D211 Post: Palatine Students Win Cooking Competition

Members of the Palatine High School team Will Landeene, Jaz (Diya) Sujayananda, Patti Dabrowska, and Gio Llanos-Hernandez pose with teacher Erika Varela.

Students enrolled in the culinary arts program at Palatine High School won the first Camos and Cooks competition hosted by Illinois Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command’s Delta Herd at Harper College Oct. 18.  The students competed against teams from Harper as well as the Illinois Army National Guard.

            Senior Patti Dabrowska, the team captain, said the competition, which required the competitors to create a main course, dessert, and beverage using military Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) as the main ingredient, was a lot of pressure.

            “I tried to play cool,” she said “It was very exciting though.  There was a lot of emotion.”

Patti Dabrowska, a senior at Palatine High School in Palatine, Illinois, stirs batter for crêpes during the Camo and Cooks competition at Harper College.

Dabrowska was not the only one who felt the pressure.  Staff Sgt. Krystal Vazquez from Cicero, Illinois, a culinary specialist with the 3625th Component Repair Company, based in Chicago, said she was also nervous.

            “It was very nerve-racking,” said Vazquez.  “I was nervous, but I had a lot of fun with this.”

Staff Sgt. Rim Zivalich of Chicago, the supply noncomissioned officer for the 3625th Component Repair Company based in Chicago, discusses her teams recipe with Cpl. Krystal Vazquez of Cicero, Illinois, a culinary specialist with the 3625th.

            Erika Varela, a culinary arts teacher at Palatine High School said she was impressed by the effort and efficiency of her students. 

            In the competition, each team was given 35 minutes to create their meals from scratch. The teams then had to present their meals to a panel of three judges which included a representative from Harper College, Palatine High School, and the Illinois Army National Guard.

            Capt. James Brock, commanding officer of Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery based in Chicago, served as the judge representing the Guard.  He said after tasting the food that he was surprised MREs were used as the food tasted completely different.

The three judges sample each team’s dishes during the Camo and Cooks competition at Harper College.

            After the judges evaluated the meals from all three teams, 1st Sgt. Chad McDannald, the senior noncommissioned officer for Delta Herd announced Palatine as the winner.  That announcement brought a wave of emotions to the young team.

            “I cried,” said senior Jaz (Diya) Sujayananda.  “Cooking is a passion but I have never competed like this before.  I am glad I was picked to compete.”

            Junior Gio Llanos-Hernandez was also surprised to hear the announcement. 

            “I was shocked,” he said.  “I feel very proud.  This will make my parents proud too.”

Though his team did not win, Staff Sgt. Mauricio Manzo of Chicago, a culinary noncommissioned officer with the 3625th enjoyed the competition.

            “I really like that it gave us the opportunity to promote the culinary side of the Army,” he said.  “It’s nice to show off what we can do.”

            McDannald presented each member of the Palatine team with a plaque in recognition of their victory.

The Palatine High School Team shows off their championship plaques following the Camos and Cooks competition at Harper College.


50th B-day Wishes to Harper College from Superintendent Cates & D211

D211 Post: Foundation Taps District 211, Harper College, NIU for Bachelor’s Degree Grant

High School District 211, Harper College, and Northern Illinois University have been selected to participate in a one-year “design challenge” that aims to dramatically move the needle on bachelor’s degree completion for community college students.

The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation is funding the nonprofit Education Design Lab to lead the Seamless Transfer Pathway Design Challenge. Harper, NIU and District 211 are among just four groups of two- and four-year institutions chosen nationwide for the grant.  

“We know that through our partnerships, we are able to achieve more together than we ever could individually,” Harper College President Dr. Ken Ender said. “If we are going to increase baccalaureate completion in a transformational way, we must begin to think of the high school, community college and university as a single network.”

Research shows about 80 percent of students who enroll in a community college intend to complete a bachelor’s degree. Yet, according to the Education Design Lab, only 25 percent make the leap to a four-year school within five years, and just 17 percent complete a four-year degree within six years of transferring.

The design challenge will bring together partners to break down transfer barriers.

