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. 

Jack Kornowske (center) and fellow Youth Exchange students at a holiday party last December sponsored by the Western Springs Rotary Club.

“There’s no constant calling home, asking for help … no ‘helicopter parenting,’” she explains. Experience has shown that this is the best way for students from other countries to assimilate, according to Rotary International. “They want the kids engaged and invested where they’re at,” Ms. Ellsworth continues, “not online, not talking with home. Jack needs to put himself out there and get involved in his new community!” She notes that thousands of kids do this every year, and that she and her husband “have faith in the process.”

Later in autumn, Jack may write a blog (web log) journaling his experience, which is one way his family back home can stay informed about what it is he is doing a continent away. Rotary meetings in Germany will be part of his monthly routine. Meanwhile, he and his parents are working with Fenwick Principal Peter Groom and the school’s administration to ensure that all his graduation prerequisites are met. “He’s going to need to make up Theology [class] and probably take Speech as a junior,” Ms. Ellsworth informs.


His ’22 classmates will welcome Jack Kornowske back to the Fenwick campus in August of 2020.

His mom concludes: “We think this is a great opportunity for Jack and that he will do well.” It gives her peace of mind knowing her son will be wearing his Rotary blazer while traveling. “It’s easily recognizable,” she says, “so if he needs help other Rotarians will be accessible — in any airport and in any country.”

Ms. Mary Visteen, Counselor for the Class of 2022, adds: “Jack is a brave kid with an adventurous spirit. I am sure that he will learn a lot from the experience.” 

Journey safely, Friar sophomore. We’ll see you back on campus your junior year!

About Rotary International

Rotary International is an international service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world.


FUTURE LEADERS: Fenwick Boasts at Least 13 Highly Accomplished Scouts This School Year

Eight Friars have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout – plus, two Gold Award-winning girls.

By Mark Vruno

Throughout the course of 90 school years, Fenwick High School has seen its fair share of high-achieving scouts pass through its storied doors. Earning the Boy Scouts’ distinction of Eagle Scout or receiving the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award are akin to graduating as a Friar: They are highly significant accomplishments that, quite frankly, may never get removed from someone’s résumé.

Ian Havenaar ’19 (LaGrange Park/St. Francis Xavier)

 

Jacob Marchetti ’19 (Forest Park/Ascension)

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program. The designation “Eagle Scout” was founded more than 106 years ago. Only 4% of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank take years to fulfill. Since its founding in 1912, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by nearly 2.5 million young men. Fenwick senior Ian Havenaar reports that he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in May 2017. Classmates Ethan Baehrend, Daniel Barry, Erik Janc, Jacob Marchetti, Sam Patston, Salvatore Siriano and Matthew Nolan Walsh also are Eagle Scouts, as are juniors Patrick Barry and Billy Brown as well as sophomore Aidan Janc.

Sam Patston ’19 (Oak Park/St. Giles)

 

Billy Brown ’20 (Berwyn/Ascension)

Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges. The Eagle Scout must demonstrate Scout Spirit, an ideal attitude based upon the Scout Oath and Law, service and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads and manages. For example, Sal Siriano’s Eagle project was planting a garden at Fraternite Notre Dame in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood near Fenwick.

Eagle Scout Sal Siriano, a senior, and Dr. Jerry Lordan are all smiles in front of the garden, which will look even better this spring.

 

Sal Siriano ’19 (Berwyn/St. Celestine)

It’s “a Mother House that serves Austin with childcare, food pantry, [and] clothing drives, among other things. Dr. Lordan helped a lot, finding a project with me as well as getting the project started,” says an appreciative Sal.

“The … sisters explained that they had nothing on the side of their convent, and they asked me to build a garden in the fall that will bloom this spring,” he explains. “We mulched, planted bulbs, bushes and existing perennial flowers.

Some Girls Are Golden

Anai Arenas ’20 (Brookfield/S.E. Gross Middle School)

Riverside senior Natalie Skiest has achieved the gender equivalent to Eagle Scout rank : The Gold Award is the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA. Junior Anai Arenas is working toward her Gold Award as well. Earned by Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts in high school, only 5.4% of eligible girls successfully complete the Gold Award: In 2018, approximately 5,500 girls received it nationwide.

The award allows young women to make lasting change on an issue about which they are passionate — from human trafficking to ocean pollution to education access to expanded STEM training for girls in underserved communities. By the time a girl puts the final touches on her Gold Award, she will have taken seven steps to develop a lasting solution to the challenge:

  1. Identify an issue: Use your values and skills to choose a community issue that you care about.
  2. Investigate it thoroughly: Use your sleuthing skills to learn everything you can about the issue you’ve identified.
  3. Get help and build your team: Form a team to support your efforts and help you take action.
  4. Create a plan: Identify the root cause of an issue, and then create a plan to tackle it.
  5. Present your plan and gather feedback: Submit your Project Proposal Form to your Girl Scout council for approval.
  6. Take action: Lead your team and carry out your plan.
  7. Educate and inspire: Tell your story and share your results.

Gold Award recipients also have a competitive edge in the college admissions process and are eligible for scholarships, says the Girl Scouts organization.

Future Eagle

Conor Kotwasinski ’20 (Cicero/St. Mary’s)

Junior Conor Kotwasinski is close to completing his quest for prestigious Eagle status. This past October, he partnered with CVS Pharmacy in Brookfield to organize a preservative-free Flu Vaccination Clinic (for ages 10 and up) at St. Mary Church in Riverside. Now that his service project is complete, he only needs his “Personal Fitness Merit Badge and to complete my Board of Review,” says Kotwasinski, a member of Troop 92.

More Scout Photos

New Eagle Scout Ethan Baehrend ’19 of River Forest (Roosevelt Middle School), flanked by his parents Diana and Ed, at an April 2019 ceremony.

 

Elmhurst brothers Erik ’19 and Aidan Janc ’21 pose with proud Cross Country Coach and Fenwick alumnus Dave Rill ’87 at their Eagle Scout ceremony.

 

Daniel Barry (Elmhurst)

 

Patrick Barry (Elmhurst)

 

Matthew Nolan Walsh (St. Vincent Ferrer, River Forest)