Annalisa Baratta, Hersey High School
Hometown: Arlington Heights
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Parents: Jennifer and Bob Baratta
Sponsor: Mark Gunther, teacher and Service Over Self coordinator
Community service: One of 14 teens internationally to plant mango trees and work with children in an orphanage in Ghana for Cross-Cultural Solutions. Worked with orphaned children and adults in Costa Rica. Counselor for Camp Soar, working with children with disabilities. Performs benefit concerts with the Arlington Dance Ensemble. Organized drive to collect 1,500 videos for kids at Northwest Community Hospital.
Personal statement: In Ghana, "I began to understand that life isn't really about 'stuff,' but about things less tangible like life experiences, love and community ... My work has opened many doors and offered varied opportunities. I believe that my interest and further study of chemistry will allow me to continue to learn from and help people in developing countries."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Her unique blend of talent, smarts and desire to serve others is unmatched in my four years as service coordinator of my high school."
Svilena Bochukova, Maine West High School
Hometown: Des Plaines
Parents: Svetoslav and Stela Bochukova
Sponsor: Audrey Haugan, principal
Community service: With two other students organized Cans Across Des Plaines, a community food drive. Volunteer on Dan Seals' congressional campaign. Teacher's assistant for an accelerated English program. National Honor Society fundraising volunteer.
Personal statement: "I have always yearned to motivate others to look beyond their daily lives and truly empathize with their community. ... Organizing the Cans Across Des Plaines food drive and National Honor Society fundraisers for the American Cancer Society has confirmed my belief that a few individuals have the ability to trigger change. These volunteer experiences redefined my idea of a leader -- it is not merely someone with a vision, but rather a person who possesses the drive to materialize dreams into something tangible."
Sponsor's endorsement: "She gives of her time freely and has dedicated herself to making her life and the lives of others better. She believes in hard work and is not afraid of long hours and difficult tasks."
Jonathon Catlin, Barrington High School
Hometown: South Barrington
Parents: John and Kathleen Boyle
Sponsor: Jill Bauer, student volunteer program coordinator
Community service: Organized collection of and delivered $4,500 and 7,000 pounds of food, medicine and clothing to Crow Creek Native American Reservation in South Dakota for an Eagle Scout project. Youth board member for South Barrington Foundation. Youth representative on the South Barrington Conservancy Commission and the No Child Left Behind Consortium. Tutors fourth and fifth grade students.
Personal statement: "I am grateful every day for the amazing environment God has given me to live and thrive in, and I now see it as my charge to empower a new generation of leaders akin to those who have helped me get to where I am today. "
Sponsor's endorsement: "This student was suggested ... by more staff members than any other during the nine years that I have coordinated this program. You would never know the extent of his service to others unless you asked him. Because of his tumultuous early childhood, he is especially driven to help at-risk children."
Katie Donnewald, Buffalo Grove High School
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Parents: Craig and Theresa Donnewald
Sponsors: Rich Schram, physics teacher and student council sponsor
Community service: Envisioned and organized the Dance Marathon that raised $6,500 for Salute Inc., which helps soldiers and their families. Key member of Adopt-A-Bison homecoming week fundraiser that raised $2,500 to save endangered bison. Meals on Wheels volunteer at Thanksgivings. Four-time Chicago Marathon volunteer. Organized last year's trick-or-treat for canned goods for charity at the school.
Personal statement: "I have adopted the philosophies of two of my middle school sports coaches as my mantra for dealing with the challenges and opportunities presented in high school. These philosophies are: 'Do your best and have fun' and 'No coulda, shouda, wouldas.'"
Sponsor's endorsement: "I am privileged to work with some of the most impressive young adults. It takes quite a unique individual to stand out amongst these students. She truly rises to this level, and I am proud to have known and worked with her."
Isabelle Ezra, Hoffman Estates High School
Hometown: Hoffman Estates
Parents: Heman and Ruth Ezra
Sponsor: Jasmin Chung, English instructor
Community service: Envisioned and organized with another student a school benefit that raised $9,900 to help Haiti. Small group leader/mentor with Elevate, a junior high ministry at Willow Creek. Volunteers with Pals school-sponsored community service club. Volunteers at Bright Hope food pantry.
Personal statement: "Though my future holds many questions, there is one constant: service. I want to empower those who might otherwise be overlooked. A Bengali poet named Rabindranath Tagore once said, 'I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted, and behold, service was joy.'
Sponsor's endorsement: "I have had the privilege of witnessing her transformation from a bewildered yet capable and caring underclassman to a confident and exemplary model for the future leaders of our high school. She is always respectful of the ideas of others and is constantly willing to help others in need. She reaches out to all in and out of her community."
