We believe in the power of sharing stories, but we also know a story can't be powerful without someone there to listen. As part of our quest to be the best listeners and interviewers possible, we decided to start by interviewing each other. Below are our stories. We shared them first with each other and now we want to share them with you. Enjoy.
Nia Pappas is a kindhearted person who always tries to bring out the best in other people. She is someone who views each day as a fresh start and a new challenge. She enjoys writing poetry and short stories, surfing pinterest for inspirational quotes, and baking anything that can satisfy your sweet tooth. When she’s not at school, you might find her at the park on the swings or watching Jeopardy with her dog. :)
Lauren spends hours in the pool because of swimming and water polo which she truly loves. She is very dedicated to what she does, for example, sports and academics. She plans to use her dedication on pursuing a career in engineering. She can be described as a faithful, caring, and ambitious girl who is happiest when surrounded by her friends and family.
“I don’t know what the hell I wanna be”. Despite societal pressure to have your whole life figured out by the time you are eighteen, Amad Ansari is perfectly comfortable with not having every step of his life perfectly calculated. He focuses on being the best version of himself. Amad is an avid reader. He enjoys nonfiction books about social justice and political theory. “I read to get to know the world better”. Amad brought his sophisticate aesthetic vision and rational way of looking at the world to the web page he created. In addition, Amad designed the VOW Class logo. Amad is a fiercely independent person that will undoubtedly continue social activism in the future.
Kortney Burkhardt is a senior here at Stagg. She is a small, very straightforward person, who says it like it is. She has been on the basketball team at Stagg her four years here. She has played soccer and softball for Stagg as well. She loves spending her weekends with her boyfriend Joe and her best friend Christina. She plans to study to be a Physical Education teacher in college.
In a perfect world, Sam Parson is a pirate that treks on dangerous voyages overseas and saves his crew from the formidable megalodon. But in this world, he is a regular kid who wants to attend the University of Miami and become a lawyer, just like his father. Sam like movies, basketball, the Miami Dolphins, and popcorn. He spends most of his time writing music and playing in different bands.
His name is Victor Manuel Torres. He is by far one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He never fails to find something good when things go wrong. When ever he ends up in a hospital, he knows the bright side will be getting to drink an infinite number of apple juice boxes. He was very close to his grandparents. So at the time of their passing, he loves how his family hired a mariachi band for them.
Aside from being optimistic, Victor is also comical because his first thought when Stagg was having its gas leak 2 years ago, “Oh crap, did the cookies get burned?” After high school, he wants to attend Moraine Valley and be a mechanic because his love for cars is real. Never have I met a more rad human being.
“I am a trainwreck. I am a trainwreck 24/7. I’m more of a mess than anyone else. It’s hard for me to sleep so after a couple of days I’m literally insane. I can’t have anything without spilling it on myself-- coffee, paint, anything. I’m freezing cold all the time; I can’t dress for the weather. One time I spent a good thirty seconds trying to text someone without having my phone in my hand. Yikes.”
A Senior at Stagg, who cherishes moments at home with her family living at home with her little brother, older sister and parents. Her sister playing a strong role in her life, helping Margarita through many of her experiences as she grew up. She is very active in her schooling and extracurricular activities, being a part of Cross Country, Women's Soccer, Student Council. After high school Margarita wishes to major in Biology wanting to look into Science Technology Engineering and Math. Still indecisive of whether wanting to work in Special Education or in the Medical Field, Margarita is always willing to help.
Karolis Abrutis is an ambitious Stagg senior. He holds a huge passion for several different sports. These sports range from ballroom dancing to volleyball. He attended a private Lithuanian Cultural school while going to Public school for many years. Karolis believes that being from Europe but living here has brought him some great advantages. He is able to witness both sets of cultures through his own eyes, and he believes that that is something very valuable. Being the oldest in the family, as well as being the first one in his family to experience the education system in America, brings Karolis a lot of pressure to succeed.
