Fremd student earns prestigious national chess prize

At 17, Aditya Gupta of Rolling Meadows has earned a distinction few teens have achieved.

The 11th-grader at Fremd High School in Palatine is among only five high school students in the nation to receive the 2023 Scholar-Chessplayer Award from the U.S. Chess Federation - awarded only twice to an Illinois student.

The award recognizes outstanding high school juniors and seniors who promote a positive image of chess while excelling in academics and leadership. Each awardee will receive $1,500 in scholarship money.

Aditya is captain of Fremd's varsity chess team, which finished in fourth place at the Illinois High School Association's 2023 state contest in February. He is the 2021 Illinois Junior Chess Champion and a Chess National Master with a rating above 2200 points, as determined by the U.S. Chess Federation.

“There's very few under-18 players that have that Chess National Master rating from them,” he said.

Originally from Delhi, India, Aditya immigrated to the U.S. with his parents, Kuldeep and Shipra Gupta, in 2012.

Mathematics and chess are his two passions.

Aditya is a nationally ranked mathlete, qualifying for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination four times and in the Platinum Division of the USA Computing Olympiad.

He also has founded two nonprofits - ThePuzzlr and ChessPupils - aimed at helping tutor students on competitive math and establishing chess clubs at suburban middle schools.

This school year, Aditya and a group of about 20 high school student volunteers have been giving free chess instruction to students at feeder middle schools to Fremd.

“You just need to be introduced to it and you can see how fun it is,” Aditya said. “Next year, we have programs starting in schools that feed into Neuqua Valley and New Trier high schools. We have a lot of student volunteers who want to start chess programs in their schools. We want to provide that early interest and early exposure to the game.”

High school musical

Mundelein High School's musical production of "In the Heights" opens Thursday with its largest and most diverse ensemble. Courtesy of Mundelein High School

Mundelein High School's musical production of “In the Heights” opens Thursday with its largest and most diverse ensemble representing the makeup of the Mundelein community.

The musical presents themes of family, home and representation through the story of a vibrant community in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood.

“Our goal in producing this show, in addition to creating a great experience for our students and our community, was to make sure that our Washington Heights looked like Mundelein,” director Jonathan Meier said. “Our community is a mix of cultures, ethnicities and races. We are a strong, vibrant, diverse community, and you will see this represented onstage during this production.”

Mundelein High's student population is heavily Latino, with 45.6% coming from Hispanic homes, 40.5% white, and 14% representing Black, Asian, and other races.

“In the Heights,” which opened on Broadway in 2008, was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, winning four.

Mundelein Theatre's performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday at Mundelein High, 1350 W. Hawley St. Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for seniors 65 and older, and $8 for students. For more information and tickets, visit

Empowering minority youth

Participants of the Boys & Girls Club of Lake County at the Bright Futures Gala leading an activity for guests. Courtesy of Boys & Girls Club of Lake County

The Boys and Girls Club of Lake County hosted its annual Bright Futures Gala on April 15 at the Lincolnshire Marriott, celebrating the nonprofit's impact on the lives of the youth it serves.

The club offers academic support, mentorship, extracurricular activities and community service among a diverse range of initiatives designed to inspire youth ages 5 to 18 from some of Lake County's most challenged areas to fulfill their potential. The gala raised more than $260,000 to support the club's efforts.

CEO Megan McKenna underscored the importance of supporting a community plagued by systemic inequities, especially amid challenges due to school lockdowns and hybrid learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said academic success is a key focus of the club's work, and helping students overcome pandemic-related learning loss.

“The club is here to help break down those barriers and also to build capacity in our youth to overcome and manage these (challenges),” McKenna said.

Tennis star

Oakton College sophomore tennis player Zarina Sayed will compete in the NJCAA Division I Women's Tennis singles National Championship May 6-10 in Tyler, Texas. Courtesy of Oakton College

Oakton College sophomore tennis player Zarina Sayed will compete in the NJCAA Division I Women's Tennis singles National Championship May 6-10 in Tyler, Texas.

Sayed will play alongside Elizabeth Martin in the doubles competition.

“It has been an amazing experience to play at Oakton,” Sayed said. “It has opened so many doors for me, and I will be forever grateful to have played on this team.”

Sayed trains multiple times a week and does weightlifting and cardio at the gym daily. Eating healthy and getting good sleep also are important parts of her routine.

“I am making sure I am in the best physical as well as mental shape to prepare for this big moment,” Sayed said. “My goal is to win!”

Sayed was the runner-up in last fall's NJCAA Region IV Division I tournament, which qualified her for nationals.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sayed moved with her family to Skokie at age 6. She started playing tennis at 8 years old and later became the No. 1 singles player at Niles North High School.

Sayed studies psychology at Oakton and is considering pursuing a double major in nutrition, fitness and wellness. She teaches at River Trails Tennis Center in Mount Prospect.

Native American history

State Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton of Western Springs is leading a measure to make the teaching of Native American history a requirement for all public elementary and high school students.

“We need to give our students the opportunities to better understand the discrimination and persecution Native Americans faced throughout history,” Glowiak Hilton said.

House Bill 1633 would require public schools to make Native American history part of curriculum. Teachings would include the study of the genocide of and discrimination against Native Americans, tribal sovereignty, treaties made between tribal nations and the United States, and the circumstances around forced Native American relocation.

Social studies courses pertaining to American history or government would be required to include a unit of instruction studying the events of the Native American experience and Native American history within the Midwest and Illinois.

Glowiak Hilton has championed other bills in support of Native American heritage this year. Senate Bill 1446 would ensure schools allow articles of clothing that have cultural or religious significance for students. That measure passed the Senate in March and now is in the House for further consideration.

House Bill 1633 passed the Senate Education Committee and now heads to the full Senate for further consideration.

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