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19th Annual BEST Resource Fair

The 19th annual BEST Resource Fair, “Transitions for the Future,” will be held on Wednesday, November 13 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Niles North High School, 9800 Lawler Avenue, Skokie, IL. The Fair is designed to assist students with special needs in making post-high school transition plans. All students with special needs, their parents/guardians, and professionals are invited to attend.

This year the BEST Committee will host a Parent Panel from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by the Resource Fair.

At 7:30 to 9, representatives from apprenticeship programs, employment services, government programs, health services, legal resources, recreational opportunities, referral sources, residential programs, transportation, vocational programs, and trade schools will be available to distribute information and answer questions.

The Resource Fair is organized by Business and Education for Students in Transition (BEST), a committee sponsored by The Cove School, Evanston Township High School District #202,  Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Rehabilitation Services,  JCFS Chicago, Lester and Rosalie Anixter Center, Maine Township High School District #207, New Trier Township High School District #203, Niles Township High School District #219, and Orchard Village.

For additional information, please contact Bernadette Komenda at 847-626-2348 or email berkom@d219.org

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Exploring College Options for Soph & Juniors: November 4

Niles Township junior and sophomore students and their families are encouraged to attend District 219’s “Exploring College Options” event at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, November 4 at Niles North High School, 9800 Lawler, Skokie. This FREE event will be held in the Auditorium. Translation available in the following languages:  Spanish, Korean, Urdu, Assyrian and Arabic.

Students have many options for college:  Two and Four-year institutions, private/public, in-state/out-of-state. Listen to three deans of admissions to help you determine the right fit.

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D219 Prohibits Bullying

Since October is National Bullying Prevention Month, Niles Township High School District 219 is taking the occasion to remind students and families that the district strictly prohibits bullying, intimidation and harassment, all of which “diminish a student’s ability to learn and a school’s ability to educate,” according to D219 Policy 7:180. “Preventing students from engaging in these disrupting behaviors and providing all students equal access to a safe, non-hostile learning environment are important District goals,” the policy states.

According to Illinois School Code, bullying includes cyber-bullying and means any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or electronically, directed toward a student or students that: places a student in reasonable fear of harm to physical or mental health; causes a substantially detrimental effect on the student’s health; substantially interferes with the student’s academic performance; or substantially interferes with the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from school services, activities or privileges.

Students are encouraged to immediately report bullying. A report may be made orally or in writing to the nondiscrimination coordinator, building principal, assistant principal, dean of students, complaint manager or any staff member with whom the student is comfortable speaking.

“Not only are we ready to be responsive to address any form of bullying, but we are also very proactive as a district to support our students’ needs,” said Antwan Babakhani, Niles West Assistant Principal for Student Services. “Bullying is stopped before it starts by talking about it and integrating social-emotional competencies in the classroom.” 

“We work to build a safe community of engaged, empowered, and resilient students by supporting the development of self and social awareness, self-management, relationship building, and responsible decision making “ said Laura Bolech, Niles North Assistant Principal for Student Services.

West Honors Cafecito and Futuro Latino Leaders

West Honors Cafecito and Futuro Latino Leaders

Faculty members Drew Johnson and Luisa Karimighovanloo and Futuro Latino leaders Valeria Garcia and Leslie Ramirez were honored for their work at the Board Meeting on October 15, 2019.

Niles West Principal Karen Ritter recognized faculty members Luisa Karimighovanloo and Drew Johnson for their work with Cafecito, and students Valeria Garcia and Leslie Ramirez, both seniors, who are co-presidents of Futuro Latino.

“Luisa Karimighovanloo is a Spanish teacher and identifies linguistically and culturally with our Latino students,” Ritter said. “Drew Johnson grew up in Colombia, began his career as a Spanish teacher, and then became a school counselor, so they both share the Spanish language and a Latin American cultural background. About 10 years ago, Drew and Luisa recognized an opportunity gap that existed among our Latino students, who had similar GPAs, skills, and desires to go to college but who were not receiving the information and opportunities from school or home to learn about college as a viable post-secondary option. Some students approached Luisa and Drew with a desire to start a cultural club and Futuro Latino was born. Futuro Latino does not only focus on Latino culture; it is one that educates and helps Latino students with college and career readiness and prepares them for their future.

