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?
All year long, we Americans tend to use water mindlessly.
Whether it be taking a shower or leaving the faucet running, our water-wasting habits are ingrained. Unlike many places in the world, we have the privilege of taking 60-minute showers and over-watering our plants.
While we use our limited supply of “infinite” amounts of water, others beyond our borders are suffering from diseases caused by their poor water treatment. In some places, it takes a three-mile journey, sunburned shoulders, and empty plastic gallons for a family to get their daily supply. Our separation in water collection expands beyond miles, literally and metaphorically. While we put on our faucets, others put on their shoes to walk for their water.
As a part of the WE Charity, an international charity and education partner based in Canada, schools all around the world were challenged to raise money to change these conditions. They planned to build wells from all the money collected where communities needed it most. The motive was pure: every $25 raised gave one child clean water for the rest of their lives.
Last Friday, students around the world were silent in order to have their voices heard. This is GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) Day of Silence. The Day of Silence was first organized in 1996 to bring awareness to the harassment and bullying LGBTQ+ students encounter. Bullying is unacceptable, and no one should be subjected to it anywhere, anytime.
We are proud to be part of the majority of Morgan Park Academy’s Middle and Upper School students who enthusiastically take part in this student-led movement. On this day, we dress in black and do not speak (except during class time). We are silent to remind ourselves and others that even though we want to use our voices and have ourselves heard, we cannot. This is how victims of bullying feel. They are afraid that if they speak out against what is happening to them, they will face more of the same treatment, or worse.
Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, which this year included an Upper School trip to study the ecology and culture of Andros Island in the Bahamas.
When you think of the Bahamas, you usually picture gorgeous beaches, palm trees, tourists, and endless sun. Our Project Week trip to Andros Island was all of that and so much more — except for the tourists!
While the capital of Nassau is known for its populated areas, Andros, the largest of the islands, is acclaimed for its friendly residents and an abundance of nature available for scientific research and exploration.
Scott Sowinski teaches physics and forensic science in our Upper School and leads the development of our science curriculum. He also teaches drama, directs drama productions, and moderates the Arts Council.
Before joining the Morgan Park Academy faculty in 2016, Mr. Sowinski worked in educational consulting and school administration, and also did integrative programming with the Chicago Public Schools in technology and hybrid learning models. He was the head of curriculum and instruction on the North Side before coming home to the South Side. He also ran a private homeschooling program in New York City for more than a decade.
Mr. Sowinski is a voracious lifelong learner, working now on a Ph.D. in education policy after earning an undergraduate degree in multiple sciences and secondary education, a conservatory degree in opera, and two Master’s degrees: one in curriculum and instruction and another in education policy and organizational leadership and administration.
What is the most important lesson you want students to learn in your class?
Ultimately, my goal is to shape people, not content. What they learn will matter very little if it does not serve to better them. I want students to recognize the importance of failure, find acceptance in error, and assert the courage to rise up and become more than when they started. I want them to think deeper and relay every effort to serve our global community in whatever path they choose. There is no “most important” lesson. Rather, I strive to teach them that every opportunity ignites the potential for greater change.
Lesley Jorge teaches French in Upper School and Middle School, having joined the Morgan Park Academy faculty this fall after 13 years in a similar role at a K-12 school in Evanston.
She holds a B.A. in English and French from Butler University and a Master’s in curriculum and instructional design from Wichita State University.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
For me it’s all about the kids. I feel so lucky to have found a profession where I get to interact in an important and meaningful way with teenagers. I love being around these young ladies and gentlemen. Their passions, perspectives, and voices have so much to offer the world. Plus, they keep me young!