Brittany Jarke is a senior here at Stagg. She likes being sassy, is quite beautiful, and enjoys tossing rifles, and sabres, and other dangerous items up in the air to catch while dancing around children who just happen to be playing their instruments on the football field. She enjoys spending hours upon hours binging-watching Once Upon a Time (the new season, because she has them recorded on her DVR and hasn’t seen any...yet). In regards to her hopes and dreams: “Short term: I’m hoping to receive some food sometime on the near future, and hopefully I don’t die before I get that food…” But in the long term, photography is a recreational activity that she wishes someday may become a legitimate career for her. But if it doesn’t, that is OK because she has a back-up plan…..becoming a lawyer. “I’m good at fighting for things, honestly. And I fight for what’s right, so why not then fight for people as they fight for their own rights? That seems very appealing to me.” Well, Brittany, I hope all your future dreams come true. Especially the food part.
Justyna loves chocolate. She loves her dog, and she loves her family. Justyna is heavily involved at Stagg and has a very hectic schedule. One of her favorite places in the world is her bed, and she cherishes moments where she can relax during her busy days. But Justyna is the furthest thing from lazy. She is extremely passionate about everything she does, and makes an impact in everything she is apart of. She is a hard-working student, and a leader on her poms team. Justyna is patient, intuitive, and always searching for a new challenge.
Michael is a senior at Stagg High School and he is a down to earth type of guy that will respect anyone that respects him. Although he hasn't mastered the guitar yet he's been taking lessons for awhile now pursuing his dream that one day he will be a guitarist. This man will seek anyway to become a better version of himself even if that does mean letting some things go. He enjoys being friends of many and your first impression when you sit down and talk to him will show that you can't just get enough of this guy.
Sarah “Berry” Snell is known for her kindness, generosity, and humor. Simply being around her can brighten your day. She is an involved P.E.O.P.E.L. tutor and makes the most of each day she has at Stagg. In her free time, she enjoys shopping, watching Law & Order on Netflix and spending time with her three younger brothers and dog. After high school, she plans on attending a four-year university and majoring in psychology.
“I’m trying to be less busy because I’m really stressed out with the lack of free time I have. My social life and friends are important to me, but I feel like I can’t include them in my life because unimportant things are filling their place in my life. I don’t even have time to sleep. Ugh, I’m tired. I haven't finished my coffee yet.”
A child born amongst the stars and planets. Someone who delves deeper into this world than most people. She cares about others and their stories. Peaceful, wise, optimistic, all can be used to describe this spirit child. Uses inspiration from the world around her to be an artist who draws reality and imagination.
Jamie Lynn Price- not to be confused with Jamie Lynn Spears- but what they do have in common is their first and middle name. Both of their singing careers never took off but they remain hopeful. Jamie’s rap and jingle career is sure to blossom. Although Jamie is a tad awkward at times she has friends of plenty. She really is the one friend you need to get yourself through life. She’s the most caring, compassionate, friendly, funny, open minded, upbeat, and wild person you will ever know. Her love for coffee can not be put into words and she's all around just the best person ever...If you want to know why she smiles a lot it's because it's worth it.
“What's one word you’d use to describe yourself?”
What's a word for protective, but over yourself? I think it starts with a P. I don't know--reserved. I keep to myself.
Despite her self-professed "reserved" nature, Jess has been such an asset to the class conducting interviews in a way that makes her interviewees feel valued and comfortable. Jess has also consistently reminded us of the importance of our project with her insightful reflections on the ways in which the interviews have changed her own perspective about people, Stagg High School and even herself.
Joe Van Nieuwenhuyse describes his childhood as, “ Pretty normal, I like playing sports and stuff, that’s mostly what I did”. Currently he plays baseball and football here at stagg, and he played hockey in the past. Joe has been to multiple states and he’s even been to Canada.
He says that, “the trips made me have a lot more experiences”. Overall, Joe is a pretty well rounded person, and a real team player.
Habib is an honest, kind, and passionate individual. He loves spending his time with friends or playing sports. His passion for being a positive influence in others’ lives is evidenced by his delightful personality. Habib looks to use these valuable character traits to pursue a successful life after high school.