“I would like to first recognize students Valeria Garcia and Leslie Ramirez, co-presidents of Futuro Latino, for the difference they are making in Latino students’ lives,” Ritter said. “Luisa and Drew describe them as trailblazers who are reaching beyond their comfort zones and taking risks to educate their peers and provide opportunities to support one another in their post-secondary planning. Thank you, Valeria and Leslie, for your commitment to Futuro Latino.

“Beyond starting and sponsoring Futuro Latino, Luisa and Drew realized that Latino parents had a lot of influence in raising their children and passing down their core family values,” Ritter said. “They knew that they had to educate parents about college and career resources so that parents could communicate the same message at home that Futuro Latino was trying to communicate at school. Luisa and Drew began a simple morning meeting for parents, called Cafecito — meaning ‘a little coffee’, — so parents could be encouraged to support their children with the opportunities that Drew and Luisa shared at Futuro Latino. They did not realize the need was so great to inform Latino parents about college. Since 2010, not only do Luisa and Drew provide information about college to parents in Cafecito, but their program has grown to include dispelling myths about college, visiting colleges together, how to financially plan for college, bringing in college reps to talk to parents, and allowing parents to share their personal experiences, fears, and hopes for their children. Because parents were learning the college process for their children, it actually helped many of them go back to school and further their own education. It truly is a strong community that supports one another with a little bit of coffee.

“Luisa and Drew did not stop here,” Ritter said. “They recognized that in helping students and their parents make transformational changes in their families, there was a social-emotional component that needed to be addressed as well. Families were stressed with the planning and preparation that comes with such a big change. This is how HUG — the Hispanic Unity Group — was formed. This group has grown to be a parent-led group — largely led by parent Lydia Vivas. I want to give a special recognition to Señora Vivas for her commitment to supporting our Latino families.

“Through the strong community and partnerships that Luisa and Drew have formed between school and home, and the way they involve students and parents to become leaders with them, all three of these organizations are transforming the lives and changing the trajectory of our Latino families for years to come,” Ritter said. “Thank you to all of you for your commitment to our Latino families.”

North Honors Environmental Champions

Students Honored at 10-15-19 Board meeting

Muhammad Chowdhury, Elliott Parrish and Lanie May Rasay were honored at the October 15 Board Meeting for their environmental efforts

Niles North Principal James Edwards recognized three students who are creating awareness throughout the school about environmental issues.  “They have also been instrumental in educating students and staff members on tangible action steps that each of us can partake in to reverse the trends that serve to denigrate the environment,” Edwards said. “The sponsors of the clubs, Arlene Sagan (who sponsors Recycling Club and Climate Club) and Damani Brown (Recycling Club) extend their pride and gratitude for all of the students involved in both clubs, but especially the three leaders here today.”

Edwards presented the award to:

Sophomore Muhammad Chowdhry,  “who came to Recycling Club last year more than anyone in many, many years and worked a total of 28 weeks,” according to the principal.

Junior Elliott Parrish, Climate Change Club. “Elliott has been working hard to keep the Climate Change Club very relevant,” Edwards said. “He initiated the club’s new meeting time and place to take advantage of Recycling Club’s popularity and organized the recent Climate Change Walkout very effectively.”

Senior Lanie Mae Rasay, Climate Change Club. “Lanie Mae has been instrumental in helping to organize a possible composting program at Niles North,” Edwards said.

Ipi Zombi?

Niles North Theatre Presents “Ipi Zombi?” on Oct. 17 – 19

Niles North Theatre brings “Ipi Zombi?,” a haunting story, based on tragic events, to the Drama Performance Center on October 17 through 19.  A mysterious and tragic bus accident claimed the lives of twelve schoolboys. The town, devastated by this tragedy, seeks justice and an explanation:  witchcraft. Truth, rumor, and legend consume the town as they conduct their own “witch hunt.” Written by Brett Bailey, “Ipi Zombi?” tells of the haunting reality that befell a small South African town after tragic chaos shook their moral, political, and social compass.

Photo of Ipi Zombi

Performances in Niles North’s Drama Performance Center at 9800 Lawler, Skokie:

Thursday, October 17 at 7 p.m.

Friday, October 18 at 4 p.m.

Saturday, October 19 at 4 p.m.

