Four individuals were recognized recently as recipients of Maine Township High School District 207's second annual "Parent of the Year" honors.
The Board of Education instituted this program a year ago to honor parents of graduating seniors, who have demonstrated a commitment to education and the well-being of the students. Seniors at each of the district's schools were invited to submit nominations in the form of essays explaining why their parent or guardian should be considered.
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This year's honorees are Stanislaw and Dorota Bieniarz at Maine East, Julie Stepanovich at Maine West and Patricia Varco-White at Maine South.
Jessica Bieniarz wrote of the sacrifices that her parents made in order to immerse her in music, swimming, ballet, dance culture and religion as she grew up in Poland. Because they did not own a car, Jessica wrote, her parents would accompany her on the bus and wait until her many practices were over. The family moved to Des Plaines four years ago, as Jessica entered East High School. In order to bring Jessica here for her high school education, her father gave up his teaching job in Poland and has worked in floor maintenance and cleaning service to support his family here. Now, as Jessica pursues her higher education at the Oberlin Conservatory, in Ohio, her parents will return to Poland. "Their job is ending -- they completed their mission like no one else could," Jessica wrote. "Now it is time for me to take over and continue becoming a real musician."
Sara Stepanovich detailed how her mother attended all of her West tennis and soccer matches, even those played in miserable weather, and all of her basketball games. She wrote how her mother volunteered to drive to Iowa last summer for a soccer tourney that would not have happened if her mother hadn't offered to serve as a female supervisor. She wrote of how her mother supported her academics, too, sometimes with a gentle push, such as the time she urged Sara to dig a little deeper and stick with a tough Advanced Placement course. "At age 3, every little girl wants to be just like their mother," Sara wrote. "At age 13, every girl thinks they are 'too cool' for their mother. At age 16, every girl wants to get away from their mother. At age 18, I'm not like every girl. I truly understand the gift that was given to me, my mother Julie Stepanovich."
In his essay, Michael White wrote that, "My mother is not just an ordinary Park Ridge mom. Dr. Patricia Varco-White should be called Wonder Woman because she goes above and beyond the duties of a mother." He described her commitment to him and his sister and of how his mother's support of their sports endeavors grew to the point that she set up a photo website that gives South athletes and parents access to scores of photos taken during games. He wrote that his friends and his sister's friends gravitate to their home because his mother welcomes them "with open arms as if they were her own." He wrote that his mother has instilled in him her philosophy to "carry as you climb," and he explained how she honors that principle in her own dental practice, by providing the best care possible even for patients who cannot afford to pay for her services.
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