CRSM Founders’ Dinner Celebrates Long-time Supporters Ed and Dorothy Wehmer and Others Helping Students to Write New Chapters

CRSM Founders’ Dinner Celebrates Long-time Supporters Ed and Dorothy Wehmer and Others Helping Students to Write New Chapters

Over 180 guests raised more than $520,000 Saturday, April 29, 2023 at the Founders’ Dinner benefiting CRSM students as they strive to create new stories on their journey to adulthood.  At the event, “Writing New Chapters,” the CRSM community honored Ed and Dorothy Wehmer for their loyal support from the very beginning.

“Thank you for being here tonight, and even more importantly, thank you for being Founders of our school,” said Preston Kendall, president of CRSM. “As Founders, you are co-authors along with our students, as they navigate high school, attend college, pursue professional careers, and explore their next chapter in life. We are grateful for all of you.” 

The evening began with a 5 p.m. Mass celebrated by Fr. Ted Munz, SJ, followed by a cocktail reception, dinner and after party.

Sponsors of the Founders’ Dinner included: Presenting Sponsors: Deborah and Ray Guerin; Lake Forest Bank & Trust and The Clerics of Saint Viator (Viatorians). Visionary Sponsors included: Abbott and Hollister. Academic Sponsors included: Charles W. & Patricia S. Bidwill Foundation; Kirkland and Ellis; The Rosenbloom Family; Perry Family Charitable Foundation and Clarke and Pat Smith.  Professional Sponsors included: AbbVie; Andy and Lynn Kopon; NM Lake Forest Hospital; Society of the Holy Child Jesus and Underwriters Laboratories Standards & Engagement.

All in the Family

All in the Family

During her salutatorian speech eight years ago, Anissa Garza shared that graduating from Cristo Rey was a triumph for her whole family. Today, those words have never rung truer for the first-generation student, her two younger brothers, and parents. All their lives, she says, have been shaped and transformed by the support of the CRSM community.

Now 26-years-old, the second-highest ranking graduate of the CRSM Class of ’15 is in her first year of a doctoral program in clinical psychology at the University of Memphis. She’s also a graduate research assistant in the REACH Lab under the mentorship of Dr. Kathryn Howell.

A former Schuler scholar, her LinkedIn is a checklist of many achievements, including graduating from Bates College in Lewiston, MA with a dual degree in psychology and religious studies. She’s  served for the last three years as a research assistant at the National Center for PTSD in Boston, MA. At Bates, Anissa a Bonner Program scholar, volunteered at a program for adults with Alzheimer’s and served as a Program Assistant at the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine. She also was the recipient of the Harward Award for Outstanding Community Volunteerism and Student Leadership from Bates’ Harward Center for Community Partnerships.

During the same time, her mom, Elida, “Ellie,” was promoted from food service lead at Waukegan High School to Assistant Food Service Director for the entire Waukegan school district. Her brother, Raul, CRSM Class of ’19 and Promise Scholar, is graduating in May from Marion University in Fond du Lac, WI with a psychology degree. Her youngest brother, Daniel, is about to enter high school. Her father, who struggled with employment when Anissa was in high school, is a foreman at a local landscaping company.

The grit and perseverance she absorbed from her years at CRSM have been her driving force during graduate school.

“I never expected landing a post-baccalaureate research assistant position to be so difficult, but when institutions turned me down, I relied on Mr.O’s (Mike Odiotti, principal) teaching about grit and perseverance. If he hadn’t ingrained that in me, I might have given up. But instead, I just kept churning out applications and reaching out to the network I had built for myself during my undergraduate studies.”

These days, when she’s not taking three classes and working 20 hours as a graduate research assistant, Anissa loves taking her dog, Tala, for walks at the nearby Overton Park in Memphis, TN. During COVID, she also discovered the therapeutic and stress-reducing rewards of refinishing old furniture, stripping it and giving it new life.

“We all had to work really hard to get me here,” says Anissa. She says her graduate research studies were inspired by her own witnessing of young people struggling with mental health issues, a topic that is generally highly stigmatized in the Latino culture.

Holy Week and Easter Reflection from Jim Dippold, Director of Campus Ministry

*Jim Dippold, Director of Campus Ministry, steps in this month to share this reflection:

A favorite reflection of mine at this time of the year is Sister Thea Bowman’s piece entitled “Let Us Resolve to Make This Week Holy.” It is a litany of ways that we can act in our lives, making this week holy, rather than simply sitting back, and observing the most important days of our Christian faith. She calls us to participation – in the liturgies and spiritual practices of the week and in the sufferings, struggles and joys of our families and neighbors and the global community … the places where God is present today, where God is crucified and where the spirit brings hope and new life. The implication is that it is not really, of course, a holy week, if we choose not to act, to live our faith in concrete, practical ways.

At CRSM, we have heard Sr. Bowman’s reflection throughout this week for morning prayer and we have seen her words along with images of the Stations of the Cross projected on the monitors in the cafeteria:

Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives …

Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers …

Let us sing, “Lord, have mercy,” and “Hosanna” …

Let us praise the Lord with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, uniting the suffering church throughout the world …

Let us break bread together, let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery …

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families … with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable …

Let us be practical, reaching out across the boundaries of race and class and status to help somebody, to encourage and affirm somebody, offering to the young an incentive to learn and grow …

During this Holy week, when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.