Megan Peterson. One of the most typical names in America, but she is far from a typical person. Megan does it all. She shoots guns, breeds peacocks, and farms bees. You can almost always catch her and her fam up to some interesting sort of shenanigans, like mattress sledding on a go-kart. Dangerous? Of course. But boring? Heck nope! Megan’s a people person and one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet, and she makes sure to surround herself with people who are just as impulsive and optimistic as she is. If Megan had to describe her life in a single quote, it would be, “Life’s a party, rock your body.”
New to the class and semester, Heather is already jumping right in volunteering to conduct interviews and learning the ins and outs of transcribing and editing. We are so happy to have her and love the enthusiasm she brings to our class community.
Happy, hurt, and strong are the three words I would use to describe Jessica Rupp. She’s had a passion for skating for eleven years; it all started because of her cousin, and now it’s become her getaway, her life. Throughout the years she has suffered the loss of her grandpa that was particularly tough because she never got to say goodbye. While everybody at Stagg was going through a hard time due to the loss of Ms. Ogarek, Jess was also going through a moment of suffering, she had just found out that her brother was in the hospital and feared that once again she didn’t get to say her goodbyes. Fortunately her brother made it through, and when she got to see him the first thing she did was hug him and say “I love you” with tears in her eyes. Deep under all the suffering there's a happy and funny person, who believes “food is bae.” She uses skating to forget about the constant fear she has of losing a loved one and not saying goodbye; she has learned how to live with that fear and that is what has made her a stronger person.
“Skating, skating has made me the person I am today, if I didn’t have skating I don't know where I’d be, I’d probably be dead.”
Juan Fajardo is a senior at Stagg High School. He has been to a total of two different high schools, and has moved about six times. For three years he lived in Mexico, currently he lives with some family in Bridgeview. His mother lives in Mexico with his two year old sister that he has not yet met. He saw his mom three years ago, and wants to visit again. He plans to go visit her during winter break.
Alexis--a super nerd to the core. She loves all things fantastical and would love to get to know you. She is genuinely interested in hearing everyone's story over a nice cup of hot chocolate and is sure to make you feel comfortable and positive about telling your tale. Since she’ll find out all about you, here’s some background info on her. She is an active participant in all areas of Drama, Choir, and Speech. She loves to read, is happily tutoring in the P.E.O.P.E.L gym class, and enjoys swimming. From the ordinary mundane of your lives to the unique part of your routines, Alexis is ready to listen.
In addition to her unending commitment to band and theater, Kelsey is an amazing contributor to the class! (That is, when she isn't trying to hide her face from documentary maker Ken, of course). Not only did she lead the charge to get theater crew to build us our awesome interview booth for Mix It Up Day, her talents with audio editing helped produce a first quarter project that even Ira Glass would approve of. We can't wait to see what else Kelsey surprises us with!
Cheyanne Daniels is a sun kissed caramel senior here at Stagg. She enjoys long walks to the fridge and How to Get Away With Murder marathons. Her favorite color is aquamarine. Since her freshman year, she has been a part of band, drama, lit mag, and speech. As a sophomore she earned the title of Editor in Chief of Lit Mag and has held it ever since. Every thought she has is pure poetry and she strives to be a hard core cat lady. She’s honestly the utmost existence of perfection and will be an amazing teacher when she grows up. She is impossible to sum up in one word but if I had to choose one it would be “determined”.
James enjoys hanging out with his friends. Much of his involvement in extracurriculars, like drama or choir, are because he wanted to be with his friends. He does a lot of community work with his Boy Scout troop.
“I don’t understand why people hate people. I think people are awesome and that they are all special in their own way.”
Erin O’Leary is a very involved high school senior as she participates in both basketball and soccer. She is very appreciative about the many friends she has made throughout her high school career and is thankful for the close bond she has developed with both her brother and sister. Her favorite TV show is Grey's Anatomy, and she plans to pursue a career in nursing (she was influenced by her mother and father). She is going to cherish and appreciate every last moment of high school while she can.