Courtney Griffin, Barrington High School
Parents: Terry and Deanna Griffin
Sponsors: Jill Bauer, volunteer coordinator, and teacher Susan Teegarden
Community service: Student co-founder and co-chair of HERE in Barrington Community Coalition to address mental health issues. Co-founder and co-chair of IT Campaign, which raised $12,000 for Barrington Youth and Family Services. One of 12 student leaders of COLTS Leadership Program to mentor 200 freshmen. Tutor for Writing Well Peer Tutoring. Founder and member of Nerdly Birds student service club.
Personal statement: "Differences can be something to hide from, or they can be something worth embracing. Born with a rare neuromuscular disease called spinal muscular atrophy, I have always been a little different. Yet I have not let this disease, nor the wheelchair I use on a daily basis, keep me from reaching my full potential."
Sponsor's endorsement: "This well-loved and respected student has had an incredible impact on both our school and community. She may face personal challenges every day, but you would never know it."
Abigail Horan, Rolling Meadows High School
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Parents: Terrence and Jill Horan
Sponsor: Katie Page, science teacher
Community service: Founder and director of Double T, which has donated 3,242 hygiene kits. Held six backyard carnivals, the last one raising $5,500. (See abbyhorancharities.org) Founded Catch the Reading Bug, collecting new books for children. Volunteer coordinator for Kids on Track in the Arlington Park backstretch. Raised more than $2,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Personal statement: "In the summer following my kindergarten graduation, I held my very first fundraiser. Although we only raised $20, the sense of accomplishment I experienced was overwhelming. I couldn't get over the fact that I had made a difference, albeit a trivial one in the life of someone else -- in this case, a paralyzed teenage boy struggling to afford an electric wheelchair. I immediately set out to accomplish more, to help more people. Thus, my charitable organization was born!"
Sponsor's endorsement: "She is so far above the rest of her peers that staff here has turned her name into a verb!"
Marilou Jongko, Hersey High School
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Parent: Lourdes Jongko
Sponsor: Craig Ameel, career life skills teacher
Community service: Counselor for four years at Camp Soar, serving special-needs children. Special Olympics coach for four sports, helping organize travel to big meets. Nursing home activities volunteer. PADS volunteer.
Personal statement: "It's the smallest things that fill me with the biggest rewards; for example, seeing the happiness on the face of a kid (with Down syndrome and autism) when accomplishing simple tasks such as walking five steps to the bathroom. When difficult times arise, we often feel like we've struck out and failed. However, as the saying goes, the only real failure in life is not to get up one more time than we've been knocked down. These kids have taught me just that."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Marilou, instead of faltering, turned her family adversity into a golden heart. In 18 years of teaching, Marilou might be the kindest, most empathetic student that I have ever taught. She connects on an emotional level with demanding children and parents."
Victoria Moroney, Fremd High School
Parents: Jay and Melodie Moroney
Sponsor: Steven Patton, teacher
Community service: Created and organized the Race for Sincere Hearts, which has raised $5,700 in two years for kids at a Thai orphanage. Co-president of Bridge Youth Council, helping organize events to aid various local charities. Co-founded Youth Impact.
Personal statement: "The race has made me realize that no one has ever gotten anywhere by not trying. I want to take the skill set that the race has given me and apply it to all aspects of my life. Fulfilling my goals will always be a challenge, but I am intent on doing my part to help others, and am confident in knowing that everything I learned from the race has helped me become one step closer to finding my own personal meaning in life."
Sponsor's endorsement: "From my perspective, this young woman is certainly one of the outstanding leaders of her age group who, over the course of her lifetime, will continue to cultivate positive transformation through her leadership capacity."
Peter Ninchich, Fremd High School
Parents: Alex and Jeanne Ninchich
Sponsor: Dale Risley, counselor
Community service: Chosen for Peacebuilders Initiative, tutored children in Chicago and set up a service program at his parish school and one in Chicago. Teen leader for last three years in his church Justice and Service Teen Organization. President of Service Over Self at Fremd. Catechism teacher.
Personal statement: "Volunteer service has not just helped others; it has changed my perspective on life. After tutoring children in the Back of the Yards and Austin neighborhoods of Chicago, I am more aware of the struggles that the children encounter on a daily basis."
Sponsor's endorsement: "I have personally observed this student demonstrate the ability to command attention in a room of 250 teenagers and encourage their eager involvement in community service and it is done with an apparent ease. This student is an exceptionally giving person who, at a young age, has managed to change the lives of people in many walks of life through dedication to community service."