Free community performance at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 17

Tickets are $10. Contact the Box Office at (847) 626-2122 or www.seatyourself.biz/nntheatre

Cast: Jamie Acido, Mariam Animashaun, Jordan Archer-Cull, Emily Bailey, Noelle Bryant, Francesca Galicia, Dylan Kaufman, Adrian Lorie, Jacob Rausa, Samantha Ratliff, Jonah Sendlin, Alex Titarenko, Isaac Wan.

Stage Manager: Grey Wiviott

Run Crew: Nathan Lesperance, Amanda Blatt, Leta Blades, Dina Shukhman, Corinne Anich, Megan Ferguson, Si Micari-Lawless.

House Manager: Hannah Birndorf

Special Musical Guest: Cuyler Lantry

“Ipi Zombi?” is directed by Niles North alumnus Pushkar Sharma. Guest artist Stacy Letrice choreographed movement for this work.

The production includes music, dance, drumming and storytelling. It will be told in English, with some songs in the Xhosa language.

This production contains adult themes.

About the Director:

Photo of Pushkar Sharma, Dir of Ipi Zombi

Pushkar Sharma is a director, playwright, and poet based in Chicago. His work has been featured by The Asian American Literary Review, The Wall Street Journal, and DesiLit Magazine.  Pushkar co-founded the performance-poetry duo, BROWNSTAR, and performed in the stage show FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF WHITE at the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival.  He produced UNIFICATION, a joint independence celebration for India and Pakistan and a demonstration for peace in South Asia, annually in New York from 2009 to 2012.  UNIFICATION featured the talents of prominent performers of South Asian heritage uniting members of the community in support of the work of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).  His play Midnite’s Vultures was produced by Chicago’s Rasaka Theatre in 2009.

Pushkar has worked with the United Nations in Kosovo, the Gaza Strip, Colombia, Myanmar, and Iraq. He also worked for Pratham in India, the country’s largest education organization. He holds a MPA in Human Rights from Columbia University in the City of New York and a BA in International Studies and Drama from Washington University in St. Louis. He is a proud graduate of Niles North’s Class of 2002.

Note from the Director:

“Hey, this country is struggling”.

Though the incidents re-told in Ipi Zombi? unfolded in rural South Africa nearly 25 years ago, the play is alarmingly present.  Ipi Zombi? shows us a microcosm of our times: the unresolved grief in a community following a tragic bus crash creates a volatile atmosphere in which mob violence claims the lives of several women suspected to be witches.

Violence against women and femicide (the intentional killing of females because they are females) remain pressing issues worldwide and have recently seized the national debate in South Africa.  Last month thousands of South African women took to the streets protesting the rising number of attacks against women and to social media under the hashtag #AmINext?.[1]  The movement spurred the South African Prime Minister to propose increased funding and improvements to the criminal justice system, addressing what he deemed a “national crisis”.2  The effectiveness of these initiatives, however, remains to be seen.

Across the globe, political leaders seem to be more and more comfortable scapegoating, fearmongering, and targeting the vulnerable among us, often to reinforce their own political power.  South Africa – like many other countries in the world – has endured a recent upsurge in violence against another historically marginalized community: migrants3.  In the US, rage, sedition, and conspiracy crowd our daily headlines.  Conspiracy theories today are no longer simply tabloid gossip: fear has ignited violence – from a Washington, DC pizzeria4 to a Pittsburgh synagogue5 to a bar in Kansas6 and sadly too many more.  The FBI reports that hate crimes reports increased by 17% in 2017 compared to the previous year.  Like South Africa in the wake of the school bus crash featured in Ipi Zombi?, has our society since 9/11 has been sickened by fear?

Ipi Zombi? illustrates how fear and bereavement can become a violent force, and how individuals and groups struggle to cope with this force.  It asks us to be more than an unengaged spectator to take steps to break down barriers between communities; to bring together our voices and spirits.