Natalie Miller is a senior at Stagg. She is very involved with her community like she has choreographed her church's play and her middle school's play. Her greatest accomplishment throughout high school was receiving 200 hours of community service. 3 words to describe her is she is a loyal friend, understanding, and independent just like her mother. She lives a very balanced life because she keeps her friends and family happy.
Hayley Gartner is an ambitious senior at stagg high school. She participates in both volleyball and basketball, and is thankful for all of the close friendships she has made in athletics. Hayley loves spending time at Starbucks, having fun with her friends, and spending time with her family. She is excited to attend a university next fall and plans to pursue a career in pharmacy. Hayley knows that she will always hold the memories she made at stagg close to heart, as they shaped her into the person she is today.
“Maybe I’m being too optimistic for the world, but, you know, whatever, that’s how I am”. Ever since she was little, Grace Garbrecht has wanted to become a teacher because of her love of English and desire to make a difference in the world. Her most definitive quality is her consistently cheery demeanor, which is impossible to not notice. Currently, Grace is part of NHS and Teaching Internship, and has been class president since freshman year, so she’s kind of a big deal. In her free time she enjoys baking cinnamon rolls and coming up with odd analogies, such as “I’m like texas toast, plain with a dab of butter”.
MARCOOOOOOOcoco puffs: a deep thinker and a poet, tries to see things from all views, cares about others and the world, tries to do adventurous things, be aesthetic, live life and devote time to himself and people important to him
Helena is a Senior at Stagg. She is an outgoing and lovable person. Helena loves to live her life to the fullest and try new things. Helena is a great artist and has many great pieces of work. Her favorite vegetable is zucchini. She is known for her binge watching. Some of her favorite TV series are Game of Thrones, The Office, and Parks and Rec. Helena is a great baker and loves to eat food. Some of her short term goals are not to be so awkward all the time, but that is just who she is. She wants to become a pharmaceutical scientist so she can create new drugs, helpful medications, and find cures for people. She enjoys the sciences and hopes to one day have an art studio in her house.
Saja is an incredibly sweet, hardworking, and fashionable as heck person. She has a talent for interior design and loves zucchini. She also loves a lot of colors which reflects her beautiful and sponcutious (made that word up) personality. She’s shy but once you get to know her she is absolutely insane. Some of Saja’s favorite TV shows are Switched at Birth, Gossip Girl and The Fosters. She also loves to sing even though she is bad at it. Some of her short term goals are to pass AP Chemistry and eat lots without becoming large. Her goal is to become a Cosmetic Dentist and one day in the future have an amazing family. To end with a quote, Saja says, “If I had a dollar for every cousin I have, I’d probably be a millionaire.” -Saja 2k15
In one year from now how do you think your life will be different?
"It will be..really different. Just going to college obviously is a different environment, a new place. The biggest change will be being away from all the people I’ve been with for so long. But I hope to keep the friendships I made."
AA: If your life was turned into a movie who would play you?
Go-Go: Ellen Degeneres
If you see a small person whose personality can fill a room despite the fact that she is only a staggering 4’11 you are most likely meeting Goharrah Saleh aka Go-Go. Can quote almost any TV show and her favorite is Ellen. Go-Go is one of the first people who welcomed me warmly into her graduating class. She is from Yemen and came here when she was 8 years old. She speaks both Arabic and English. She has the cutest style and always wears a hijab that matches her outfits that are always on fleek.
Life Philosophy: be cheesy but, if you don’t give new experiences a shot, you might never figure out something that could be out there for you. Trying new things could lead you to finding passions you haven't thought of before. Whethers it's through talking to new people daily or picking up a hobby, any hobby, there’s always something you’ll learn from it. You’ll always gain something that will help shape your personality and even your future.
