Faculty Focus: May 2020

Even from home, 3rd-year Fenwick Social Studies Teacher Brian Jerger loves Western Civilization — and working with freshmen!

What is your educational background?

BJ: I went to high school in the southwest suburbs — Oak Lawn Community High School (’09). I have my B.A. in History from the University of Notre Dame (’13). My M.Ed. is from Notre Dame as well (’15).

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

BJ: I was a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher in Heredia, Costa Rica, for nearly a year before coming to Fenwick. Before that, I taught World Geography & Cultures to freshmen at Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, Texas as part, of Notre Dame’s ACE Teaching Fellows program (2013-15).

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

BJ: It may not be for enjoyment, but it is almost impossible to avoid trying to stay current with the COVID-19 news. Aside from that, I am currently trying to finish The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

BJ: I really love to cook. Fall weekends are for ND football and the Green Bay Packers. Wednesday nights are Trivia Night for me. In the summer, I like to travel and try to get outside, whether it be for hiking, fishing, brunch, baseball games or something else. I also help out as a young adult leader for a youth group at my parish throughout the year. 

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

BJ: A little bit of everything. I played golf and ran XC/distance track. I also participated in student council, class advisory boards, student helpers and a really unique group called Cross Countries — not to be confused with cross country. Cross Countries was a small group of eight students who fund-raised over $40,000 in three years to complete an international service trip to Bolivia to help build a hospital. I even did a group interpretation theater production my senior year. I was also really active in my youth group, Foundations, at Old St. Pat’s in West Loop.

Even eTeaching from his “home-classroom” can’t keep down Mr. Jerger!

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

BJ: I am the assistant debate coach and the assistant freshmen girls’ basketball coach. I also go on every Kairos [retreat] Mrs. Nowicki will let me!

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

BJ: In general, I think they push themselves and are gritty. Fenwick is not the ‘easy’ choice; students are challenged here. That said, the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. Our students come out on the other end far ahead of their peers and ready to lead. And, in the end, they still wish they had “FOUR MORE YEARS!”

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Why Do Teachers Stay at Fenwick?

At the Faculty Retreat in early March, an alumnus and English Chairperson (who also teaches French and Italian and directs the fall play) shared with colleagues two reasons why he hasn’t left the Friars.

By John Schoeph ’95

One of the things for which I’m most grateful is that I work in an environment that fosters scholarship. I can recall from Dr. Lordan’s class the importance of scholasticism as a facet of Thomism, as an important component to Dominicans’ approach to education. That approach continued when I attended a Dominican university. I feel blessed to work in, of all Catholic environments, a Dominican one that prizes scholarship.

We don’t try to keep up with teaching trends. We aim to be innovative within fields our teachers know well and continue to advance in. English teachers here don’t ‘kind of’ know English; they know it. Continued learning in our fields is important to us. So a personnel of scholars has tended to abound here, and I love being in that company and in a place that embraces that.

As department chair, how blessed am I to observe other teachers and get to witness the high level of preparation through conscientious and attentive research in varied aspects of English:

Shana Wang
  • Shana Wang’s research on the reportage of Isabel Allende and its effect on her fictionalization of the televised death of Omaira Sanchez.
  • Theresa Steinmeyer’s [Class of 2012 alumna] research on revolutions throughout Central and South America as reflected through Magical Realism.
  • Kyle Perry’s [Class of 2001 alumnus] research on Said’s Orientalism, its reactions, and observations of both in art and literature.
Kyle Perry ’01

This is an environment I want to be in.​

At Fenwick, I can teach up! At Fenwick, I have to be on my A-game; I wouldn’t want to be at a place where I can get away with winging it, where students wouldn’t be sharp enough or smart enough to call me out on a misspeak or a gap in knowledge. My primary goal here is not to motivate students because, by and large, they come to class excited and willing to learn.

I can recall a group of students who used to spend their lunch period in my class so that they could take notes on my lessons when I wasn’t their teacher that year; I can recall discussing a picture book on words that have no translation in other languages, or at least no direct translation to English, and three students stopping after class to ask me for the title and author of the book so that they could buy their own; one of my talking points at Open House is the time the football team called me over to their lunch table to weigh in on whether or not I thought Willie Loman was a tragic hero in Death of a Salesman because they were duking it out — at lunch!

