Lester: Immigrant mom cheers daughter's selection as Illinois' top school counselor

  • Illinois High School Counselor of the Year Gabriela Mendina, right, works at Rolling Meadows High School, and her mother, Balbina Hernandez, is a cafeteria worker at Elk Grove High School. Hernandez brought Mendina to the United States from Mexico as a child.

      Illinois High School Counselor of the Year Gabriela Mendina, right, works at Rolling Meadows High School, and her mother, Balbina Hernandez, is a cafeteria worker at Elk Grove High School. Hernandez brought Mendina to the United States from Mexico as a child. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Illinois High School Counselor of the Year Gabriela Mendina, right, who works at Rolling Meadows High School, said the honor is a fulfillment of an American Dream for her and her mother, Balbina Hernandez, who brought her daughter to the United States from Mexico when she was a child.

      Illinois High School Counselor of the Year Gabriela Mendina, right, who works at Rolling Meadows High School, said the honor is a fulfillment of an American Dream for her and her mother, Balbina Hernandez, who brought her daughter to the United States from Mexico when she was a child. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • A card congratulating Illinois High School counselor of the year Gabriela Mendina, who works at Rolling Meadows High School.

      A card congratulating Illinois High School counselor of the year Gabriela Mendina, who works at Rolling Meadows High School. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Tonia Khouri

    Tonia Khouri

  • Bob Dold

      Bob Dold Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/25/2016 10:24 AM

Sitting next to one another on a couch at Rolling Meadows High School, guidance counselor Gabriela Medina and her mother, Balbina Hernandez, look like sisters. With just 17 years between them, they could be.

Medina's selection as Illinois High School Counselor of the Year is the fulfillment of an "American dream" for the two women, after Hernandez put her own ambitions on hold and left Mexico as a teen to give her newborn daughter a better life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I always wanted to go to school," said Hernandez, an Elk Grove High School cafeteria worker. "I just married so early, I would cry and blame myself."

But her dreams were realized through her daughter, who she was able to put through college at Loyola University in Chicago by working several jobs at a time. After Medina graduated, both worked for a time at Wheeling High School, where Hernandez, who worked in the school's cafeteria, would often bring her daughter lunch.

Families like hers

Hernandez burst into tears during a recent mother-daughter dinner at the Olive Garden when Medina told her about the honor and an upcoming trip to the White House, where she'll represent the state of Illinois next January.

Rolling Meadows High School officials say Medina was selected because of innovations she's brought to the school's counseling program and for going above and beyond her job requirements to help Latino students navigate the complex college admissions process.

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In many ways, she's helping families much like her own.

"I always think that her desire to still want to do school was probably passed on to me," Medina said of her mother. "That's the gift that she gave me that she couldn't necessarily do for herself."

Strategizing

Today's the first scheduled meeting between the Black Abolitionist Movement of the Mind and a Chicago-based legal consortium to strategize about addressing claims of racial discrimination in Waukegan Public Schools. Chris "Brotha" Blanks says work with the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. goes "hand in hand" with a recent federal complaint he made against Waukegan District 60 about an inordinate number of suspensions and expulsions of black and Hispanic students compared to their white peers. School officials have expressed concerns about the issue, as well. Waukegan School District 60 Superintendent Theresa Plascencia says she aims to recruit and maintain more minority teachers as well as build a districtwide approach to teaching social and emotional skills to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions in the district.

How much?

All but two of the 10 Illinois school districts spending the most per child on special education services are located in the suburbs, according to a report released by the State Board of Education. Bannockburn School District 106 spent, on average, $20,589 per special education student on services in fiscal year 2015, with Butler School District 53 in Oak Brook spending $18,713 per special education student and Stevenson High School District 125 spending $17,893. Statewide, average special education spending per student is $4,536.

Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw apologized Wednesday for yelling an anti-gay slur at someone on the ice after he was sent to the penalty box late in the team's Game 4 loss at home to the St. Louis Blues.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw apologized Wednesday for yelling an anti-gay slur at someone on the ice after he was sent to the penalty box late in the team's Game 4 loss at home to the St. Louis Blues. - Associated Press
Not an isolated incident

The anti-gay slur uttered by Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw -- which landed him a one-game suspension -- is all too prevalent in the sports world, a recent study shows. The study, entitled "Out On The Fields" and commissioned by the Bingham Cup Sydney, surveyed 9,500 people in six countries. It found the U.S. had the highest percentage of gay men reporting they had received verbal threats in a sports environment, and the highest percentage of gay men who heard slurs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Three buddies

You've heard of Two Brothers Brewing Co. in Warrenville, but how about three buddies in Glenview? Today's the official opening for Ten Ninety Brewing Company in downtown Glenview, founded by longtime friends Brian Shafer of Glenview, Jamie Hoban of Naperville and Andy Smith of Chicago.

The trio met shortly after college and combined a love of beer with their respective backgrounds in business and engineering. Ten Ninety makes 19 different beers, and you can sample roughly a dozen at any given time in its taproom, which also serves light snacks.

Wondering about the name? Ten Ninety is a geeky brewer's term for the starting gravity of its first four types of beers.

Will she?

Republican voters in the 11th Congressional District overwhelmingly chose delegates for business tycoon Donald Trump in the March 15 primary. But Tonia Khouri of Aurora, the Republican candidate in the district, isn't saying if she'll back Trump if he's the party's nominee, which seems increasingly likely. By contrast, in the 10th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Bob Dold has said he won't back the current front-runner, despite all three of the district's GOP delegates going to Trump.

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