Northwest Suburban Leadership Team, 2016-2017
Matthew Aberman, Schaumburg High School
Parents: Mark & Elaine Aberman
Sponsor: Brent Swolsky, counselor
Community service: Woodfield Area Children's Organization volunteer; Schaumburg Youth Advisory Council; leader at Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute, which draws 5,000 kids from across Illinois to EIU once a year to teach self-acceptance and a healthy lifestyle; Chicagoland Dog Rescue volunteer every week; National Honor Society canned food collection
Personal statement: "I aspire to work for the FBI as a criminal profiler. I want to see people smile when we help them in their time of their greatest need, no matter the circumstance. The lessons I have learned from volunteering I will take with me forever, and I hope to inspire others with those same lessons in the future.
Sponsor's endorsement: "Matthew is the embodiment of what I look for when asked to describe leadership. He is, in so many ways, what is good about our youth today and, for that, has earned my utmost respect and highest recommendation."
Gabrielle Eckersall, Barrington High School
Parents: Catherine Eckersall
Sponsor: Michelle Fitzgerald, counselor
Community service: President and founder of The Girl Effect, which fights for gender equality, girls' right to education, and girl empowerment locally and around the world. Volunteer with Travel for Teens, working in an impoverished rural village in Fiji, teaching English and helping install a toilet; Girl Code board member; Snowflake Leader at BHS; member of Barrington Giving Day Youth Board
Personal statement: "Every day, I wake up with an abundance of gratitude for the amazing mission that has been bestowed upon my heart, and, in turn, upon Girl Effect. My passion to change the lives of girls has not only transformed the lives of my peers and fellow community members, but my life."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Gabrielle continues to exceed my expectations in all areas ... (displaying) a level of integrity, maturity and social dedication well beyond her years. She is an exceptional example of leadership and service."
Elizabeth Einig, Conant High School
Parents: Dominice & Ray Einig
Sponsor: Richard Bauer, counselor
Community service: Openly discusses her own struggle with depression -- as keynote speaker for Libertyville Youth & Family Counseling gala that raised $140,000, discussion leader with other teens, did video of her own story; Girl Scout Gold and Silver awards winner for mental health projects; founding member, High School Service Club; Alexian Brothers Youth Foundation Board
Personal statement: "Service is hard at times. Getting close to painful issues and people in need can be uncomfortable. In those moments, however, my voice is clear and strong. Many teens suffer in silence and lack resources to get the help they desperately need. It's my responsibility to speak for those who cannot, and advocate on their behalf."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Servant leadership is the core of who Elizabeth is. Entering high school, her passion for giving a voice to the voiceless transitioned into attacking stigmas associated with mental illness in teens ... she has emerged as a quiet but transformational leader in our school and community."
Victor Estrada, Palatine High School
Parents: Victor Sr. & Carmen Estrada
Sponsor: Mario Gonzalez, social worker
Community service: Tutor, translator, volunteer for Palatine Opportunity Center; event organizer, tutor for Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee; translator for Dist. 211 community engagement sessions; Cafecito, meetings for parents and students to acquaint parents with their students' classes and activities.
Personal statement: "I found my passion of becoming a high school counselor because of the various experiences that I have been afforded. My ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sake and my own."
Sponsor's endorsement: "On Feb. 14, 2015, Victor, the son of Mexican immigrants, spoke from his heart to 1,000 people, including Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky, on the need for immigrant rights. I saw a 16-year-old kid, who for years woke up every morning at 3 a.m. to help his father deliver newspapers, move a U.S. congressman to tears with a speech about the sacrifices his parents made and the opportunities this country had given him and his family."
Patrick Harris, St. Viator High School
Parents: Kevin & Laura Harris
Sponsor: Joe Majkowski, Counseling Department chairman
Community service: With African Leadership Academy, devised a mentoring system and recycled-plastic vertical garden for poor areas of Soweto, to tackle behavioral issues and a basic lack of food; founding member, E-Commerce Club and McKenna Marketplace at SVHS; St. Viator Campus Ministry; volunteers with Little City Boy Scout troop
Personal statement: "At Little City, the Kirk School and the Clearbrook Center, the mentally handicapped boys and girls have taught me what purity of heart and mind means through their invariable positivity. Service to the elderly has afforded me similar learning opportunities -- whether it was listening to the life story of a 100-year-old or landscaping the yard of a wheelchair-bound senior."
Sponsor's endorsement: "His list of service projects is extensive; Patrick has completed more than 375 hours of high school service, far more than the 100 hours required. He is one of the finest students I have encountered in 40 years as an educator."