I can recall when Mr. Finnell assigned me A Midsummer Night’s Dream for my directorial debut [in 2009] after eight years paying my dues as his assistant director. After working with the students on Shakespearean language, delivery and pacing, sitting through the first off-book rehearsal, which was all of Shakespeare’s ACT I — unabridged — I was smiling from ear to ear because no one called for a line — not even once. They had worked that hard on it. 

Best students in the land

And let’s face it, whether they’re the brightest scholar or lover of academics or not, they’re the best students in the land. I have many friends who are teachers at many schools, and when I’m out with them, it’s inevitable that I will run into my students. Every time I do, my friends are flabbergasted by my students’ comportment and interaction with me. Every time, my students run over to me and greet me, excited to see me.

One time, I walked into Chipotle where about 12 Fenwick students, juniors at the time, had formed one long table. I had taught only one of them as a freshman and didn’t know the others. I got my food and was heading to the counter when they waved me over to join them. I didn’t want to intrude, but they all immediately made room for me, welcomed me, and brought me over to eat — again, I had taught only one of them.

Another time, I was with my friends at the Oak Brook Mall when a group of students ran up to me. My friends were blown away that my students didn’t see me and walk the other way. Instead, they respectfully greeted my friends, chatted with me, and then suddenly darted away —because across the mall, they spotted Mrs. Megall and wanted to go say hi to her! And I know the same goes for so many of you. We could take this for granted — the academic caliber of our gifted and talented students, and the welcoming and warmth of our kind-hearted students — but knowing what other teachers experience helps me realize this gift. And I haven’t even talked about how great our students’ families are!

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Fenwick Students of Italian Pray for Italy

COVID-19 global outreach project employs video app technology called Flipgrid.

Earlier this month, students in Level I Italian completed an Italy Outreach Project through the video app Flipgrid. “They recorded themselves praying for Italy in Italian and reading a letter they wrote to Italy in Italian,” explains Fenwick Italian Teacher and alumnus Mr. John Schoeph ’95. “Each student submitted a prayer and a letter as a video recording.”

Mr. Schoeph then compiled them into what Flipgrid calls a mixtape. “This mixtape plays them all as a video and also presents each video individually in a grid. Italy was struck so severely and early [by the Coronavirus pandemic] that it was important for our students to reach out,” he notes.

LISTEN TO THE FENWICK STUDENTS PRAY IN ITALIAN

“In the meantime, one student drafted a letter in Italian ‘to Italy,’” Mr. Schoeph continues, “while every student was required to find the e-mail address of one high school and one church in their assigned town or city in Italy.” Freshmen Angelina Squeo ’23 (Elmwood Park, IL) and Cate Krema ’23 (Western Springs, IL) compiled the e-mail lists of churches and high schools that every student was required to look up and submit.

Mr. John Schoeph ’95

With the e-mail lists ready to go and the letter drafted, their teacher inserted the mixtape link and sent off the e-mails. “We wanted to let Italy know that a group of beginner Italian students is praying for them and sending them our best,” Mr. Schoeph concludes.

To Italy, with love

The letter was drafted in Italian by fellow freshman Angelina Woods ’23 (Elmwood Park, IL):

I nostri carissimi in Italia, 

Noi siamo una classe d’italiano al livello il più base a Fenwick High School. Fenwick è un liceo negli Stati Uniti. Le priorità di Fenwick sono le preghiere, la studia, il ministero/il volontariato, e la comunità. Mandiamo le nostre preghiere a voi virtualmente e spiritualmente. Anche, mandiamo qualche lettere che offrono la nostra speranza e positività. Se potete, per favore condividete queste lettere e preghiere con la facoltà e gli studenti del liceo o con i parrocchiani della chiesa. Da una piccola scuola di Chicago viene molto amore per Italia.

(La freccia blu e bianca della mano destra dello schermo mette in funzione il video.)

Da una piccola scuola di Chicago a un’altra in Italia. 

Auguri!​

Translation:

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Drawing Parallels between 9/11 and COVID-19

How do Friars respond during crises? Fenwick has asked the alumni community to share memories of when the world seemed upside down and how, we as a community, responded.

This Fenwick alumnus, who visited campus back in February, remembers the traumatic period following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 — and has an important message for today’s students.