And this is the central mystery of our faith. To love one another. With Jesus. With the God who accompanies us through our sufferings and seeks to bring us to new life. Our world is broken. We see that truth in so many ways around us. The Good News that we celebrate this weekend and, in the weeks, to come is that our world is also, at its core, beautiful and redeemed, and that God’s love and mercy triumph over death and darkness. God is good! In our Easter celebration we have reason for that belief.

Whether we realize it or not, we all live this mystery, day in and day out. And at CRSM, in so many ways, we are blessed to walk with one another and to be a part of Christ’s redemptive grace. This is centered on our students and families and includes our staff, of course, but also extends to all those who make it possible to live the mission – our board and benefactors, business partners and endorsing communities, and beyond. By our actions and choices and participation in the mission of Cristo Rey St. Martin, we make this week holy … along with every other week of the Christian life.

¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡En Verdad ha resucitado!

Volunteer Licensed Social Worker Helps Support Students’ Emotional Well-being

Volunteer Licensed Social Worker Helps Support Students’ Emotional Well-being

It’s hard enough being a teenager on a good day. But the conditions that accompanied the social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic seem to have exacerbated the painful parts of adolescence. National statistics reflect a steep rise in teen mental health issues during the last few years. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows 57% of teen girls in the U.S. felt “persistently sad or hopeless” in 2021.

That’s why CRSM is especially grateful for the volunteer work of Gina Dahiya, a licensed social worker who is volunteering her time to help CRSM’s two-person counseling staff meet the growing needs of students. They provide a safe, caring and supportive environment for students in need of social and emotional support.

Every Wednesday and Thursday, Gina meets individually with students in a private conference room to help them create coping strategies for emotional difficulties such as depression, stress, grief, and family problems. She arrives armed with a toolkit of anxiety and stress-busters, which she spreads across the table for easy access: coloring books, colored pens and rainbow-colored pop-push fidget toys.

“Mostly I feel that I just listen and validate their feelings,” says Gina, a mother of four high school and young adult children. “Many of them will state from the get-go ‘I don’t need advice. I just really want someone to listen.

Gina, who completed her Masters of Social Work just as the COVID pandemic hit, says she is very impressed by the students, faculty, staff and greater CRSM community

“I’m learning how resilient teens can be,” she says. “They are at a time in their lives when there is a lot of stress worrying about getting into college and all the things that are going on in their lives. Yet, I’ve really come to witness the strength and courage these students have.”

Her work is appreciated by staff and students alike!

“We are seeing a rise in depression and anxiety,” says Christina Dippold, CRSM counselor. “Here in Waukegan, there are fewer resources to meet the growing needs of our students.”

At CRSM we recognize this is a growing need that requires growing support. Starting next year, the school will bring in a part-time therapist to work with students to help them find balance in their busy lives.

New AI Club Fosters Innovation and Creativity

New AI Club Fosters Innovation and Creativity

It’s Tuesday at 3:30, the end of the school day. A group of about a dozen CRSM students gather in a conference room to assemble, “Deep Blue” and “Angel Bot.” These are the names they’ve coined for the two coding robotic kits they are building. The idea is to gain hands-on experience and career preparation in Artificial Intelligence-related fields.

The students are among a group of CRSM students who have recently launched an AI Club that meets weekly after school. With the idea that curiosity sparks innovation, “the club was formed with the hope that the minds of today could lead to tomorrow’s breakthroughs,” said Brian Weinberg, Director of the Corporate Work Study program who supervises the group.

Emily, a CRSM junior who is interested in studying and pursuing a career in computer science, was the impetus for the club. She put out the call for members. During the inaugural meetings held this month, students have been working to assemble two coding kits. 

“In school we are learning all about the uses of robots in the medical field and all the ways AI and robotics are coming at us fast,” said Emily. “AI is going to be a big part of our lives and we wanted to get a head start learning about it.”

Although the club just began, the long-term vision for it extends beyond CRSM and includes preparing students for the workforce of the future.

“Not only are the students having a blast with this, but we are setting the groundwork for how they may be using AI at their work-study jobs and their careers after college,” said Brian, who is the staff advisor for the club. “It’s also so great to see the mix of participants. There are freshmen and juniors and an equal mix of boys and girls.”

The club is partially funded by a $170 grant from Scholastic Artificial Intelligence League (SAILea).  The grant was written by Amy with the help of advisor Weinberg and included an interview with SAILea officers. SAILea is a nonprofit network of high school AI clubs working to educate the next generation of AI aficionados and foster community around one of the world’s most enticing technologies. The group is missioned: “to spread AI to every high school in America.” A $215 club fee from CRSM, helped support the almost $400 cost for the two robot kits.

“The group also is about having fun,” says Amy. Club members are hoping to sponsor a movie night with Student Council and have a snowball making machine. “Plus, we are going to put eyelashes on the robots,” she adds. Next fall, members of the AI Club will have the opportunity to participate in Abbott Laboratories on-site robotics club. Abbott is one of CRSM’s work-study partners. Its robotics club is one of several opportunities the pharmaceutical giant offers to support tomorrow’s inventors and innovators and ignite a passion for STEM careers.