Each year, Morgan Park Academy begins graduation season by celebrating seniors’ college choices on National College Decision Day on May 1. This year, we were joined by investor and entrepreneur Mike Bechtel ’94, who spoke to Upper School students about his college decision, his time in school, and how his MPA experience laid the foundation for future success.
A transcript of his remarks:
I’ll tell you, senior year sitting down with the guidance counselor here at the Academy, I felt stuck.
I really felt stuck, because MPA, doing that thing that MPA does — MPA made me well-rounded. Whether you want to or not, you can’t help but come out of Morgan Park Academy being a Renaissance person. And I said, listen, I’m good at math and science, but I like reading and writing. What do I do? And I remember the advice in 1994 — I don’t know if it’s the same today — but at that time, the advice was to start in engineering because it’s easier to fall out of engineering than into it.
Each year, Morgan Park Academy begins graduation season by celebrating seniors’ college choices on National College Decision Day on May 1. This year, we were joined by Chicago alderman Jason Ervin ’92, who spoke to Upper School students about how his MPA experience laid the foundation for future success.
A transcript of his remarks:
Diversity in this school was key. I’m a black kid who grew up on the South Side of Chicago … and fortunately for me, I was able to come to the Academy. I didn’t have to go through some of the struggles and challenges a lot of my neighbors had.
This was a diverse student body, a wealth of opportunities to give you the chance to do what you wanted to do. It gave you enough room to really kind of find yourself. I graduated in a class of 36 that looked like the rest of America — actually, that looked like the rest of the world — and that was very key as I left here to go to college at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale … [to study] business and accounting.
One thing that I will say is that you all have the excellent opportunity to change your mind about some things, but use this time as you get ready to go to college and as you finish up your high school careers to figure out, what is it that you like to do? What is it that you love? What is it that you’re passionate about? What is it you don’t like? Who is it you don’t like?
After graduating from Morgan Park Academy, kindergarten teacher Paula Cuadros ’87 earned an undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies at Carleton College, an M.A. in social science at the University of Chicago, and an M.S. in Elementary Education at Northwestern University.
Mrs. Cuadros taught kindergarten for nine years in the Chicago Public Schools before working as a stay-at-home parent. Upon resuming her teaching career, she taught 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds and worked as a school librarian before joining the MPA faculty this fall.
Why did you choose to return to MPA as a teacher?
Once my youngest child was settled in school and I was ready to return to teaching full-time, I knew that MPA would be a great place to do that. The small class sizes mean teachers have a better opportunity to connect to students. The ability to create a true relationship with students and families is essential to teaching and learning.
We are pleased to welcome Lynsey Bochenek-Robertson ’06 back to Morgan Park Academy this fall to teach Upper School science. This year, she is teaching chemistry and genetics, plus coaching tennis and soccer.
Ms. Bochenek attended Murray State University on a full tennis scholarship, earning an undergraduate degree in pre-med biology and chemistry and a graduate degree in biochemistry while conducting research in renal physiology. After teaching human anatomy and human physiology as a grad student, she entered the profession by teaching chemistry at Butler College Prep.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I teach because I believe it is my calling. I am always aiming to help each student unravel his or her uniqueness. I also want to install a love of learning in students, so they will always have a desire to grow and develop into the best version of themselves.
The fourth of five siblings to graduate from Morgan Park Academy, Andrea Mackevicius Marks ’86 is Chief Analytics Officer for the pharmacy benefits provider Catamaran, after earning her undergraduate degree at Loyola University Chicago and a Master’s at DePaul University.
What was your time at MPA like?
I remember my high school years at MPA very fondly. The aspects that stand out the most are the connections I made with both the students and the faculty. MPA felt like a small, tight-knit community, where there was a mutual respect for every person, regardless of interests, class standing, race, or religious beliefs. In fact, I would say that the school was very progressive in terms of supporting the uniqueness of each individual to create a very open culture ripe for learning. The experience at MPA made me appreciate people’s differences, an attitude I have proudly carried with me since then.
What are some of the most important things you learned?
High school is such a formative time, and there are a few key life skills that I learned during my time at MPA. The first is confidence. The innate culture at MPA was that your opinions counted. Your thinking was challenged, and you were pushed to support your beliefs, which in the end, built confidence in the ability to reason through problems.
The second most important thing was that it was OK to take risks, or try something new. Only in a small school with a rich commitment to offering opportunities to the student body are you able to participate in such a wide variety of sports and clubs. You don’t have to be the star athlete to run track — I should know. The opportunity to explore so many interests at a young age was so valuable, helping me become a well-rounded citizen and always open to new experiences.