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Alumni Spotlight
If you are a District 36 alum who would like to share a story of how you have remained connected to our school community, please email Communications and Community Relations Coordinator, Kate Hughes.


Jerry Toth ImageD36 Alum Leads Rainforest Conservation and Entrepreneurial Endeavors in Ecuador

A passionate conservationist, global adventurer, and avid surfer, D36 alum Jerry Toth (Washburne Class of 1992) is making a meaningful difference in the world. After graduating from Cornell University with a B.A. in Economics, Toth worked on Wall Street but decided to pursue other challenges. He channeled his interest in environmentalism into co-founding a non-profit organization called Third Millennium Alliance, which established the Jama-Coaque Reserve in 2007 in order to protect 1,400 acres of rainforest and cloud forest in coastal Ecuador. Toth serves as Director of the organization, which has planted over 15,000 trees and continues to make an impact protecting the Pacific Ecuadorian Forest and empowering local communities to restore deforested land.

“I had always been smitten by forests...I was living in Ecuador and I could see the forests were disappearing, and I wanted to do something about it. It wasn’t just me. It was a group of us, and we did it,” he says.

Toth is also using his dynamic entrepreneurial and leadership skills as Chief Strategy Officer for To’ak Chocolate, a company he founded in order to partner with local farmers, conservationists, and multiple universities to protect the world's oldest and rarest variety of cacao and nurse it back from the brink of extinction.

Toth attended Crow Island School and fondly recalls Pioneer Day, a KW teacher who “made school feel like an adventure,” and remembers “creativity was given free reign” in art class. “When I arrived in college, I felt much more prepared than most of the other students...The Winnetka Public Schools had trained me well. Most people in the world don’t have the benefit of starting off with such a strong foundation.” He notes, “the most important tools for the students of today, yesterday, and tomorrow are a broad perspective, an open mind, creativity, passion, and an ability to work with other people.”

Reflecting on his unconventional career path, Toth shares, “The idea of saving the whole world seemed too daunting a task, so instead I focused on saving one very special little part of it. It’s a dream job!”



Ellen Whitesides Kalisz HeadshotCatching Up with Alumna Ellen Whitesides Kalisz

Ellen Whitesides Kalisz (Washburne Class of 1995) is currently making a difference in the world by serving as an international consultant for education-related projects. In winter 2018, she is spending time in Ethiopia working for the World Bank, guiding the Ministry of Education on teacher training focused on math, english, and native languages. Whitesides Kalisz teaches Mathematics and Statistics to graduate students at Harvard University's Kennedy School and formerly served as the Vice President of Business Development for Illustrative Mathematics, a community of educators dedicated to the coherent learning of mathematics. In 2015, she partnered with Skokie teachers on a year-long team project on Ratio and Proportional Relationships for Illustrative Mathematics. Whitesides Kalisz credits the influence of her Winnetka Public Schools experiences for fostering a love of mathematics. Therefore, it was "full-circle" to work alongside D36 teachers on this national math project.

Following New Trier High School, Whitesides Kalisz graduated from Colby College. She worked with Teach for America and served with the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa. She graduated from Harvard Kennedy School in 2011. The District is proud of how she has lived out our Shared Vision in her professional endeavors.


D36 Alumni Spread Holiday Joy with the NTHS Swing Choir

2017 Swing ChoirSeven Winnetka Public Schools alumni are members of New Trier High School Swing Choir, which will have performed for over a dozen community events in December by the end of next week, including three local Rotary Clubs, Michigan Shores Club, and the downtown areas of Glencoe and Wilmette.