By Dave West ’98

World Trade Center, NYC: the dreadful day the “Twin Towers” fell.

I was a senior at Duke preparing for a public policy class when the attacks of 9/11 jolted us all around breakfast time on a Tuesday morning. School abruptly shut down as did the country, and we quickly learned over the next few, confusing days that several graduated fraternity brothers, parents of classmates and thousands of others were killed in the towers, in the planes or in the Pentagon.

As a senior, thoughts quickly turned to what other attacks were next; how we’d ever get back to life as usual; whether there would be any jobs for us; and even whether a military draft might be brought back and we would all need to prepare to fight a new enemy halfway around the world. Our grandparents were “the greatest generation”… would we be good enough and up to the challenge?

Parallels to the present pandemic

The U.S. Pentagon on 9/11/01.

The answer was a huge, “Yes” then, and it will be again now. Despite the trauma of that day and the months that followed, the country persevered. I recommend students use this current pandemic shock to step back a bit and think about their goals, purpose and what they really want out of the next five, next 10, next few decades.

In my case, 9/11 was a catalyst to immediately pivot to pursue grad school and national security public service. I was able to serve in Washington and work with over 50 allied countries in counter-terror and anti-terror cooperation efforts. A friend of mine from Duke, lacrosse star Jimmy Regan, turned down a Wall Street job and enlist in the special forces, giving his life years later as a hero on the battlefield and inspiring us all even today. Others became doctors/researchers, teachers or strong executives building new companies, etc. 

The 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero in New York City.

I want to underscore to the students that people generally, and our economy and country in particular, are incredibly resilient. Families, economies and life as we know it are taking a hit right now due to the pandemic, but we will come out on the other side of it. The world will need Fenwick people to help lead and deal with the uncertainty, so we should all stay focused, positive and ensure we’re ready when needed.  

Health and safety to all.

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Optimism and Reality

By Eva Szeszko ’20

As a junior last school year, Eva Szeszko became the Illinois State Champion, representing the Optimist Club of Oak Park.

“Is there a fine line between optimism and reality?” The band Queen took the world by storm during its reign in the 1970s. They introduced the world to a new type of rock and produced hit songs that are still celebrated and sung today. Of these songs, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is perhaps the most well-known. The six-minute song is an unlikely source of optimism, but upon listening to the mere first verse, I was struck with the lyrics’ undiscovered potential. In these lyrics, I found the metaphorical line between optimism and reality.

Freddie Mercury begins the song by asking, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” His rhetorical questions are the same that we must ask ourselves. Are we approaching situations realistically? Are we optimistic in setting our goals? We must ask ourselves these questions before reaching a decision. It is not enough to approach every situation with a singularly realistic point of view. With no optimism, life becomes dreary. However, on the other hand, we must make certain that optimism does not overpower our decisions and goals. Further along in the first verse, Freddie Mercury also sings the line, “Easy come, easy go.” Through this assertion, he perfectly embodies the relationship between realism and optimism. One must be able to handle any situation accordingly, but the person must also have hope that the situation will get better. Not only did Queen release an American icon, they also unlocked the secret to optimism and realism.

Realism is the tendency to accept things as they are. Optimism, at its core, is just realism interspersed with hope. An optimist must be able to look at reality with positivity and hope for a better future. Because of their relationship, optimism and realism co-exist. Being too realistic can be harmful to one’s outlook on life. Imagine a doctor telling someone that they have been diagnosed with cancer and have a slim chance of overcoming the disease. A realist would accept the diagnosis and understand that the survival rate is very low. Yet, is there not more? How can we just accept a dire situation like this, and not hope and work for a better outcome? Because of this, being too realistic is not beneficial to one’s life. One must also sprinkle in a little bit of optimism in every situation encountered. The Optimist Creed states that we must “talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person [we] meet.” In other words, every situation can use a bit of optimism. Through this codependency, one can find the blurred line between optimism and reality.

Freddie Mercury and Queen rocked out in the 1970s. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in 1975.

