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This blog explores, from multiple perspectives, gifted education in general and The Avery Coonley School experience in particular. Welcome to the conversation!

 

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ACS Alumni Abroad: Danila Kurganov

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Our ACS Alumni are always doing interesting things and making their mark on the world. Here is one alum's story about moving and studying abroad:

 Hi everyone. It's Danila Kurganov, Class of 2014, writing from England!

 What made your family decide to move abroad?
My dad was given the chance to work in London for his firm, and as a family we decided to take this unique opportunity and live with him in London.

How is school in England different from school in the United States?
In the last two years of British High School students choose to study three subjects that they’re really passionate about (although they can technically take as many subjects as they’d like), and these subjects are then taught at AP/college level for two years. As students are genuinely interested in their subjects (or at least don’t dislike them), most of their extra time goes into learning their subjects deeply (what they’re supposed to do at least). For this reason, it only take three years at university to get a BA degree (as opposed to four in America).

Tell us all about your life – What are some favorite hobbies? Is there anything you really enjoy doing? Do you have any news about your family you would like to share?
Living in England is fantastic, I’ve met some of my closest and best friends here. In my free time I enjoy playing saxophone, guitar, and teaching myself how to code. Most of my time though is spent on helping younger years at my school; this includes helping them prepare for the UK Maths Challenge (British version of AMC), as well as running a STEM club where students are now working on making catapults. I enjoy seeing students get very passionate on something they previously thought was dull. My family is also quite happy living here, and my little brother is the first in the family to talk with a British accent!

 Thinking back, what is one of your favorite memories from your time at ACS?
The thing that immediately pops into my head was making movies for Drama. Weeks of writing scripts, acting, and filming was a hard but enjoyable task. Everything seemed to work on paper, but when we tried to film a scene either someone had too much makeup on, or clothing changed mid-scene, or the massive camera decided to quit working. All this quirkiness was then recorded onto a CD for the school to watch during assembly. Quite fun this was!

 What advice would you give to any student who wants to study abroad?
My advice for anyone deciding to study abroad is to think about how your decision affects your future. Once you move to another country, it’ll be harder for you to go back to America and study at College or University. Does moving provide you with a new opportunity? If you want to study abroad "just because", really think about your decision some more.

 Do you have any news to share? Be sure to fill out a class note!

Tags:  abroad  Alumni 

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ACS Alumni Council Profile: Maddie Flynn

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Meet Maddie Flynn, the youngest member of the ACS Alumni Council. Read more about Maddie and why she stays involved in ACS below. 

What was your class year?
2016

Tell us about your life:
My twin brother, Jacob, and I were born in Minneapolis and moved to Clarendon Hills when we were one year old. I began my ACS journey in Early Childhood, so ACS has been a part of ¾ of my life! Outside of school, I always enjoyed sports, art, and playing the piano. When I started high school last year, I had to narrow my extracurricular activities down to include mostly soccer, Model UN, and service opportunities, but still always make time for my family and friends.

What are some of the things you enjoy doing? 
I started playing soccer when I was 4 and I have loved it ever since. In addition to playing on the varsity girls soccer team at Ignatius, I am also on the top team for the 2001 girls on FC United. Soccer is a huge commitment in my life and after school three days a week I drive straight from the city to Glenview for practice. It’s quite the trek, but definitely worth it. The girls on my soccer teams are some of my closest friends and I know soccer will always be a part of my life.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments? Many of my proudest accomplishments are soccer-related. Last year, I was one of the four freshmen chosen to be on the Ignatius varsity girls soccer team and really enjoyed working with upperclassmen and playing with girls from different grades. In addition, last year I was one of the few nominees for  the Fr. Florian Zimecki S.J. Freshman Achievement Award.

Do you have any family news to share? My brother, Michael, graduated from ACS in 2013 and St. Ignatius College Prep in 2017. He now attends Northwestern University and loves it! My twin brother Jacob enjoys running (I’m not quite sure how he runs for fun, but he’s good at it!). Who would have thought that coming in first at the ACS Fun Run in 7th grade would start his running career? He now runs on the varsity cross country and track teams, has set school records, and holds a 4:39 mile time. Our dog, Jemma, was recently highlighted in the local Daisy Fields Magazine giving us the a chance to continue spreading the word about Black Dog Syndrome, the topic of my 7th grade science fair project.

