.  Now, after working for Schuler for a few months, I know that I made the right decision when I decided to come here instead.  To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what the next step in my professional life will be, but I do know that working as an SC is allowing me to develop skills in organization and communication that will be useful regardless of the career path I choose.