The stereotypical idea of an optimist is one who never stops smiling, no matter the circumstances. However, this is not an accurate description. True optimists use both optimism and realism to their advantage. They use realism to accept the situation that has been handed to them. They then use optimism to make the situation better. They are able to overlook the negativity and work for a better tomorrow. These optimists may not always be sporting a smile, but they remain hopeful for a better future. They do not solely rely on realism; nor do they solely rely on optimism. Similarly, we all must find the balance between these two philosophies in order to better ourselves.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” although an unlikely source, has been my inspiration for optimism. This example goes to show that optimism is all around us, we just need to be willing to notice. Simply put, we must look at each situation realistically. Then, just over the horizon, the shining rays of optimism must be found. At that intersection, we all will find the “Fine Line Between Optimism and Reality.”

Optimist International is an international service club organization with almost 3,000 clubs and over 80,000 members in more than 20 countries. 

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Friars Marching for Life

Two dozen Fenwick students, including members of the Respect Life Club, traveled to Washington, D.C., last month.

Pro-Life Club Co-President Kate Turner ’21 (Hinsdale).

Thirty-three representative of Fenwick High School, including 24 students, attended the 46th annual March for Life on January 22-24 in Washington, D.C. “To represent Fenwick at the March for Life was so special, and I am proud to be a part of this amazing group of students,” states Kate Turner ’21, co-president of the Respect Life Club. “It was so motivating and affirming to see how many people our age had traveled from all over the country to participate in the march. We came home inspired to promote a culture of life and love in our community.”

Ms. Turner’s parents, Deborah and Dan Turner of Hinsdale, IL, organized the trip; her sister, Mallory ’23, a Fenwick freshman, also attended. (Debbie’s father, the late Emmett Malloy, Jr., was a member of the Friars Class of 1953.)

Friars at St. Agnes Church with Notre Dame Pro-Lifers before the march.

“We will never be able to repay the Turners for all of the planning and administrative work they contributed,” praises Social Studies Teacher Gary Richied ’95, who was one of nine adults to attend the trip. “Everything went so smoothly,” Richied continues, “and all the participants had a transformative, life-affirming experience because of the passion that this family has for the cause — and the desire they have to see others affirm human dignity from conception onward. We would not have been in D.C. without them.”

Respect Life Club Moderator Mr. Gary Richied ’95 sporting his “#LoveThemAll” T-shirt.

Mr. Richied, who moderates Fenwick’s Respect Life Club, reflected: “I am so blessed by God to have witnessed the most beautiful sort of things. A group of 24 Fenwick students took from morning Mass exactly what they were supposed to: Fed by the King of Life and Hero of Heroes, they marched in defense of the most vulnerable: our brothers and sisters in the womb. They were all heroes that day. And, I echo the words of Fr. Peddicord at the end of our trip here: I was never more proud to be — in my case — a Fenwick alum, a Fenwick teacher and Fenwick Director of the Pro-Life Club.”

As Richied mentioned, another adult chaperone in attendance was Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., who said, “It was important for us to take part in the March for Life. It was clear for all to see that standing up for life is not a purely partisan or sectarian matter. It is a matter of human rights and justice,” Fr. Peddicord continued. “This point was made powerfully when we saw some marchers carrying signs proclaiming ‘Atheists for Life.’”

Juniors Lauren Schleiter (Elmhurst) and Meredith Callahan (Hinsdale) at the Washington Monument.

Griffin Vrdolyak ’21, a Fenwick junior from Hinsdale, calls his experience at the march “very joy-filled and hopeful. We marched with tens of thousands of people all in support of protecting human life. I was amazed that most of the crowd were young high school and college students,” Vrdolyak notes. “I also enjoyed spending time with and getting to know the other Pro-Life Fenwick students.

WATCH THE WEEKEND’S VIDEO produced by senior Kate Hackett ’20 (Western Springs, IL):

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God Loves All of Us

On the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Fenwick junior from Berwyn reflected about the Blessed Mother’s special connection with the oppressed, the impoverished and the powerless.

By Chelsea Quiroga ’21

Today, we gather to celebrate and honor the virgin of Guadalupe; the mother of Jesus, known to most of us as Mary. Just shy of 500 years ago the virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, who was an Aztec peasant who had recently converted to Catholicism, on the hill of tepeyac just outside of present day Mexico City.

She appeared with a green cloak covered in gold stars as well as having the same olive complexion of that of the native Juan Diego. She told him to build a church in honor of her, and he humbly accepted. Juan Diego went back down the mountain into town to see the bishop and informed him of his recent encounter.