What have you done since graduating from ACS? Last year, I started high school at St. Ignatius College Prep. While the daily train rides are a bit taxing, I love to take advantage of all the things Chicago has to offer! Like ACS, St. Ignatius is very culturally and geographically diverse. It is like a slice of the real world (with a healthy dose of Catholicism attached). I really enjoy the service aspect, especially being part of Circle of Friends, an organization which helps mentally handicapped and developmentally challenged young adults lead meaningful and happy lives with dignity and respect. Locally, I volunteer at the Wellness House and am on the Junior Board of the Community House in Hinsdale.I am also an active member of our school’s Model United Nations team.

What is your fondest memory from ACS? My fondest ACS memory would probably have to be the Eighth Grade Play. I loved seeing my classmates all come together and really enjoyed my role. It was so nice to be able to spend time with all my peers at after school rehearsals and practices before our graduation and I really treasure these memories.

How did going to ACS impact your life? The research, study, and communication skills I learned and practiced at ACS have made the transition to high school much less stressful. I have so much less time to do homework in high school that the time management skills I learned at ACS are critical to my high school success. Because of the classroom environment at ACS, I am never hesitant to respectfully and constructively share my opinion, ask questions, and listen to other’s comments non-judgmentally. 

Who was favorite teacher and why? Mrs. Schaub was my favorite teacher. She made even the drier subjects like grammar fun and interesting. I had always enjoyed writing, but she made me feel extra special about it. She always gave me great feedback and inspired me to continue writing, especially creatively. In high school, writing skills aren’t really a big part of the curriculum and I am thankful that I already have solid writing skills.

What was your favorite ACS tradition? 
While I enjoyed all the traditions at ACS, it is some of the smaller things that make up my fondest memories. I loved racing to be the first one outside during recess, occasionally having to spend recess in the gym on a rainy day, and serenading classes with our newly developed guitar skills. I think one of my favorite memories will always be playing predator-prey during P.E. – being able to run in the forest preserve was definitely a wonderful luxury that I appreciate even more now that I am on an urban campus.

Why should more alums be involved in ACS? 
I feel fortunate that my parents have always viewed education as such an important part of my childhood. It’s probably an overused analogy, but to me, my educational journey is like a tree. ACS is the roots where it all begins, high school is the trunk which grows  stronger, and then, like branches, we all reach for the sun on our own paths. I am thankful to have had such a healthy and sturdy foundation. I think ACS is a bond which unites all alums and I think most of us have had that realization that we probably wouldn’t be where we are today without our ACS experience. I always know I can go back to my ACS home and feel welcome there and I feel like it’s important that alums continue to preserve that sense of community so that this feeling remains for decades to come.

Tags:  Alumni  alumni council 

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ACS Alumni Council Profile: Carissa Means

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 25, 2017
If you are currently on campus, you will likely recognize Carissa Means, an ACS parent and member of the ACS Alumni Council. Read more about Carissa and why she stays involved in ACS below. 
 
What was your class year? 
1989

Tell us all about your life – What are some favorite hobbies? Is there anything you really enjoy doing? Do you have any news about your family you would like to share?  
I enjoy gardening, beekeeping, volunteering with my church, and showing my horse. Just this summer, we purchased our new horse Prada N Pearls. My children, Lucas (8) and Lindley (4), have taken her to their first horse show. It is fun to get to share my love of horse showing with my children. My husband Jeff and my brother Peter Angerhofer ‘83 continue to grow the healthcare consulting firm they started two years ago.
 
What have you done since graduating from ACS?  
Since graduation, I have worked in the education, technology, and beauty industries. It has been fun to thread my love of education through my various interests. I have lived on the East coast twice, run for state office, served on the school board, hosted Presidential candidates, and started a wonderful little family.
 
What do you do now?  
Currently, I am blessed to be able to stay home with my kids, volunteer at church and at Avery Coonley, travel with my husband, and indulge in my love of chickens, bees, and horses. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to have two children at Avery Coonley. Staying home with them, I have the ability to volunteer as much as needed. I get to watch them experience the same things I remember from my childhood. 
 
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?  
My proudest accomplishment definitely involves my husband and kids. I am so thankful for the environment my husband and I have created in which our children get to learn and grow. Our house is definitely the “Madhouse on Madison,” but our kids are experiencing things most city kids miss. I think everyone is happy when they come to our house. 
 
Thinking back, what is one of your fondest memories from your time at ACS?  
This question is impossible to answer. There are just too many. Instead of going with the obvious ones, I am going to name one from 4th group. At a time when we were now expected to be self-sufficient and prepared for middle school, Mrs. Grussing let us lie on the floor while she read us the most magical book. It was called The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. If you haven’t read it find yourself a nice used copy. 
 
