Cara Birschbach, Geneva High School
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Parents: Myron and Barb Birschbach
Sponsor: Mary Jane Johnson
Community service: Math tutor, Girl Scouts summer camp volunteer, St. Peter Reaching Out in Christian Kindness Mission Team
Personal statement: "I have learned so much from traveling with my family and mission team, volunteering and being involved at school, but unless I share my experiences with others, I will feel that this knowledge will go to waste. For this reason, I decided to be a P.E. leader for my senior gym class, captain of the varsity badminton team, vice president of La Sociedad Honararia Hispánica, and the peer leader of my mission team."
Sponsor's endorsement: "I have known her for the past four years serving in the capacity of her counselor and academic adviser. She is an extraordinary individual who embodies excellent academic skills as well as notable personal characteristics. Her zest for life is contagious, and she is committed to paying it forward. She has earned the respect of faculty and peers alike for her accomplishments, kindness and humility."
Jared Cebulski, Aurora Central Catholic
Parents: John and Jane Cebulski
Sponsor: Bridget Buckley, guidance director
Community service: St. Baldrick's master of ceremonies and volunteer shaver, redesigned traffic flow in and out of school parking lot, Holy Angels Parish food pantry volunteer
Personal statement: "I plan to become a civil engineer with a specialization in transportation so that I may help people get to their destination not only safely, but also quicker. Many highway bridges that were first built half a century ago are in need of maintenance and will need repair in the coming years. With my professional civil engineering license I will be able to participate in this great undertaking."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Jared has (almost single-handedly) changed the way we conducted car traffic on our campus. Our previous design as far as traffic flow was terrible. After school, parents, students, and staff would wait 15 minutes to get out of our parking lot. Jared, along with a couple of other students, did research and composed a plan to change our flow of traffic that ... is currently in use, and has been very successful."
Abigail Gust, St. Charles North High School
Hometown: St. Charles
Parents: Pamela and Robert Gust
Sponsor: Erin Manheim
Community service: Global Leadership Adventures, Congregational Church of Christ service trips, Boy Scouts haunted hike organizer, Fairplay For All volunteer
Personal statement: "Last summer I took a risk and decided to travel to Ghana with Global Leadership Adventures for a two-week service trip in an extremely rural village. Ghana started a snowball effect that lead to me applying for something I would have never dreamed of doing as freshman. This time last year, I would have called you crazy if you said I would be graduating early from my high school and going to Africa for two years. But here I am, more excited about this than anything I've ever done. One thing I know for certain: I will not be the same person when I return home next year."
Sponsor's endorsement: "This summer Abby took a trip to West Africa to build schools and teach English. Upon her return she and I had a rather emotional conversation, reflecting on the joy of the people she met and the frustration she felt with not being able to give more."
Kristen Hartlieb, Marian Central Catholic
Parents: Andrew and Diane Hartlieb
Sponsor: Kelly Hilton, guidance counselor
Community service: Friends of Rachel service club, St. Margaret Mary Religious Education catechist, Kairos Retreat Team, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Peer Ministry
Personal statement: "Serving implies giving of oneself, but it does not stop there. In all my service, I have received tenfold of what I have given. As the president of the Friends of Rachel club at school, a club devoted to creating a culture of compassion, I have seen smile after smile from students just caring about one another."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Her inclination to empathize and relate with every human being she comes into contact with is beyond her years. Her magnetic personality draws people in and her caring spirit keeps them coming back. She has the unique ability as a teenager to be kind and reach out to each and every one of her peers without fear of judgment. She always acts with grace and stands up for her strong morals without being negative or rude."
Sally Heyob, Central High School
Parents: Alan and Beth Heyob
Sponsor: Jonathan Young, counselor
Community service: American Cancer Society Relay For Life event chairman, Feed My Starving Children volunteer, Northern Illinois Food Bank volunteer, Reach Workcamp mission volunteer
Personal statement: "Anything that I have accomplished is not only due to my solo efforts, but also a reliance on group contributions. One should not exist as a single part, but coexist in whole group interactions. Day by day I live my life for the benefit of others, because without them none of my goals would be meaningful."
Sponsor's endorsement: "In all my years of being an educator, I have never seen a student do what Sally did last year. I have never known a student who organized an entire school and literally an entire community to hold a Relay For Life. While being a full-time student, enrolled in rigorous course work, earning straight A's, working a part-time job, being a cheerleader and devoting countless hours to her church, this 17-year-old spent months of exhaustive work organizing people to spend an entire evening walking for cancer research."