Alumni Rachael Chiao (Washburne Class of 2014), Lucas Kane (Washburne Class of 2014), and James Snyder (Washburne Class of 2014),  all of whom attended Crow Island School, reflected on their D36 experience and how it has impacted their interests in high school. "Thanks to D36's commitment to the arts, I was prepared for the caliber of music classes at New Trier. The D36 schools solidified my passion for music, and I know that I'll carry music throughout the rest of my life," says Chiao. According to Kane, "For me the 'Winnetka Experience' has been a wonderful way to learn and explore creativity. All of the arts classes I was subject to in D36 have shaped my identity in high school and will continue to shape me as I grow up. I have always been encouraged to achieve my fullest and been allowed to flourish in a wonderful, accepting environment." Kane says he first fell in love with being on stage during a Crow Island Spring Sing. "Throughout my time at D36 I was offered lots of opportunities and the flexibility to pursue my interests," shares Snyder. He notes that his choir experience in D36 "established my love for music and my intention to pursue it through high school."

In addition to their Swing Choir involvement, Chiao, Kane, and Snyder are involved in a variety of other performing arts, leadership, and athletic activities at New Trier. They have enjoyed performing throughout the North Shore this month. "The holiday season is all about festivity and joy, and we hope that our music inspires those feelings," says Chiao. Snyder adds that, "We don't rehearse for ourselves as much as we rehearse to share our voices with others across the community."

The talented group performed at the annual Winter Vocal Jazz Concert on Tuesday, December 19, 2017, in the new McGee Theater at the New Trier Winnetka Campus.  It was the first official performance of the year in this new space, featuring the Swing Choir performing their holiday set of songs, directed by Nathan Landes, and Varsity Voices performing a variety of vocal jazz repertoire, directed by David Ladd.

D36 Makes a Difference Through Teaching and Entrepreneurship

Picture of Christopher HullIn honor of National STEAM Day (November 8​, 2017​), ​we highlighted District 36 alum Christopher Hull (Washburne Class of 1998, New Trier High School Class of 2001) who is both a teacher and entrepreneur in the technology industry. Christopher has been a seventh grade social studies teacher for over 10 years at Elm Place Middle School in North Shore School District 112 (Highland Park). He also co-founded Otus, a student performance platform that allows school systems to generate critical classroom data and gather it alongside data from the most popular third-party tools, providing actionable insight to educators.

Christopher has a Bachelor of Arts from Denison University (Dual Major: Political Science and Religion), a Master’s degrees from DePaul University (Secondary Education) and Argosy University (Educational Leadership). He was also included on the National School Boards Association’s 2016 20 to Watch list. He shares that his love of learning was fueled during his years in The Winnetka Public Schools.  “There were amazing teachers throughout my time as a student in D36. As I wondered what I should do with my life, I wanted to have the same impact.  And today, seeing kids enjoy learning, and seeing them improve, is an experience unlike any other.”

A classroom activity he remembers during his D36 years was building a water speed boat with a paperclip, rubber band, and other odds and ends. “I try now to provide my students with the experience of being  presented a problem and brainstorming possible solutions in a group.  Also, within Otus, I have seen the way the development team works to solve problems, and I find these methods also work in the classroom. The ability to read, problem solve, and think for yourself was valued at such a high level; these skills have helped me in all ventures in life.”

Christopher shares advice with students who may want to follow in his footsteps as a teacher and/or entrepreneur, “I find three key principles help drive success: To be honest, to be respectful, and to strive to be your best while risking failure.”


D36 Alum Pursues Successful Career in Hollywood

D36 alum Maddie McCormick (Washburne Class of 2005, New Trier Class of 2009) is enjoying breakout success in Hollywood, most recently with a lead role in “Camera Store,” a Netflix film released this summer, an HBO pilot, and other film and TV roles.  While pursuing her passion for a career in acting, Maddie graduated magna cum laude from UCLA, with a BA in Psychology with a minor in Film in 2013.