Jimmy McDermott, Prospect High School
Hometown: Arlington Heights
Parents: Scott & Julie McDermott
Sponsor: Paul Hennig, teacher
Community service: Organized 'Hack-a-Thon' to find digital solutions for nonprofit Autism Speaks; for two years organized 'Hour of Code' for 250 children and their parents; devised 'U App', combining social media and live-time scorekeeping; followed that with an iOS application that supports thousands of users; helped organize fundraiser to get mammograms for adults who can't afford them; helped organize Prospect's Day of Service -- in which 400 teens went into the community to work
Personal statement: "Solving problems is my passion, even though I know they don't always have answers. I have to try, though. I have to try for others who may not have the chance to try for themselves."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Jimmy once said, 'High school is about finding your legacy. It's always been about figuring out what part of me I'm going to leave behind when I'm not here anymore.' Jimmy is the most accomplished, intelligent, mature, polite and kind young adult I have taught in 12 years."
Hilda Mendoza, East Leyden High School
Hometown: Melrose Park
Parents: Martin Mendoza & Antonia Avila
Sponsor: Bill Mitchell, counselor
Community service: Organizer and coding workshop leader of Student Summit, allowing students -- especially girls -- to learn about technology-related careers; made prosthetic hands for children through the E-nable Hand Project for high school engineering students; English Language Learner access mentor, helping students who, like her, came to the U.S. without any English skills
Personal statement: "I love being an ELL ACCESS mentor because I love to help students who arrive in the U.S. without any English language speaking skills. I enjoy being helpful and encourage them to be great and work hard in order to make their dreams come true."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Hilda is simply one of the most extraordinary individuals I have ever met. I cherish the opportunities she and I have had to learn from each other, and I am grateful for the countless others she has inspired. Her reputation in the classroom and in the community is legendary. "
Jigar Patel, Maine East High School
Parents: Kalavati & Nareshbhai Patel
Sponsor: John Schwan, business teacher
Community service: Project manager, Rotary Interact WGN Toy Drive, managing the budget, fundraising, shopping, delivering toys; promoted Rotary Interact dodgeball tournament; co-organizer of digital literacy project for seniors; developed project for Tech Genius Shedd Aquarium Virtual Reality Project; helped organize haunted house
Personal statement: "My time in organizations has been transformative for me. It has helped me grow from a quiet student into a strong leader ... become more self-confident, and also (given) me an organized manner to complete multiple successful projects."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Jigar has provided leadership and made many significant contributions to high-impact community service projects like the WGN Toy Drive and the Shedd Aquarium Virtual Reality project. These projects have benefitted thousands of people in Chicago area communities, and speak to what our school and its students best represent."
Parin Shah, Hoffman Estates High School
Parents: Upen and Rekha Shah
Sponsor: Suzanne Fetherling, teacher
Community service: Lead volunteer at St. Alexius Medical Center, now organizes other volunteers; local representative for Young Jains of America, organizes charitable events on behalf of Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago and for HEHS chapter of National Honor Society; tutors peers in homework or ACT prep
Personal statement: "I know my role as a volunteer is never going to be as important as those employed at the hospital, but I've seen how even the little assistance I can provide makes an impact. My goal is to study further so I can fulfill both my dream of being a physician and the needs of the patients that I will be working with."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Parin is laser focused. No matter what the end goal, she has a clear plan to reach her target. (Yet) her temperament is steadfast and warm. She encourages others to follow their dreams. Her passion runs deep for patients at the hospital -- she listens, is attentive to their needs, and provides them with a sense of hope when they may have none."
Jennifer Sheridan, John Hersey High School
Hometown: Mount Prospect
Parents: Brian & Diane Sheridan
Sponsor: Mark Gunther, teacher
Community service: Involved with National MS Society since 2012, captaining a Walk MS team, fundraising, planning events; on student advisory board for Link Together Coalition, to prevent substance/alcohol abuse in Wheeling Township; coach and volunteer for St. Paul Lutheran school and church; Hersey's Service Over Self Club
Personal statement: "In 2011, the life I had pictured was going to change. My mom was diagnosed with MS. It was frightening, (but) instead of surrendering, I decided to be optimistic and grateful, and to live each day as a gift. Without my involvement with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I would not have the experiences, skills, outlook and goals I have today."
Sponsor's endorsement: "This young woman is a leader because of the depth and purpose of her efforts. She is rare, unassuming, approachable, pleasant, graceful and poised. Her story is a model of finding oneself through the service of others."