Harper, NIU and District 211’s proposal aims to reduce the time and cost of earning a bachelor’s degree with a goal of a 30 percent increase in the number of Harper students who go on to graduate from NIU within six years. Several initiatives will make this possible including:

  • Power of 15: Based on research showing students who enter college with 15 credits are twice as likely to graduate with a four-year degree, the Power of 15 program increases opportunities for students to earn college credit while still in high school.
  • Reducing remediation: Opportunities will be expanded for students to take developmental English and math courses during their senior year of high school so they enter Harper automatically eligible for college-level courses.
  • Reduction in “wasted” credits: Continued alignment of pathways will ensure students take courses they need to successfully complete their desired program.
  • Early college credit: Students will take college credit courses while in high school at a sharply reduced cost.
  • Promise Scholarship: Students can earn up to two years of free tuition at Harper by meeting benchmarks in the areas of attendance, rigor, quality, persistence and community service.
  • Unified transition advising: Students will be advised through a coordinated, case management effort that will serve them from high school to completing their bachelor’s degree at NIU.
  • Guaranteed enrollment: If students stay on their pathway and meet minimum requirements, they will not need to apply for admission to NIU after completing Harper.

Beginning this fall, the design challenge will provide partners with coaches, access to experts in transfer pathways and reimbursement for national cohort meetings and design sessions. Pilot programs developed over the next year will be launched in fall 2018 and results tracked for six years.

“Our partnership with Harper College has made the pursuit of a college degree a real possibility for many of our students,” District 211 Superintendent Dr. Daniel Cates said. “For years, we have envisioned how we might connect more of our high school students with a four-year college program at Northern Illinois University, and we are excited to partner with Harper College and NIU to make this dream a true possibility for our students.”

“We are excited to partner with Harper College and Township High School District 211 on an innovative pathway to increase the number of students earning a four-year degree,” said Ron Smith, NIU Director, Community College Partnerships. “Our collective efforts will better prepare students for success throughout their college and career endeavors.”

For more information on the design challenge, visit eddesignlab.org.


(Release courtesy of Harper College Media Relations Office)

Upcoming ‘The Future Begins Today’ Event, Harper College Informational Meeting to Help Special Education Families Transition

Township High School District 211’s Transition Services Department has upcoming events that will help families transition between high school and post-secondary life.

Harper College will host an informational meeting for parents and students about services and accommodations for students with disabilities on a 504 Plan or IEP. The event will take place on April 19 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Harper College, Building J, Room 143.

Additionally, the District will host “The Future Begins Today – Transition Resource Fair” for parents and guardians of individuals with disabilities. The event will take place on April 25 from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at Palatine High School, 1111 N. Rohlwing Rd.

Attendees will have access to more than 40 adult service agencies that can provide information to families on the services they offer. They will also hear the keynote address titled “Transition: Putting the Pieces Together,” presented by Barb Tobias, Sandy Ricketts, and Linda Hall from Connect to Community. The Transition Resource Fair will include resources for job skill training, post-secondary education options, financial planning, self-advocacy, and more.

For more information, please contact Diane Pfister at (847) 755-1851/dpfister@d211.org or Patrick Abraham at (847) 755-1848/pabraham@d211.org.  

District 211 Students Attend 2016 Harper College Latino Summit


During the opening ceremony, a flag presentation was displayed that showcased all the different countries Latino and Latina students represent.

District 211 students from Hoffman Estates, Palatine, and Schaumburg High Schools recently joined several students from area school districts for the 2016 Latino Summit. There, students had opportunities to hear from Latino professionals, explore college opportunities, and listen to a keynote speaker.

The 2016 Latino Summit was held on Nov. 18 at William Rainey Harper College and more than 500 Latino freshmen and sophomores from 17 area schools attended. Presentations were held in both English and Spanish.

PHS students Briana Solano, Jahela Suarez, Eunice Juarez, and Oscar Cuevas attended the Latino Summit at Harper College.

PHS students Briana Solano, Jahela Suarez, Eunice Juarez, and Oscar Cuevas attended the Latino Summit at Harper College.

The keynote speaker this year was Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz. The summit helps students develop leadership skills, network, and meet peers from other schools with similar aspirations. Each year, the Latino Summit is a self-supported event, and funds must be found to finance the event and scholarships for deserving seniors.