Reflecting on her time in D36, Maddie says, “I am incredibly grateful for the work ethic I developed in D36 as a product of the high standards that were set. I moved onto New Trier and life with a sense of confidence and self-efficacy that if I put in the work, the results will follow. The support I received within D36 from my peers and the team system helped me start on my journey of self care.” Further, she shares, “The ‘Winnetka Experience’ is something special. It's amazing that within one community there is so much access to the arts as well as a wide variety of disciplines. The team structure at Washburne gives you a sense of intimacy and a safe environment to start finding your voice and identity. I will say that to this day my two closest friends in the world, I met on my team at Washburne.”

Maddie aspires to make a meaningful difference in the world through her position in the entertainment industry. “The medium of film and television has the special privilege of telling important stories...there's been a massive shift in the entertainment industry to tell stories from new perspectives. It's become a much more inclusive industry and I am particularly proud of the recent influx of leading female roles and the work toward closing the wage gap between more than ever the next generation sees more people on screen who look and experience the world like them.”

Maddie’s advice to young aspiring actors is, “Be a "get to" person rather than a "have to" person. Even when it feels like a grind, telling yourself you "get to" reminds you that this is your choice. You are constantly creating the world around you-- so keep telling yourself and the world "yes!"


Hubbard Woods Students Benefit from Butterfly Garden Created by D36 Alum

Andrew VagraHubbard Woods Kindergarten students recently enjoyed learning about the school's new butterfly garden, created as an Eagle Scout project by Hubbard Woods alum Andrew Vagra (Washburne Class of 2016, Loyola Academy Class of 2020). With the guidance of Principal Carmody and his former fourth grade teacher Ms. Bierner, Andrew created the beautiful wildflower habitat for students to learn from and enjoy for many years to come. After he answered Kindergarten students' questions, Andrew noted that, "It was also fun to coincidentally see the first graders outside observing the garden for a special project which combined their observations with musical instruments to create a symphony."

Reflecting on his own experience as a student in District 36, Andrew says, "Experiential learning allowed me to truly enjoy going to school. The teachers offered creative ways to learn which held my interest in the classroom and made it fun...I feel that these experiences have given me confidence in my own learning abilities."

The District is proud of how its Shared Vision is embodied in Andrew's service and learning activities. "Being involved with the Boy Scouts has given me so many opportunities to work to make a meaningful difference in the world. Leading and teaching younger scouts at our weekly meetings and campouts and helping the community through various service projects like cleaning up the Skokie Lagoons and volunteering for Bike Winnetka has taught me the value of hard work and how your efforts, no matter how small, can have a positive impact on those around you."

D36 Alums Use Technology Expertise to Help Students in Need

Through their organization Binary Heart, which is “dedicated to empowering the next generation of innovators,” several New Trier students are making a meaningful difference in the world. Seven million tons of usable electronics are discarded annually, yet millions of students nationwide do not have access to home computers or internet access. By using their technology expertise to refurbish computers and other digital tools to donate to students via Northwestern Settlement, Binary Heart’s members fulfill their mission to “empower minds to seize the digital age.” At a community drive earlier this summer, Binary Heart collected over 50 computers and dozens of other electronic devices.

Co-founder Marzuk Rashid (Washburne Class of 2015) says, “Ever since I started coding in second grade, I have been fascinated by the power of computers. However, when I learned that many kids did not have access to this amazing resource, I knew that something had to be done about it. By providing these students with computers, I believe that we can help them succeed through their education, and their future careers.” Daniel Hess (Washburne Class of 2015), echoes that “This allows students to flourish and helps them achieve their full potential.”

David Peters (Washburne Class of 2015) recalls how as a student in D36, “I was constantly introduced to new and exciting things...By allowing me to explore, I found my passions which drove me to start Binary Heart. It’s a great thing when you can use your passion and knowledge helping others.” Rashid notes that, “My teachers always accommodated all methods of learning, and my friends were always supportive. I think that this environment taught me to fully appreciate myself and others.”

