Collegiate Friars: July 2019

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OLIVIA EVANS

Fenwick Graduation: 2018
Hometown: La Grange, IL
Grade School: St. John’s Lutheran
Current School: The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Current Major: Animal Science (Pre-Vet)

Summer Internship: I do not have a formal internship through the university this summer, but I work as a groom for a few Argentine polo pros. I gain experience through working with the horses as well as by assisting the vet when the horses need treatment. I am also involved in a biomedical research lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This lab work will extend through my entire undergraduate schooling.

Career aspirations: I aspire to go to go to vet school.

Fenwick achievements/activities: I was a member of the National Honors Society, Tri-M Honors Society, Friar Mentors, was an Illinois State Scholar, a Eucharistic minister and was on the State Team for WYSE. I also ran track for three years and was in choir for four years.

Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: Mr. Kleinhans had the most influence on me. I learned a great deal in his physics class, but most of all I learned from his example as a role model, teacher, mentor and WYSE coach. Some of my favorite class memories are from his “feel good Fridays” where he connected life experience to prayer and the importance of being a genuine person while working hard and enjoying life.

Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: AP Biology with Mr. Wnek was one of my many favorite classes. Mr. Wnek is a fantastic teacher, and what I learned set me up for success in college biology and other lab work.

Fenwick experience you would like to live again: I would relive the whole experience. From classes, sports and clubs, to friends, I had a great experience at Fenwick. I am extremely grateful for the community and for the way it set me up for success in college and in the future. I am thankful for the relationships I formed with teachers and the way that impacted my growth as a student and as a person.

Fenwick experience that changed you the most: My entire time at Fenwick changed me. Living by four pillars — community, service, spirituality and study — set the atmosphere for success and encouraged me to be my best self. I will never take for granted the opportunity and special community at Fenwick.

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JAKARIE GATES

Fenwick Graduation: 2016
Hometown: Chicago
Grade School: St. Malachy
Current School: Morehouse College (Atlanta)
Current Major: English
Summer Internship: Steans Family Foundation – North Lawndale Reads
Career Aspirations: Public Relation Specialist/Social Media Manager

Fenwick achievements/activities: Honor Roll, Poetry Club, Kairos Leader, Kairos Rector

Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: The teacher who had the most influence on me was Raymond Kotty. I never had a class with him, but every week after school of my sophomore year he would help me study for my math tests. If my grades slipped I risked losing my scholarship, but Mr. Kotty made sure that never happened. I was beyond insecure in my ability to comprehend certain concepts, but he saw something in me I did not see in myself. Mr. Kotty helped make me feel like I belonged at Fenwick.

Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: Mr. O’Connor’s English Class my senior year had the most influence on me. He was a tough grader and even gave me an F on a project for not citing my sources correctly. At the time I was really upset, but it was the greatest thing he could have done for me. His class taught me how to think critically and was the foundation of my passion for English literature.

Best Fenwick experience: My best Fenwick experience was the day I was sick in Spanish class. My teacher was writing notes on the board, and I was taking notes in my notebook. I asked to go to the nurse’s office and the teacher said, ‘After you finish taking notes.’ My classmate, Abbey Nowicki, saw me struggling and took my notebook from me and said, ‘I will take your notes for you. Go to the nurse’s office.’ When I came back after the bell, my notebook was on my desk and it had all the notes written in the notebook. It was the sweetest gesture anybody had done for me at Fenwick. It always stuck with me. 

Fenwick experience that changed you the most: The experience that changed me the most at Fenwick was Kairos. It taught me not to take the important things in life for granted: love and appreciation. Kairos made me appreciate time more.

MORE COLLEGIATE FRIARS

John Polka, Beloved Biology Teacher and Hall-of-Fame Track Coach, Has Retired After 52 Years at Fenwick

Brother Rice alumnus who put the science in service for a half-century was fêted on June 15th.

Science teacher John Polka graduated with a B.A. in biology from St. Mary’s University (Winona, MN) in 1964, taught at a public school for one year, and has been at Fenwick High School ever since. Teaching some 5,000 students at the same school over a 52-year stretch is a milestone that few educators have achieved, but Polka comes by his love of teaching honestly: He is one of nine teachers in his family. The Brother Rice alumnus says he always had an interest in science and has taught biology since day one. Later, he earned a master’s degree in biology from Chicago State University.

Of his students at Fenwick, “They’re alive academically,” says Polka, who resides in River Forest. “They want to learn — it’s not dumb to be smart. And they challenge you; they keep you alive academically.” Polka developed the Ecology of the Rainforest and Marine Biology programs, traveling with students into the rainforests of Costa Rica and Peru. A trip to Belize featured hands-on marine biology lessons. A love of running is as much his passion as anything related to the classroom.

Continue reading “John Polka, Beloved Biology Teacher and Hall-of-Fame Track Coach, Has Retired After 52 Years at Fenwick”