This year, the following 10 District 211 students earned scholarships:


Scholarship recipients

Scholarship recipients




Marilyn Medina-Perez Scholarship recipients:

Emilio Balderas – Palatine High School

Christian Salinas – Palatine High School

Daniel Pacheco – Palatine High School

Katherine Perez – Palatine High School

Samantha Ortiz – Palatine High School


Latino Summit Scholarship recipients:

Jorg Morales – Hoffman Estates High School

Lizbeth Morales – Palatine High School

Jennifer Perez – Schaumburg High School


District 211 Partnership Receives Joyce Foundation Grant for Career Pathway Programs

Danielle Hauser, District 211 director of instructional improvement, presents District 211, District 214, and Harper College’s history with career pathways at the Great Lakes Grant Summit on March 28.

Danielle Hauser, District 211 director of instructional improvement, presents District 211, District 214, and Harper College’s history with career pathways at a summit on March 28.

As part of a local partnership, Township High School District 211 is receiving a grant to help fulfill its vision of ensuring each and every student is college and career ready by the time they graduate.

The Joyce Foundation will provide Township High School District 211 and High School District 214 a $400,000 grant over two years as part of a new regional partnership aimed at expanding high-quality college and career pathways.  Harper College also plays a key role in the career pathways partnership with Districts 211 and 214.

“Districts 211 and 214 are working in conjunction with Harper College to increase opportunities for our students’ explorations of college majors and career explorations during high school,” said Dr. Lisa Small, District 211 associate superintendent for instruction. “There are many choices for post-high school options for our graduates in the northwest suburbs.”

Districts 211, 214, and Harper College will use the grant and partnership to design comprehensive and high-quality college major and career pathway design and implementation. It will help develop and support regional systems to support a continuum of work-based learning, as well as continuous improvement for teaching and learning throughout all components of college major and career opportunities.

“This opportunity over the next two years will allow D211 to seek out better ways to communicate post-high school options to our students and parents, enhance our internship structure, develop all aspects of the Interactive and Information Technology and Health Sciences Clusters, and increase dual credit options for high school students,” Small said.

Lisa Small, District 211 associate superintendent for instruction, works on a activity during the summit.

Lisa Small, District 211 associate superintendent for instruction, works on a activity during the summit.

In addition to Districts 211, 214, and Harper College, the Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership communities also includes the Central Ohio/Greater Columbus area, Madison, Wis., and Rockford, Ill.

The overall Joyce Foundation investment includes $1.4 million in grants to three national leaders in pathways programs, which will support the individual communities and the Partnership. They are: ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career, in Berkeley; Jobs for the Future, based in Boston; and Chicago-based Education Systems Center of Northern Illinois University.

Communities in the Great Lakes College and Career Pathway Partnership will share experiences and insights as they work to advance their respective pathways systems. Their progress also will help inform similar efforts across the country

The Joyce Foundation works with grantee partners to research, develop, and advance policy solutions to improve quality of life, promote community vitality, and achieve a fair society. Overall, the foundation will invest $3 million and hands-on technical support from national leaders in the field in four communities that belong to the Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership.

All recipients were chosen for demonstrating committed leadership and strong partnerships across K-12 and postsecondary systems to support college and career readiness. Other criteria included their vision for expanding and improving college and career pathways systems, the needs of their student populations, and supportive, engaged local employers.

For more information, please visit The Joyce Foundation website.

“Power of 15” Highlights Benefits of AP, Dual-Credit Courses

Students spend four years in high school planning and preparing for their college experience. Research indicates that students who engage in college-level coursework while still in the supportive high school environment have an increased likelihood of being successful in college and graduating from college in four years. High School District 211 students can enroll in rigorous, college-level coursework through both Advanced Placement and Dual Credit courses.

The Northwest Educational Council for Student Success (NECSS) partnership of Districts 211, 214, 220, and Harper College offers high school students a variety of Dual Credit and Advanced Placement courses to encourage all students to earn the equivalent of 15 college credit hours – typically the equivalent of five college classes – prior to high school graduation.

Both Advanced Placement and Dual Credit coursework offers the opportunity for high school students to earn college credit prior to high school graduation. The financial incentive for students and their families, combined with the confidence a student gains from engaging in rigorous coursework prior to entering college, makes for a winning combination.

(Originally published in the Instructional Vision edition of the Superintendent’s Newsletter, January 2015)