The students reflect on how they have channelled their interests into serving others. “Find what you love and run with it. Apply that passion to do something for your community,” Peters says. According to Simon Hooper (Washburne Class of 2015), “I think it’s a good thing to use my free time doing...I wanted to help as much as I could.” Jack Eggemeyer (Washburne Class of 2015), “When you go to bed at night you feel like a better and more complete person.”

Lucy Spahr

D36 Alum Receives Honorable Mention from C-SPAN's StudentCam Filmmaking Contest

D36 alum Lucy Spahr (Washburne Class of 2014) channeled her passion for storytelling and filmmaking into creating Global Warming: The Dead Zone, a documentary to raise awareness on the impact of climate change. She submitted the film to C-SPAN’s StudentCam contest, which asked students to highlight an issue that Congress should address. The film, one of over 2,900 submissions from students around the United States, received an honorable mention. Spahr studied filmmaking during a summer program at UCLA and has created films for the New Trier Greg Harris Film Festival, but otherwise has no formal filmmaking training. She enlisted the support of a geoscience teacher at New Trier to serve as an expert in the film, which stars both her grandfather and younger brother, Spencer (Washburne Class of 2016).

“I cherish my D36 progressive education because it emphasized creativity,” says Lucy. “I have fond memories of writing scripts and being on camera for WGST at Hubbard Woods. The program taught me at a young age that film is a medium that allows me to express my feelings and ideas in a constructive and fun way.” Lucy recalls designing a circus production in Kindergarten, learning to write and deliver presentations with the support of her teachers, and honing her public speaking skills as she progressed through middle school, which she notes, “gave me confidence with the much larger environment at New Trier.”

Lucy serves on the New Trier Township Peer Jury, is a former member of the New Trier Varsity Girls Tennis Team, and tennis instructor at AC Nielsen Tennis Center. As she prepares to graduate from New Trier, she recommends that students explore the many leadership opportunities that high school has to offer. “Get in involved in some activity that you enjoy...have an open mind and be willing to experiment!”  Lucy will be attending Cornell University in the fall where she is interested in studying English and Film.


D 36 Alums Give Back to Washburne Students as Part of NTHS Senior Project

Washburne alums Kristen Doyle (Class of 2013) and Jon Organ (Class of 2013) are giving back to D36 students as part of their New Trier High School Senior Project. Jon and Kristen are working with Ms. Schroer’s chorus, guitar, and piano classes in a myriad of ways, including conducting choral pieces at a recent spring concert, arranging a guitar trio, and helping students who may need extra support reading music or learning a new piece. Jon reflects on the opportunity to mentor younger students and shares, “For those who invest themselves in the music programs in D36, it becomes a meaningful part of their lives. A large portion of credit is due to the dedicated teachers who aid students in their journey. My work done at Washburne is a beginning step to what I hope will be helping many others continue on their journey as well.” According to Kristen, “I know my time at Washburne really influenced the path I took in high school and helped me to realize how much I love performing and singing. I would love to think that I'm able to help other kids realize they have those same passions!” For Washburne students who will graduate next month and venture on to high school, Jon advises, “Do what you love, even if it isn't popular.” “You'll only regret the things you didn't try,” says Kristen. Upon graduating from New Trier, Jon will attend Berklee College of Music in Boston and Kristen will attend Cedarville University in Ohio.

Kristen Doyle and Jon Organ



D36 Alum, Northfield Village President Fred Gougler, Honored as "Man of the Year" by Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce

D36 alum Fred Gougler, President of the Village of Northfield, was honored as “Man of the Year” by the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce at its 41st Annual Recognition Luncheon on April 12. As Village President, Fred is responsible to work with trustees and Village staff to oversee finances, ensure public safety, encourage economic development, and improve infrastructure in Northfield. He attended Crow Island School and graduated from The Skokie School in 1967. He graduated from New Trier High School, studied at University of Rochester, and went on to earn his M.B.A from University of Illinois.