Fun Facts: I’m bilingual, English and Spanish. Enforcer of positive thinking and enjoys new adventures. Recent adventures? Probably in the summer because I haven’t had any time. Probably the most recent one is visiting my friend in Iowa, and it was the first road trip I drove myself on. and she was like “oh you drove yourself here”.
Chris is a 2012 Conrady grad that is interested in going into chemical engineering at Indiana University. He comes from a separated family and has an older sister and an older half brother. Most of his family is from Crown Point, Indiana and is still living there today. He has a passion for gaming and works at the local burger king. He can hook you up with some sweet deals. Chris is very personable and an interview feels like a conversation with him.
Jenny Stamos is a bright, kind-spirited individual. She is a senior at Stagg who is involved in tennis and Social Action Club. She enjoys working closely with special needs students in the P.E.O.P.E.L. program at school. In her free time, she enjoys watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians and spending time with her friends and family. Jenny plans to go to a four-year university and later pursue a career as either a dentist or orthodontist.
Life Philosophy: Do whatever makes you happy. Why put yourself through something if it's not gonna make you happy? I was always the type of person who followed the rules, did what I was told, had a plan. You know, I’m still like that, but I’ve learn that you should take chances and do something you’ll enjoy rather than do something someone’s telling you to do. Because, as the kids say, YOLO.
Emily Olson is a senior at Stagg and couldn’t picture herself at any other high school (unless it’s East High because she loves High School Musical). Some of her best memories of high school come from being involved in the Orchesis Dance Company. Stagg helped her come out of her shell throughout her four years here. She is looking forward to her last semester at Stagg and will cherish every last moment.
Ismail Abu Hayyeh is very involved in the community. He works for many charity organizations and helps at the local mosque. In his free time, he enjoys writing long stories that may take upwards of a few weeks to finish. “It is not a nation we inhabit, but a language. Make no mistake, our native tongue is our true fatherland.”
A caring person who tries to be openminded. He is a runner, gamer, a calm person who works a lot with his family. Loves dogs and animals. Activities include long-boarding, listening to music, and just spending quality time with friends.
Violette Kolach is an involved senior at Stagg High School. She enjoys spending time with friends, binge-watching Friends on Netflix, and loves Stagg’s accepting environment. She stands up for herself and what she believes in, and is often the person to say what everyone’s thinking. She is going to miss Stagg a lot and hopes to make lasting memories in her last months of high school.
Aiste Drukteinyte resembles a diamond shimmering in raw sunlight. A kindness so amplified, dancing at the tune of her heart. A supporting motivator. The vibration of her endless love emitting into the universe. The compassion poured into the lives of ones roaming near. Empathically grasping onto souls. A nurturer lies within. Aiste is amazing and inspiring. She is always very kind and loving and her laugh makes you feel happy. She is always supporting anyone who is around her. She is very strong in her mind, and speaks from it. Inside and out, beauty shines.
All around great guy. Loves to spend time with friends, disc golf, and game. Really laid back chill individual that is hard to get worked up. Plays trumpet in the Stagg wind symphony. Always tries to make the best out of every day.
Michelle Rentauskas, best known for being the tallest girl in our senior class, is usually always busy and probably stressed out at this very moment. She will serenade the closest person with her magical bassoon playing. ”I’m in an orchestra and made IMEA for bassoon, which is like Regionals for band. Over the summer I went to bassoon camp, because I’m a nerd. I went to engineering camp too, because I’m a nerd. Also, I went to band camp (for marching band)... because I’m a nerd. I will probably go to Georgia Tech for engineering but I don’t know what I want to do with that degree. I just know I want to help people.”
Myah is the pure definition of ambition and grace. Her smile has the the power to light up even the darkest cloud. As a 17 year old, her maturity level is outstanding. Her heart is full of compassion and love for her family and others around her. Myah never gives up- she’s been dancing on an injured ankle but pulls through for herself and for the rest of her team. Her first priority is taking care of others and worrying about their happiness above her own. She’s committed and has a natural curiosity for the well-being of others. Myah is the type of woman that will leave a positive mark on others as she continues her life.