  1. Francke, Robin-Lee. “Thousands Protest in South Africa over Rising Violence against Women.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 Sept. 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/05/thousands-protest-in-south-africa-over-rising-violence-against-women.
  2. “South Africa Declares ‘Femicide’ a National Crisis.” Voice of America, https://www.voanews.com/africa/south-africa-declares-femicide-national-crisis.
  3. “South Africa: Attacks on Foreign Nationals.” Human Rights Watch, 15 Apr. 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/04/15/south-africa-attacks-foreign-nationals.
  4. Doubek, James. “Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Apologizes For Promoting ‘Pizzagate’.” NPR, NPR, 26 Mar. 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/26/521545788/conspiracy-theorist-alex-jones-apologizes-for-promoting-pizzagate.
  5. Kwong, Jessica. “Who Is Robert Bowers? Suspect Identified in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 27 Oct. 2018, https://www.newsweek.com/who-robert-bowers-suspect-identified-pittsburgh-tree-life-synagogue-shooting-1190440.
  6. Rizzo, Tony, et al. “First-Degree Murder Charge Filed in Possible Hate Crime Shooting at Olathe’s Austins Bar.” Kansascity, The Kansas City Star, 23 Feb. 2017, https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article134459444.html.

About the Playwright:

Brett Bailey is a South African playwright, designer, director, installation maker and the artistic director of the performance company THIRD WORLD BUNFIGHT.  He has worked throughout South Africa, in several African and European countries, and in the UK. His works have played across Europe, Australia, Africa and Latin America, and have won several awards, including a gold medal for design at the Prague Quadrennial (2007).  In February 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron knighted Bailey into the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres).  Previous award winners include Ang Lee, Tim Burton, Phillip Glass, Jude Law, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Shakira, and Anurag Kashyap

Guest Artist:

Stacy Latrice, Guest Artist

Stacy Letrice is a dance performer, choreographer, instructor, mas band leader, and dance/movement therapist with over 20-years of local and global experience. In 2017, she was crowned Minnesota’s official Dancehall Queen after competing among other contestants from NYC, Europe, and the Midwest. Her passion for Reggae, Dancehall, Afro-beat and traditional West African cultures has opened doors for her to perform with artists such as  Cardi B, P-Square, Les Twins, Lady Patra, Tarrus Riley, Elephant Man, Serani, Mr. Vegas, Wayne Wonder, Tiwa Savage, Banky W, Praiz, Chaka Demus & Pliers and more. In 2015, Her work as a dancer and dance/movement therapist led she create her own dance brand, “Jukeboxx Dance LLC”, dedicated to helping others pursue happiness through African and Caribbean dance forms. Her international travels include: South Africa, Nigeria, Barbados, Jamaica, Canada, London, Paris, Australia, Taiwan, and Brazil. Stacy Letrice teaches weekly adult classes in Chicago and is ecstatic to share her gifts around the world. When asked why she dances, Stacy always replies, “I know there is a God because I feel him when I dance.”

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Niles North Principal Message re. Threat

On Monday night, October 14, 2019, Niles North Principal James Edwards sent the following note to parents and guardians:

Dear Niles North Parents and Guardians,

This evening several students and staff members reported that they had seen what appeared to be a Niles North student on social media making a threatening message directed at the school. We immediately contacted the Skokie Police Department, and they went to the home of the suspected student.  Based on their investigation, the police have informed us that there is no credible threat to the school or students at this time.

As a precautionary measure, we will have an added police officer at the school tomorrow to ensure student safety. As always, we appreciate the vigilance of members of our school community to keep our school safe.

Best regards,

Dr. James Edwards

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Niles West AP Science Students Teach Lessons on the Prairie

Fourth graders from Edison Elementary School visited the Niles West High School Prairie Restoration at Niles West recently.

The Advanced Placement Environmental Sciences (APES) students in Chris Barnett and Susan Schram’s classes set up information stations during the tour, and taught the students about the biodiversity of the prairie, how to identify the different species of flora and fauna, seed dispersal, ecology, and more.

The prairie is maintained by the school as a tool to better understand the ecology of the area and to teach students of all ages what the Illinois landscape was like hundreds of years ago. The site is certified and registered by Monarch Watch as an official Monarch Waystation, and there were plenty of the butterflies fluttering around during the students’ visit. West’s prairie is also a Certified Schoolyard Habitats Site, a place to learn outdoors and connect with nature while providing the habitat elements wildlife need to thrive:  food, water, cover and places to raise young.

New this school year, AP Environmental Science is now a dual credit college course through Loyola University of Chicago. Students meeting dual credit criteria can earn science college course credit.