Fred fondly remembers growing up in Winnetka during the Baby Boom era of the 1950s and 60s, when children rode riding bikes all around town and doors were kept unlocked. His early years in Winnetka helped hone his leadership skills. “I believe that people can make a difference in this world. That is the most wonderful thing I learned growing up in Winnetka,” he says.

For those who who may want to follow in his footsteps as a civic leader, Fred shares valuable insight. “My advice to students of any age is not to wait to grow up to make a difference but start now. You will remember most fondly that which you have given, not that which has been given to you. But give freely and generously from your heart because you truly care about others. Everyone has something special to offer – including you.”


D36 Alum Pursues Entrepreneurial Venture

Niloo Mirani (Washburne Class of 1999) began honing her skills in entrepreneurship and developing a passion for cooking by helping with her family’s restaurant business as a child. In 2016, Niloo launched Niloofar, maker of Persian Trail Mix (also know as "Ajil"). Through this business venture, Niloo’s mission is to make the unique cuisine of her Persian heritage more accessible and encourage Americans to “learn more about the Persian culture I know and love.”

Niloo graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BS) in 2007, and went on to earn an MBA in Entrepreneurship from the University of Oregon in 2012. However, her years in District 36 helped pave the way for her current endeavors. “I absolutely believe in the "Winnetka Experience.” Growing up in Winnetka offered me a world of opportunity - something I am grateful for every day,” she says. “It was a very warm and fostering environment. I met some great friends in D36 - some with whom I am still close. That first day at New Trier was scary for sure, but I felt ready after my years at Hubbard Woods and Washburne.”

To budding young entrepreneurs, Niloo offers the following advice, “I would encourage anyone with the entrepreneurial bug to just go for it! There will always be excuses, there will never be the perfect time to start a business, and it will likely be the most challenging thing you ever do - but it has been the most rewarding experience of my life!”

Learn more at ​

Kazunori Hokura Makes a Difference at Japan's Largest Broadcasting Organization

Kazunori Hokura, (Washburne Class of ‘94) is video editor for “NHK World TV,” an international news channel on NHK, Japan’s largest broadcasting organization, headquartered in Tokyo. He fondly recalls his Winnetka Experience as a middle school student in District 36 and the supportive Winnetka community. When the Hokura family moved to Winnetka from Japan, Kazunori says neighbors hosted a welcome party and classmates in his neighborhood helped him prepare for school. As a Washburne student, he remembers the excitement of going to work with his father during “Shadow Day.” During a school assembly, he was fascinated by a drum solo and has been playing the drums ever since. His interests in the arts continued as he progressed through New Trier and into adulthood. Upon graduating from New Trier, Kazunori attended Musashi University, where he majored in European and American literature. Kazunori encourages aspiring journalists to “try to be a good listener to the opinions of others, even if you cannot agree with them. I believe a journalist should always be a learner of new things.” The District is proud of the difference he is making in the world through his work in journalism.

D36 alum Grace Donnelly helps lead Coding Club at Carleton Washburne School

Coding Club is now launched at Washburne, offering support for students who may want to learn a new programming language or work on developing an app, website, or game. Former D36 student Grace Donnelly, (New Trier High School Class of 2018), is helping lead Coding Club along with Washburne teacher, Mr. Selgrat.

Grace recalls activities she enjoyed during her elementary school experience at Hubbard Woods School before moving to the U.K. during her middle school years. "Projects were experiential and encouraged us to think outside the box. As a result of my D36 experience, I've always been someone who challenges the norm and makes their own pathway."

While in the U.K., Grace embraced technology as tool to help stay connected to her friends in Winnetka. As she progressed through school, her interest in STEAM-related activities continued to grow. Once at New Trier, Grace noticed a gender gap between how many male and female students engaged in STEAM-related clubs and became passionate about fostering an interest in technology amongst all students. She hopes that Coding Club will "create an atmosphere of encouragement for students to learn, connect and collaborate with one another....and light a fire for technology that continues to glow throughout high school and college and beyond."