Juan Diego told the bishop of Mary’s request, and the bishop was doubtful and asked for Juan Diego to bring him proof of her existence before he approved any construction. Mary appeared to Juan Diego for a second time, and she responded to his request for proof by telling him to gather the wild plants around the hill, which was very dry and desert like. She told him to put them into his tilma, which was like toga, and not to open it until he saw the bishop.

Juan Diego listened and carried the dried plants down the hill, and when he came to the bishop he let down his tilma. In the place of the dried, wild plants out fell dozens of red roses, and the image of Mary was imprinted onto his tilma. Soon after, a church in her honor was constructed. Ten years prior to her visitation to Juan Diego, Mexico had been conquered by the Spanish and Catholic conversion was pushed onto the natives.

La virgen of Guadalupe’s appearance to a native peasant caused many similar to Juan Diego to feel a sense of belonging in Catholic faith and caused Catholicism to spread like wildfire. Mary’s visitation to a poor native peasant demonstrates God’s love for all backgrounds and the special connection had with those oppressed, impoverished and powerless. Her visitation was a triumph and allowed for Mexicans and Latin Americans alike to have a personal tie to their faith and gain a strong feeling of home with God.

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Fenwick Student Stands Against Childhood Cancer

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been the backbone of the family of Sadie Briggs ’20 for four generations.

By Sadie Briggs ’20

Editor’s note: Long-time Fenwick Speech Teacher Andy Arellano reports that Sadie Briggs presented this past summer to the St. Jude Leadership Society in Memphis, TN. “She began crafting her speech last April,” Mr. Arellano says proudly of his protégé. Sadie made the trip from River Forest with her grandfather and her mother, who knew nothing of about her presentation and really didn’t want to “waste the weekend.” During the speech, her surprised mom “broke down and cried,” Arellano says.

Today, I would like to thank everyone who has made this experience possible. This is my second time being able to come to this event, and even though I am up here again, this experience truly leaves me speechless.  

Sadie’s great-grandpa, Joe Shaker, Sr., in 1951.

Many people ask me why St. Jude means so much to me and, honestly, when I was little, I felt that my amazement was obvious. Everywhere I went, from my grandparent’s homes, to dinners, events, and more, St. Jude was always present. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to meet my great grandfather, Joseph Shaker, who explained the importance of this great hospital. My great grandpa was one of the co-founders of the hospital along with Danny Thomas. Being first generation Lebanese, with five children and a wife to support, my great grandfather decided to join Danny’s dream. Today, I am the oldest of 20 of Joseph Shaker’s great-grandchildren. Only my brother and I ever got the chance to meet my great grandfather, but trust me, all of the little ones hear enough about him to make them feel as if they had met him too. They also know that they have the duty to carry on his St. Jude legacy. 

“Show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine.”

– Danny Thomas’ prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus
Alumnus Joseph G. Shaker ’68 (now retired) was President/CEO of Shaker Recruitment Marketing.

My great grandfather’s son, Joseph [Fenwick Class of 1968], my grandfather, has also played a major role in my love for this hospital and the St. Jude mission. He still actively participates on the St. Jude/ALSAC board. My grandfather is a person who is often described as one of a kind. Everyone who meets him falls in love with him, and there is nothing that makes him happier than helping St. Jude and teaching his five grandchildren about this hospital. Because of him, we all keep St. Jude so very close to our hearts. 

St. Jude’s Mission Statement

The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.

I first participated in the St. Jude Leadership Society when I was a freshman in high school. I was one of the youngest students present, and visiting the hospital for that first time changed everything for me. I became more grateful for all of the work that my family has done to support this wonderful facility. At that time, I also learned that everyone can play a role in helping St. Jude, no matter one’s occupation or college major. Even though I have no clue as to what I want to do when I am older, I do know that with God’s help I will always stay involved with the St. Jude mission. 

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Friars’ Student Preacher for October

A Fenwick junior urges her classmates to learn from sisters Martha and Mary in the Bible — and be more diligent with their prayer lives.

By Grace McGann ’21

Grace McGann, a junior, commutes to Fenwick from Western Springs, Illinois.

