Stagg honors scholarship students from Bridgeview to Orland Park
By Dermot Connolly
Graduating seniors at Stagg High School who
win scholarships are traditionally celebrated with a dinner at the school in
Palos Hills. But this year, with all the students at home, the celebration was
brought to them.
The pupil-personnel services team of guidance
counselors organized a “scholarship caravan” of several dozen vehicles that
visited all 35 scholarship winners at their homes on May 13. Stops were made
throughout Stagg’s coverage area, beginning in Bridgeview, where teachers
briefly “whooped it up” outside the houses of seniors Mahmoud Mousa and Ethar
Hussein, who received scholarships from the school’s Parent Teacher
The festive caravan then went on to homes in
Palos Hills, Hickory Hills, Worth, Palos Heights, Palos Park and Orland Park,
keeping to their tight schedule.
This was the first and only chance the staff
had to see students they knew for four years. Since schools closed two months
ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been communicating online.
The celebration began outside the school at
8015 W. 111th St., where masked and gloved staff decorated their vehicles in
the school colors and “Charger Pride” signs before heading off at noon.
“We’re trying to think outside the box,’ said
guidance counselor Rich Kowalczyk, who spearheaded the effort. “A lot of
schools are doing these virtual celebrations, but we wanted to do something
Kowalczyk noted that the scholarship dinner
had been scheduled for May 6. “That took a lot of organization too, but this
was more fun,” he said, noting that Leyden High School District 212, did
something similar in the western suburbs a few weeks ago.
“The only issue we had was, after coming up
with a route, we found out some of the students would be taking Advanced
Placement tests (at home) during the time we were going to pass by. So we broke
it into two routes,” he said.
Dr. James Gay, superintendent of District
230, joined the caravan halfway through, and representatives of organizations
that awarded scholarships participated also.
At the traditional dinner, scholarship
winners would have seated with theirscholarship providers. Being part of the caravan
allowed the representatives to congratulate them along the route.
“This is really cool. The guidance counselors put so much work
into it,” said Suaad Rashid of Worth, who won the Mary Ogarek Scholarship. The
caravan caused a brief traffic jam on Southwest Highway when it stopped at her
home, where she was with her parents, Manal and Mohammad.
Everyone wore masks, but carloads of staff jumped out to greet her
and pose for photos.
“It was a strange end to our senior year, but I think we all
learned something,” said Rashid, who plans to study chemistry at the University
of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.”It was a sacrifice but as long as most
people remained safe (from the coronavirus), that was worth it.”
Another Worth resident, Karol Para, graduated in three years and
won three scholarships–Business Club’s Young Entrepreneur, Charger Pride and
The caravan also celebrated the accomplishments of senior Peter
Gordan in Palos Park, another three-scholarship winner who graduated a semester
early in January. He was wearing a shirt from his new school, Columbia
University and waving Stagg colors of blue and orange with his brother, Alex, a
sophomore at Stagg, and their mother, Athena, when the caravan rounded their
corner. The founder of a nonprofit called Homes4Monarchs, Gordan plans to
double-major in sustainable development and economics when he goes to Columbia
in New York City.
“It is a lot of fun. It is great to be able to see everyone again,”
said Gordan, holding up certificates he was given for the Charger Pride,
National Merit and Palos Lions Club scholarships he won.
“I hope to be able to start at Columbia in the fall, but that
might be put off, too,” said Gordan.
“I could not be more pleased with the Stagg Scholarship
Caravan. Our Guidance Office staff did an amazing job ensuring that our
scholarship winners and their families had the opportunity to experience the
excitement and recognition they deserved even during these difficult times,”
said Principal Eric Olsen.
“Our students and families were so appreciative of the
efforts of our staff and the generosity of the scholarship benefactors.
The energy of the caravan rolling through our many Stagg communities
left an impression on our scholarship award winners, but also our communities
at large. Community members young and old cheered on the caravan as it
rolled through the streets, clearly a sign that everyone was ready for some
good news and a little fun,” said Olsen.
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