Washburne students are welcome to attend Coding Club meetings at the CoLab on Tuesdays from 3:40 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. through January 31, 2017.

Grace Donnelly


​Washburne Alum Demonstrates Leadership On & Off the Football Field

The District is proud of 2014 Washburne alum Clay Czyzynski (New Trier Class of 2017) for how he has used his athletic talents to demonstrate leadership. When he was a second or third grade student at Hubbard Woods School, Clay recalls hearing the statement, “You determine your future ...the way you work is going to have an affect​ on​ the outcome,” and applied this mantra to his life. As the Varsity football team quarterback, Clay led the Trevians to a conference victory against Maine South, which ended their 77-game winning streak and was their first conference defeat since 2000. In addition to other honors, Clay was recognized twice this fall in USA Today’s “Play of the Week” column, was named All-Conference his junior year, and Most Improved when he was a sophomore.

Reflecting on the impact sports have had on his life, Clay notes that “What matters the most is making friendships. It’s not really about winning or getting recruited, it is having fun with friends and making the most of it. I hope everyone in D36 has a chance to reach their goals and limits...there is nothing that can stand in your way….you have to believe in yourself and keep looking forward. ” Currently in the midst of the college application process, Clay says he aspires to “work hard and represent our area as best as I can” both on the football field and in the classroom. 

Washburne Alum Clay Czyzynski

D36 Alum Katie Chang Reflects on Hollywood, Northwestern, and her Winnetka Experience 

You may recognize Katie Chang (Washburne Class of 2009) from films such as the Sofia Coppola-directed The Bling Ring, in which she starred opposite Emma Watson, or A Birder’s Guide to Everything. She has pursued a successful career in Hollywood while balancing school and charitable endeavors, and is currently a senior at Northwestern University where she is majoring in Radio/Television/Film (completing the Creative Writing for the Media Module) with a minor in Art History and Asian American Studies.

“Looking back at my childhood, I especially appreciate the opportunities that my D36 teachers gave me to be creative in a classroom setting,” she says, recalling memories of experiential activities done as a young student at Greeley School, such as a documentary Mr. Peterson filmed during the school year. “It introduced me to filmmaking, which has become my life's passion. I was really affected positively by this infusion of creativity into my education, and I believe I have carried that with me throughout my entire life.”

As a 6th grade student, Katie learned about Special Gifts Theatre, an after-school theater program for children with special needs held at The Skokie School. Until she graduated from New Trier, she volunteered as a mentor for various students throughout the theatrical productions, and went on to become an advisory committee member and a program assistant. Now, she continues to make a meaningful difference in the world as an ambassador for the non-profit organization The Catrinka Project.

Katie recommends that aspiring young actors should be eager learners. “Take as many acting classes as you can, study the craft. It is worth it, because being a trained and well-read actor is always so refreshing to see in a casting room.” Also, she stresses importance of pursuing higher education. “Stay in school. College has been the BEST thing I could have done for my acting career because it has given me so much life experience.”

New Trier High School Seniors Make a Difference for Homeless Youth

New Trier High School Seniors, Michael Mogentale and Ross Mabie (Washburne class of 2013), are making a meaningful difference in the world by serving as co-presidents of the Student Alliance for Homeless Youth, an organization that seeks to increase public awareness, reduce barriers to education, and improve the lives of homeless youth. Recently, SAHY conducted a drive to purchase and fill over 50 backpacks with school supplies and delivered them to children and teens at homeless shelters in Wrigleyville. The group partnered with additional organizations that will help distribute another 88 backpacks containing school essentials to homeless youth, and donated supplies to a tutoring program that supports students who live in homeless shelters.