Despite being tragically emo, Hannah Bean is probably saying something stupid and laughing at her own jokes at this very moment. ”Most of the time I sound like a big ‘ol idiot.” Her hair matches her personality, and she’s wearing at least two shades of black at any time. Friends describe her as energetic, over-caffeinated, and ‘a literal Golden Retriever.’ You can most likely catch her working her part-time job at Once Upon a Child. Hannah doesn’t have the slightest idea as to what she wants to do with her life, but knows it’ll all be okay.
Amber Alfriend is a junior/senior. She is very intelligent and hardworking, so much so that she is graduating high school in 3 years and starting college next year at Elgin Community College in Elgin. She wants to major in physical therapy. If you see an independent African American lady at Homegoods, it's Amber. She puts other before herself and is very optimistic and confident.
John Kladis is a senior at Stagg High School he is involved with the Varsity bowling team and other activities here at Stagg. He also played basketball and volleyball here. On the weekends John hangs out with his best friends Mike and Eric. They play a lot of sports and video games, Super Smash Bros 4 is their favorite. John plans to attend college to study Computer Animation.
Gabby Zemaitis is an hard-working Stagg senior. She has attended public english school, while attending a private Lithuanian cultural school for 13 years. She is the first-born generation in America from her family. She returns to Lithuania every summer to make sure she does not lose connection with her roots (culture and native language). Gabby has cheered for 7 years, did ballet for 3 years, and took drawing classes when she was younger. She enjoys drawing in her free time. Her parents are divorced which causes her to be the oldest in her dad's family and the baby in her mom's. She is currently focusing on her future and planning for college.
Kelli Thielmann is an independent and passionate student. She dedicates herself to achieving her academic goals because she hopes to become a Pharmacist one day in order to help a wide array of people with their health. Kelli loves spending time with her three younger siblings, particularly her twelve year old brother. In her free time, she likes going to concerts, finding new places to eat, and volunteering at a local VA hospital. Her first priority is making sure her friends and family are happy.
I want you to know about Joy Williams. Joy is a senior in high school. She wants to pursue her dream has becoming a journalist. She wants to be a news anchor and report the news with truth and integrity. As of right now she is working at Pete's Market and even thought she's not a fan of it, she will stick through it. When Joy started at Stagg has a freshman she was scared because when she went to Conrady she would get bullied, but she has made new friends that she is super close with. Joy's parents have separated so without one another times can get pretty hard. Good thing Joy is a strong girl and takes on the world with her stories.
Always energetic, sometimes over-caffeinated and never anything but positive, Mr. Wendelin is undeniably a vital part of this project and class. No matter how tired he probably should be from teaching, coaching football, co-sponsoring yearbook, leading Social Action Club and being a devoted dad to his three adorable kids, Mr. Wendelin never fails to bring unending enthusiasm to class every morning. Whether it's sharing his deep love for Terry Gross or agreeing to angrily eat coffee cake for a photo op, Mr. Wendelin always puts his whole heart and ridiculous sense of humor into everything he does making him not only an awesome teacher, but an all around pretty awesome human being.
She is always quick to deflect credit, but Mrs. Thyer is the reason this game-changing class exists. It was her work with Ms. Ogarek that brought the Voice of Witness organization to Stagg years ago and it is her loyalty to Ms. Ogarek that continues to drive its purpose. In her ten years of teaching, she has taught nearly every English course Stagg offers. No matter the content, she teaches English with a focus on life. In between teaching grammar and Gatsby, she encourages students to stand for something... and sometimes do a silly dance when they feel happy. After school she can be seen running the trails with the cross country team, designing yearbook pages, or planning an activism project with Social Action Club. She protects the rights of teachers as a union representative, runs triathlons, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. She has a borderline-concerning obsession with William Shakespeare and secret crushes on Ira Glass and Glen Hansard. She is selfless, devoted to her friends, and has a knack for making people feel valued. There is no one on the planet more qualified to teach a class combining writing and empathy than Mrs. Lisa Thyer.