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Article posted: 3/30/2012 2:22 PM

Eleven DuPage County students named Golden Apple Scholars

By James Kane

Golden Apple has selected a record 135 Illinois high school students whom it will groom to be the top teachers of the future. Eleven of them are from DuPage County.

Golden Apple will shower the students with $23,000 in financial aid over the next four years to attend an Illinois university, but perhaps more important, it will provide related guidance, mentoring and training.

A key component is a six-week session each summer where they spend half the day observing in the classroom and half the day learning how to be great teachers.

"They see things they would like to emulate and things that they close their eyes in horror," said Dominic Belmonte, CEO of Golden Apple.

In return for the assistance, the students commit to teaching five years in an Illinois school of need, where the program provides them with help in how to deal with students, parents, fellow teachers and administrators.

"Our work continues through college and into their teaching careers," Belmonte said.

The DuPage County students selected from among 1,285 nominees are: Stephanie Bernardo of Downers Grove, Illinois Math & Science Academy; Elsa Cadwallader of West Chicago, West Chicago Community High School; Madeline Rae Collins of Roselle, Lake Park High School; Miguel Hernandez of Aurora, East Aurora High School; Maya Lane of Roselle, Conant High School; Mary Kate Maloney of Glen Ellyn, Glenbard West High School; Kelly O'Ryan of Elmhurst, York High School; Kathy Rodriguez of Carol Stream, West Chicago Community High School; Nicholas Sorrentino of Elmhurst, York High School; Cassandra Thill of West Chicago, West Chicago Community High School; and Rebecca Williford of Naperville, Waubonsie Valley High School.

Of the students who are named scholars, 83 percent complete college, and 91 percent of those complete or exceed the five-year service requirement, Belmonte said.

The scholars are 60 percent minority and 35 percent low income. Of black students, 75 percent graduate, and of Hispanic students, 78 percent graduate, rates that are several times those for all black and Hispanic students, he said.

"This blows out of the water any other program," he said, citing as an example Teach for America.

Golden Apple, founded 23 years ago, gets its funding from the state, corporations and individuals.

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