Alanis Krantz, Rosary High School
Parents: Keith and Lydia Krantz
Sponsor: Lisa Sustersic, counselor
Community service: Counselor at camp for special-needs adults, coordinated a Valentine's Day dinner for seniors, church youth group leader
Personal statement: "Special Camps is a weeklong volunteer activity in which I am able to spend time with special-needs adults. Without the help of the volunteers, this camp would not be possible. Camp challenges and encourages mentally handicapped adults to experience and participate in fun activities that help campers learn how to be independent, and increase their self-esteem. Not only does this camp challenge the campers in new ways, but it has also challenged me in ways that I never thought were possible. I have learned so much about myself. This service project has taught me how to be patient and loving to everyone."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Ali's work with our Bible Club, Pro-Life Club, and Senior Retreat Team speak to her desire to be a role model and leader by example and ... I have found her to be one of the most compassionate and empathetic students I have worked with in years."
Hannah Rice, Dundee-Crown High School
Hometown: Sleepy Hollow
Parents: Philip and Linda Rice
Sponsor: Anna Murray
Community service: American Cancer Society Relay For Life advisory team, co-chair and captain; National Honor Society; freshman mentoring
Personal statement: "My biggest life goal is to go to medical school and specialize in oncology, the study of cancer. When I signed up for Relay For Life during my first year of high school, I was curious because it sounded like fun and was a good cause, which was reason enough for me at the time. However, after my first year, its significance became so much clearer to me. Relay has further proven to me that studying and, just as importantly, fighting cancer is what I am meant to do. "
Sponsor's endorsement: "I met Hannah when she took the initiative to first determine who the new Relay For Life sponsor is, and then learn the sponsor's classroom, and finally introduce herself before I even knew that she was the co-chair of the committee. Hannah's zeal not only initiates new committees, projects, fundraisers, and ideas but also sustains them throughout the entire process."
Claire Roehri, Cary-Grove High School
Hometown: Fox River Grove
Parents: Paul and Betsy Roehri
Sponsor: Jim Kelly, dean
Community service: Academy for Global Citizenship summer program, Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County, Interact Club, Link Crew
Personal statement: "I have worked with children on many occasions, but my experience volunteering for the Academy For Global Citizenship, a charter school located in an underserved neighborhood of Chicago, is what ignited my life mission to create an innovative school in another area where children are in desperate need of a better education. I want to change the lives of thousands of children with a school that serves as an educational model across America."
Sponsor's endorsement: "During the 16 years I have been in education, this student is one of the best students I have ever been associated with. She is thoughtful, loyal and dedicated to whatever she is doing. She represents our community in the highest fashion. Due to her hard work and leadership, Interact has donated tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to help people in need in the Chicago area."
Allison Rychtanek, Larkin High School
Parents: Beth and Vince Rychtanek
Sponsor: Jill Hunt, counselor
Community service: Student government Connie-a-Thon, Boy Scouts summer camp volunteer, middle school math competition volunteer
Personal statement: "Thousands of people are abused, neglected, and mistreated everyday. It is my goal in life to stop, or at least hinder, those corrupt facilities that are a part of these actions and lead those who are suffering to a higher standard of living; I hope to do this mainly through my writing. I began writing with the intention to help others outside of school during my sophomore year when I entered, and won, the City of Elgin's Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Allison has also made many worthwhile consistent volunteer contributions to the community. She has worked at a Scout reservation during three high school summer breaks, she has volunteered at the local library since her sophomore year and was responsible for organizing a middle school math contest for the past two years."
Jacob Schmidt, Marmion Academy
Hometown: Campton Hills
Parents: Peggy and Kevin Schmidt
Sponsor: Anthony Tinerella, principal
Community service: Student council president, Peacebuilders initiative, Special Olympics, Peer Ministry, Mentors
Personal statement: "Some of the bigger service opportunities I am involved in such as summer camps and helping disabled kids show I have the initiative to help others when help is needed. There was no reason or requirement for me to do it, but my heart pushed me to help others. I saw a school of disabled students isolated from the outside world, so I took some students from my school over there to have some fun. "
Sponsor's endorsement: "(Jacob) is a natural leader, one who leads by example and enthusiasm. This is evident in his work as the coordinator of our unique student fundraiser, as well as coordinator of all the homecoming festivities and pep rally. This year's fundraiser raised $48,000 and was largely due to his determination and drive. He also was selected to serve as an officer in our Junior Reserve Officer Training Program -- a leadership role reserved for only the top students in the program."