Michael and Ross recall activities that piqued their interest in serving others in elementary and middle school, such as participating in “The Buddy System” and packing lunches for students in need in Chicago. “The teachers did a great job of informing me about the importance of charitable work and leadership,” says Ross. According to Michael, “The teachers in D36 always pushed me to strive for more than just the bare minimum, which I believe has led me to having success in high school and in service.” Both young men plan to continue service and leadership activities in college, and their advice to younger students is that it is never too early to reach out to those who are less fortunate. “Once you find that club or charitable activity that you love, fully commit yourself and you will realize that there is a great reward that comes from helping others.” For more information about SAHY, visit

D36 Alum Elizabeth Lyons Reaches Country Music Stardom

It has been an eventful year for D36 alum, Elizabeth Lyons (Class of 2005), a country singer on the fast track to stardom. Elizabeth recently had her 2nd #1 iTunes Country Music Video, a finalist in the 2016 Macy’s iHeart Radio nationwide Rising Star competition and has been touring nationally, opening for artists such as Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, and Blake Shelton.

As a Winnetka Public Schools student, Elizabeth was an enthusiastic participant in the Young Composers program at Greeley School and performed in choir at The Skokie School and Carleton Washburne School before she went on to graduate from New Trier High School and Vanderbilt University. The skills that have helped her flourish in the music industry were fostered during her time in D36, says Elizabeth, reflecting that her teachers “enabled me to do what I loved every single day and to learn about how to write and read music and be confident on stage.” Elizabeth also attributes her Winnetka Public Schools experience to encouraging leadership qualities that have helped her hone her business skills and navigate meetings with country music executives. “My strong love of learning and educational roots were developed and fostered in The Winnetka Public Schools. I feel very lucky, fortunate, and thankful to have had the opportunity to be part of one of the best educational systems in the country--or world for that matter--and also inspired and nurtured by their amazing music programs. Both have created who I am today,” says Elizabeth.

As for advice for young artists, Elizabeth stresses that they should have patience, perseverance, and persistence. She also notes the importance of giving back and bringing joy to others. My goal in my music and business is to make a meaningful difference in the world. I guess I truly am a product of the Winnetka Public Schools!”  To learn more about Elizabeth, visit

D36 Alum Nam Holtz Will Soon Release Documentary Film
Nam Holtz, (Washburne Class of 1989), was adopted as a baby in South Korea and grew up with her adoptive family in Winnetka. As a student in The Winnetka Public Schools, Nam was involved in music, dance, and theater, which she recalls as “invaluable...a huge advantage for me.” After graduating from New Trier High School, Nam majored in dance and graduated cum laude from SUNY Purchase. From there, she had a successful musical theater career that included productions on Broadway, in Paris, Las Vegas, and London’s West End, as well as a National Tour.

As Nam parlayed her talents into on-camera acting, she was inspired to use filmmaking to learn more about her own story. In 2010, Nam traveled to Korea to begin production on a documentary film exploring the topic of adoption. Called Found in Korea, the documentary chronicles Nam’s journey and is currently in post-production. “My hope is that this film will be an opening for adoptees and their families to have discussions about feelings and issues surrounding adoption that are not every day conversation. Every adoptee’s story is similar, yet unique. I want to encourage adoptees to look at their own story and honor it on a new celebrate the similarities between all of our stories, and the very specific differences,” says Nam. As for advice for aspiring young filmmakers, Nam encourages students to “Go for it! In this day of digital media, if you have the desire to make a film, start producing work.”

Nam and her adoptive family when she was growing up in Winnetka.
Nam and her adoptive family when she was growing up in Winnetka.

Nam now lives in New York City, where she has performed on Broadway and pursued filmmaking. 
Nam now lives in New York City, where she has performed on Broadway and pursued filmmaking.

District 36 Graduates Spearheading Charitable Organization Along with Peers at New Trier
Twins, Zach and Sam Shonfeld, and Mason Brachmann (Class of 2013), along with 10 peers from New Trier High School, are founding members of Run BeCAUSE, an organization that channels their mutual passion for running into giving back to the community.  