How did going to ACS impact your life?  
ACS influenced me in so many ways. My eyes were opened to art, music, cultures around the world, and beautiful traditions. I left through the gate prepared to present myself with confidence and sensitivity. 
 
Who was your favorite teacher and why?  
I definitely had several favorites. My greatest thrill was to be in Mrs. Ward’s first 1st Group class and have my son in her last 1st group class. It was wonderful to get to spend so much time with her again. 
 
What was your favorite tradition? 
My favorite tradition was sneaking on stage to run up and down the spiral staircases before cheerleading practice. Wait! Did I say that out loud? I really meant having the spaces in 3rd Group. 
 
Why do you think more alums should be involved with ACS?  
I definitely think more alums should be more involved. It is so important for current families, teachers, and administrators to understand what has made this school great throughout the years. Yes, the academics are great and important, but Avery Coonley is so much more than great curriculum. Coming back as an alum, you are able to pass along that heritage. We are raising children. Let’s give them magical childhoods. Whenever I drive through those gates, it is as if I am a child again. I am at rest. I am creative. I am at play. I am home.

Tags:  Alumni  alumni council 

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ACS Alumni Council Profile: R.J. Lopez

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Welcome to our series of profiles on the ACS Alumni Council members. R.J. Lopez is a graduate of the ACS Class of 1995. He's been an active member of the ACS Alumni Council for several years.

1. What was your class year?  
1995

 2.  Tell us all about your life – What are some favorite hobbies? Is there anything you really enjoy doing? Do you have any news about your family you would like to share?
These days my life really revolves around my family and my financial advising business.  I met my wife, Brianne, our freshman year in college, and got married in 2008.  We have two young children. Braden is two years old, and will be three in November.  Tyler just turned one in May.  I enjoy taking them to their music and swimming lessons and watching them develop.  Now that the kids are a bit older, we can travel more with them.  We're looking forward to going on our first big family vacation to Hawaii next year!

3.  What have you done since graduating from ACS?
I attended high school at Benet Academy, then the University of Illinois at Chicago for college.  Right after graduating, I took the Series 7, Series 66, and the life and health license exams, and started my financial advising practice. 

4. What do you do now? 
I'm a financial advisor with Edward Jones. I have my own practice in Park Ridge.  I have enjoyed seeing my clients reach big milestones in their lives

5. What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
My proudest accomplishment so far is learning how to be a good dad.  A personal goal of mine was to run a half marathon, and I accomplished that in 2015.

6. Thinking back, what is one of your fondest memories from your time at ACS?
The best memories of my time at ACS are the ones where we were together as a group.  The 8th group play where we performed "Our Town" was definitely something that was a fond memory for me.  The 8th group class trip to Paris, the 7th group trip to Washington DC, and 6th group trip Pretty Lake were all fond memories of mine. 

7. How did going to ACS impact your life? 
I think a lot ACS alumni will tell you they have a wide variety of interests, and a lot of that originates from going to school at Avery Coonley, the variety of classes, the exposure to different cultures, and the great teachers we had.   

8.  Who was your favorite teacher and why?
I learned so much from every teacher, so I don't think I can pick one favorite.  I've always appreciated that Mrs. Murphy used to have us read different historical fiction books in 7th group, and I really enjoyed that.  I still love reading literature on history and biographies.  Thanks, Mrs. Murphy!

9. What was your favorite tradition? 
I always looked forward to Spring Fair.  There was always a special energy around that tradition. 

10. Why do you think more alums should be involved with ACS
It's a way for us to connect with the school that we all loved. 

(This interview originally appeared in the ACS Alumni Newsletter, September 22, 2017)

Tags:  Alumni  council  profile 

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Revisited: A Profile of Arsalan Iftikhar

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In anticipation of Class of '91 alumnus Arsalan Iftikhar's upcoming September 13, 2017 visit and presentation, the Avery Coonley School is proud to share this interview with Arsalan from 2014, in which he shares some of his favorite experiences as an ACS student and talks about his work as a social justice and human rights advocate. 

Arsalan Iftikhar
ACS Class of 1991
High School: Downers Grove North
College: Washington University in St. Louis (A.B.)
Grad School: Washington University in St. Louis (J.D.)