In today’s Gospel, we learn about two sisters named Martha and Mary. When welcoming Jesus into their home, Martha scrambles to clean and organize the house while Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to his wisdom and prayer. Eventually, fed up and exhausted, Martha complains to Jesus about the actions of her sister. Jesus simply explains to Martha that her own anxieties and worries have gotten the best of her, and that Mary has made the better decision by choosing to pray alongside Jesus.

It’s easy, especially as Fenwick students, to see ourselves in Martha’s position. From what seems to be endless hours of homework, maintaining grades and also maintaining meaningful relationships, high school does come with a lot of things to be worried about. So many of us have gotten to a point where it feels like these worries consume us. It’s at moments like these where we must remember the Gospel. Jesus told Martha that she was too focused on worrisome things and that she should focus more on the thing that truly matters: prayer. We are all individuals with very busy schedules, but as Jesus said to Martha, we cannot let our worries take priority over our faith. In the long run, your grade in geometry is not going to have a significant impact on your life. Your faith, however, can set your soul on fire for the rest of your life, and that all starts with our prayer habits.

Yes, we do pray before every class and some of us might pray before every meal. But it is easy to find ourselves stuck in the rabbit hole where we are just going through the motions. We stand up, say a “Hail Mary” or even an “Our Father” and sit down. But how often do you think about what you just did? An easy step to take to improve your prayer habits is being aware of what you are saying. We pray before class, for example, because we are asking God to help us with our struggles, not to just focus on our struggles and completely and ignore Him in the process. There are thousands of ways to engage in meaningful prayer. For me, its praying before I go to bed.

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Worldly Sophomore to Study in Germany for 11 Months

Fenwick student Jack Kornowske ’22 takes part in the Rotary International’s Youth Exchange Program.

By Mark Vruno

Fenwick student Jack Kornowske (Oak Park) is headed to Germany for his sophomore year.

Fenwick parents Diane Ellsworth and Pete Kornowske have four children, including twin boys Eric and Jack, who will be sophomores this coming school year. (Older sibling Will is a senior Friar.) Of the twins, “Jack is the more independent one,” their mother says. She is about to find out just how self-sufficient her 15-year-old son is, as he embarks in mid-August on an 11-month study opportunity near Berlin, Germany, as part of the Rotary Club of Oak Park – River Forest’s Youth Exchange Program. The cultural experience will feature several host families, not just one.

“We host two [Rotary] students per year,” explains Mrs. Ellsworth, who hails from nearby Norridge and became familiar with the program from a friend who is a Rotarian host. “My friend once ran a school in France and had great experiences hosting,” adds Diane. Ellsworth-Kornowske’s Oak Park house was the U.S. home of a junior student from Brazil attending Oak Park-River Forest High School this past spring. Last fall they hosted a student from Italy who was a guest at St. Patrick High School in Chicago. The family also has hosted other foreign-exchange students, from France and Japan, in the past.

As for Jack spending almost a year away from home in Germany, his mother admits to being a little “freaked out” by the prospect of her young, teenage son traveling, by himself, across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. “I was preparing for my oldest to go to college,” she explains. And now, this! Kornowske is one of eight students sponsored by the Rotary district to study abroad for the 2019-20 school year. Rotary International handles the logistics; each participating family is responsible for their child’s airfare and travel insurance. 

Visiting an English-speaking country is not an option for students participating the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, Jack notes. “I was asked to rank my top 12 countries,” he recalls. At first he thought he was heading to Lithuania, number 7 on his list. However, in May, Outbound Coordinator Sue DeBolt (Rotary District 6450) and Youth Exchange Officer Lesley Gottlinger notified the family that his destination had changed to Germany. Soon, passport in hand, he will be on his way to board an airplane at O’Hare’s International Terminal. 

Sprechen Sie Deutsche?

Young Kornowske does not speak fluent German, so to get ready for his 4,400-mile journey he has been working with a language tutor this summer. “Rotary helps with the language skills — they expect Jack to be fluent after three months,” his mom reports. He will attend a language camp his first week in Germany. And he won’t be allowed to text or FaceTime his family in Oak Park; at least not at first. As part of the Rotary program’s deeply immersive strategy, Jack cannot communicate with his parents or siblings at all for those first 90 days, which makes his mother even more anxious. 

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