Israel Vargas, director of Community Outreach at Roosevelt University, was honored as Education Leader of the Year by Minds Matter Chicago, a nonprofit that runs a tutoring program for disadvantaged youths. A mentor to Minds Matter Chicago teenagers, Vargas helps them and their families gain access to education, stay safe from violence and in some cases secure low-income housing, jobs and citizenship. Vargas, of Hanover Park, joined Roosevelt University in January 2014, and is responsible for growing a partnership between the university and Mind Matter Chicago over the last two years. He was honored April 9, during a gala celebration at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.
• Oakton Community College students Simone Montgomery of Winnetka and Roxana Berinde of Morton Grove were selected as 2016 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Scholars. Montgomery and Berinde were honored at the annual Phi Theta Kappa convention, April 7-9, in National Harbor, Maryland. Montgomery, an alumna of New Trier High School, won the Silver Scholar Award. Berinde, a graduate of Niles West High School, won the Bronze Scholar Award. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation sponsors the Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team program by recognizing 50 Gold, 50 Silver and 50 Bronze scholars, and providing nearly $200,000 in scholarships annually.
• John Hersey High School sophomores Shannon Steines and Mady Cohodes brought home medals from the IHSA Debate State Finals, where they competed against 14 of the best speakers in the state in the Congressional Debate Division. The two students competed through seven hours of preliminary rounds and three hours of semifinals to reach the finals. Cohodes also qualified for the IHSA All-State Team, which is determined by the 10 highest scores in the preliminary rounds. The IHSA Debate State Finals was the last team event of the season, but in June, Cohodes will compete at the National Speech and Debate Association's Finals in Salt Lake City.
• Rolling Meadows High School counselor Gabriela Medina was named the Illinois School Counselor Association's 2016 Outstanding High School Counselor of the Year. Medina, an English as a Second Language counselor, was selected for bringing innovation to Rolling Meadows' counseling program, providing and demonstrating leadership and for going above and beyond in her role by facilitating numerous community outreach opportunities. Medina will receive the award at the Illinois School Counselor Association's state conference on April 29, in Rosemont.
• Elk Grove High School juniors Eric Pfister and Daeveion Rivera won the 2015 Congressional App Challenge for the 8th Congressional District, by creating an iOS app called Book Logger. The app lets users track and rate books, and share their critiques with other readers.
• Grace Howard of Des Plaines, a senior environmental engineering major at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, recently completed a hands-on project at Stantec Corporation in Boston. The project, titled "Reducing Phosphorus Contamination in Stormwater Runoff," was part of a project-based curriculum, which brings students out of the classroom and into the real world to apply their knowledge to solve problems.
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