Could you describe your work?
I am an author, journalist, and global media commentator as well as an international human rights lawyer. I also recently started as an adjunct professor at DePaul University teaching a class called the “Islamic Experience” in the Religious Studies department. Although I am a licensed attorney, almost all of my work involves writing and providing analysis and commentary in a variety of media outlets. I am a weekly contributor for National Public Radio (NPR) and serve as Senior Editor for The Islamic Monthly magazine. I am also the founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and wrote a book called Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era. Over the last twelve-plus years, I have been interviewed by and contributed pieces to a wide variety of national and global newspapers, magazines, and news programs around the world.

How did your career begin?
Well, I was a second-year law student when 9/11 happened in 2001. As soon as the evidence began to show that the perpetrators were Muslims, I recognized the importance of condemning their actions and communicating the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. I wanted to make it known that Islam is inherently a religion of tolerance and peace, that the killing of innocents is never condoned, and that the actions of the terrorists could not and should not be labeled “Islamic.” I wrote an editorial right after the attacks and sent it off to all the major newspapers in the country, and within a very short time many responded, saying that they would be running the piece the next day. Since then, I have done hundreds of television, radio and newspaper interviews and my career has evolved from there.

Is your work fulfilling?
It is certainly a labor of love since I have probably received over 700 death threats in my life. I am definitely not doing it for the money or the security, but being a part of our global marketplace of ideas is something that I truly love and hopefully is my contribution to my humanity.

What are some of the things about which you are passionate?
Social justice and human rights for everyone. I am engaged in the global media and sociopolitical discourse because I want to represent the disenfranchised and those without a voice. It is a great privilege to be a part of the public arena and to be able to discuss issues that are important to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Were any of your career interests or passions formed while you were at Avery Coonley?
Sure. From a very early age, the strong sense of community at ACS was very important to me and the diversity of the student body helped to ingrain a sense of equality in me since my childhood. We knew each other so well – we knew each other’s parents and siblings – it was more than a community; it was a family. My parents immigrated to this country over 35 years ago and they wanted to send their children to a warm and nurturing educational environment. To this day, my dad still says that sending his kids to Avery Coonley was the best investment he has ever made for his children.

What are some of your favorite Avery Coonley memories?
Of course, the teachers and other extracurricular activities, like math team and the basketball team; Mr. Mickel was our basketball coach. The Thanksgiving program was always an annual highlight and looking back, I realize how important it was that we all knew that the food that we collected went to those who were less fortunate than us. I also really enjoyed the Third Group trip to Lake Geneva, and I remember finishing third overall in the Spelling Bee when I was in Fourth Grade. I misspelled the word “intolerant”, which seems pretty ironic now!

Also, my whole family were “ACS Lifers” since both my younger sister and brother also attended ACS since preschool. Our shared experiences – the teachers, projects, special events – formed much of our family experiences, both then and now.

What aspects of your ACS experience were most important for you?
The focused importance on forming well-rounded individuals, rather than obsessing about test scores and trophies, was very important. It was great that we had so many opportunities to explore our interests and try new things from a very early age.

Similarly, I also think that learning French from such an early age was also a very valuable experience. Being bilingual expanded my horizons from an early age and I have even done some work for the French Foreign Ministry since that time. But beyond that, this in-depth exposure to another culture really expands children’s worldviews and helps them to realize that there is a big world out there, with many different languages, cultures, and traditions.

Do you stay in touch with your ACS friends?
Yes, many of us are connected on Facebook – social media definitely makes it easier to stay in touch with people.

What advice do you have for today’s ACS students?
Follow your passions in whatever you do in your lives. Please do not do anything because of money or because other people tell you to follow a career path; do what you love! Try to contribute to the world and help as many other people as possible, in whatever way you see fit. Plus, don’t ever think you’re not good enough. We all go through struggles and tough times during our adolescence – try to remember that everything will be just fine. Don’t ever give up on yourself or on other people.


This profile of Class of '91 alumnus Arsalan Iftikhar originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of The Avery Coonley School Magazine

Creating the Future Lecture Series Presents: Arsalan Iftikhar takes place on Wednesday evening, September 13, 2017, 6:30-8:30pm (doors at 6pm) in the Avery Coonley School Performing Arts Center. The presentation will include time for an audience Q&A and will be followed by a book-signing. The event is all-ages welcome and open to the general public to attend. Registration is required and tickets are $10; attendees will also have the option to pre-order Arsalan's books, Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms, and Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era.

 

 

Tags:  alumni  Arsalan Iftikhar  Creating the Future  diversity  inclusion 

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