On June 12, 2016, the group will host the Run BeCAUSE Community Run at Indian Hill Park in Winnetka, an opportunity for runners of all abilities to participate in mile-long, chip-timed races that will raise awareness and funds the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  The group plans to support fundraising efforts for different causes each year.

"We're all runners and we thought that a charity run would be the perfect way to give back in a way that is special to us.
Some of us have loved ones that are affected by Type 1 Diabetes and we wanted to do something that would help them," according to Mason. "Other than raising money for such a meaningful and personal cause, we were inspired to share our love of running with the community and make a difference," says Sam. "I think it is important to surround yourself with people who similarly care about getting involved," echoes Zach. The student leaders plan to guide younger volunteers on how to run the organization so it will continue as they move on from New Trier.


District 36 Alum Leads Green Efforts in the Winnetka Community
The District is fortunate to benefit from a Green Team, led by alum (and current parent) Liz Kunkle (nee Churchwell). Liz attended District 36 schools and New Trier High School, followed by the University of Iowa and Georgetown University. Liz says that the progressive and interdisciplinary education she received in The Winnetka Public Schools influenced her sustainability efforts and drive to raise awareness, inspire others to take action, and connect people, thoughts and ideas.  She channels her passion for recycling into community volunteer work in District 36 and through a citizens’ group called Go Green Winnetka. She has been instrumental in improving recycling and sustainability awareness and access throughout the District, and is helping bring recycling bins to the business district sidewalks in downtown Winnetka. She’s facilitated plastic bag recycling through the Trex Plastic Bag Challenge at all schools, started a permanent styrofoam collection at the Public Works building, and encouraged composting at our schools and throughout Winnetka. Liz discovered Carleton Washburne was her grandfather’s first cousin, and she continues his legacy of innovative thinking and service to the community.

Liz Kunkle  

New Trier Freshman Helped Found Debate Club as a Washburne Student
When he was a student at Carleton Washburne School, Charlie Forbes approached Mr. Hovis, his Social Studies teacher, about starting a Debate Club as an opportunity to engage with peers about politics and current events. Charlie took it upon himself to recruit students to the club and organize practices in order to compete in local debate tournaments. Charlie enjoyed returning to Washburne after graduation to provide guidance to the Debate Club members. This year, as a Freshman at New Trier High School, he is taking the Freshman Speech and Debate elective course, and has participated in several debate tournaments. Next year, he plans to enroll in the Congressional Debate course.  
Charlie Forbes founded Debate Club while at Washburne  

Former Crow Island School Principal Was Children's Literacy Advocate and Author of Over 300 Books
Did you know that Bill Martin, Jr., author of over 300 children’s books (including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See?) was Principal of Crow Island School from 1958 through 1961? Originally from Kansas, Martin struggled with reading from childhood through college. His own experience of listening to teachers read aloud influenced him to become an advocate for using storytelling to influence young readers. While serving in the Army Air Force in World War II, he wrote his first book, The Little Squeegy Bug, which sold 1 million copies and was lauded by Eleanor Roosevelt. After serving as Principal of Crow Island School, Martin joined a New York City publishing company where he was editor-in-chief of the school division before becoming a full-time writer in Texas.  Martin championed children’s literacy. ''Students will only learn to read,'' he said, ''when they have language inside of themselves.'' To honor what would have been his 100th birthday, fellow authors and educators will celebrate  his legacy in New York City in March 2016.



District 36 Alum Revitalizes Butterfly Garden at Crow Island School
Thanks to Jack Coladarci, Jr., a District 36 alum (Greeley School, The Skokie School and Carleton Washburne School) and current New Trier senior, for his work revitalizing the butterfly garden at Crow Island School as part of an Eagle Scout project this summer. Jack conducted research at the Chicago Botanic Garden and collaborated with many members of the Crow Island community to create this lovely sanctuary for students--and butterflies--to enjoy.