NW German students making sauerkraut

Students Making Sauerkraut Learn to Love It, Learn About Healthy Benefits

NW German students making sauerkrautNiles West German 2 Honors students were busy making sauerkraut last semester. They prepared the sauerkraut in class and allowed it to ferment for 15 weeks, which is considered quite a long time! German teacher Josef Neumayer said, “As part of our sauerkraut-making unit, we discussed the economy of cabbage, culinary practices, cultural significance, and we ended with the importance of probiotics and health and wellness.”

The longer sauerkraut ferments, the more the flavor develops, so last week the students sampled the results and decided the flavor was just right and it was ready to share. Students took home a jar to share or cook a meal for their family over the weekend. Neumayer said, “This batch was amazing!” For many of his students, it was their first time trying sauerkraut and now there are some big fans.

Joshua Saville said, “At first the salt was overwhelming, but afterwards it was tolerable and then delicious.”

“It was crazy how easy it is to make sauerkraut,” said Mohtadi Syed. “We only used two ingredients. I learned a lot about fermentation and probiotics. I thought I would spit it out, but…It was delicious.”

You Make A Difference Award Winners from 1-14-2020

Board Honors Make A Difference Award Winners

The Niles Township High School District 219 Board of Education recognized stellar students who excel in their clubs, and also recognized their inspiring sponsors. The Make A Difference Award winners for January represent the Latinx Club at Niles North and the DECA Club at Niles West.

From the Latinx Club at Niles North:

Students Jatziry Ramos Jacobo and Maya Rios

Sponsors Alejandra Arteaga and Cecilia Serrano

Latinx Club honored at Board Meeting 1-14-20

Jatziry Ramos Jacobo is a sophomore who lives with her family of four. They emigrated to the United States from the Mexican state of Guadalajara. Her mother works in a hospital and her stepfather drives for DrivX.

“Jatziry has made a difference as a leader in Latinx club by building community with her peers who have similar journeys, toward the goal of making them feel welcomed and supported,” said Niles North Principal James Edwards. “The club also allows her to continue to feel connected to her Mexican culture and traditions. Furthermore, the club symbolizes a sense of unity because all club members know that they are there to help each other.  Last year, Jatziry also made a difference by helping to organize a mural painting activity with local artist Victor Montanez that helped the school community understand the rich history and traditions of Latinx culture.”

According to Jatziry, her work in Latinx club “is more than just a simple club, it is a place where we can all get together and make extraordinary things happen.” Jatziry’s future goal is to pursue a career as a law enforcement official.

Maya Rios is a senior and is proud to identify as a Tejana. She lives with her mother, brother and grandmother in Skokie. Latinx club was the first club Maya joined at Niles North, and she quickly found her peers to be a second family to her.  Her leadership in the club created a supportive environment where “we could eat, talk about issues that impact Latinx members and prepare for presentations at diversity night and pep assemblies,” she says. Maya says she “is so proud to be part of such an amazing club” and feels honored to be able to call herself a leader in this club.

According to Edwards, “Like Jatziry, Maya was instrumental in creating the mural project last year that brought so many people together to make an everlasting cultural impact on Niles North. Maya plans to attend Oakton (Community College) next year and her career goal is to become a private investigator.”

Both students expressed their gratitude to the club’s two sponsors, Spanish teacher Alejandra Arteaga and Mathematics teachers Cecilia Serrano, for supporting them and challenging them to step up as leaders.

Serrano told Board members that it has been gratifying “to watch both these young women grow into such powerful female leaders in our community.”

Arteaga noted that Jatziry and Maya made a significant and lasting contribution to Niles North through their leadership on the mural project. “We make it a point in the club to think about what we can do to educate ourselves so we can share more about our culture with the rest of our school.”

From the DECA Club at Niles West:

Students Richard Chen and Henry Gussis — Eat Smart Campaign

Students Adem Memidzan and Katarina Kraljevic — Breaking Down the Wall: Immigration

Sponsors Eric Lueder and Tricia Brown

West DECA members honored by Board at 1-14-20 meeting

“When you hear about DECA, you don’t think of the Distributive Education Clubs of America, the organization’s original name,” said Niles West Principal Karen Ritter when she introduced the January honorees to the Board.

“At Niles West, when we hear DECA, we immediately think of the entrepreneurial club that provides soft serve ice cream through DECAlicious,” Ritter said. “In addition, we think of students who have an interest in project-based learning and reaching beyond their local school community to raise awareness around bigger societal issues such as immigration or healthy eating. Tonight, I want to express my gratitude for our two DECA sponsors, Eric Lueder and Tricia Brown, who create the conditions for students involved in DECA to take an issue they are passionate about and develop a project to raise community awareness that impacts the lives of many beyond our school building.

“I also want to recognize two of our DECA groups who truly impacted our school this year with their important community awareness projects. The first group is Richard Chen and Henry Gussis, with their project titled, Eat Smart: Biting Into the Truth, where they motivated and inspired students to develop a balanced diet and empowered them with the skills and knowledge needed for proper nutrition. The second team is Adem Memidzan and Katarina Kraljevic with their project, Breaking Down the Wall: Immigration.

“To give you a little bit of background about DECA, the program started 25 years ago at Niles West with Mr. Lueder, who was asked to sponsor the activity in his first year of teaching. The program has grown over the years to about 100 students, and Ms. Brown joined as a cosponsor. Both sponsors believe they play a minimal role in DECA, but if you talk to the students, they say they could not carry out their projects without them.”

The DECA sponsors say about Adem and Kat, “They chose a topic that they are passionate about, because they come from families of immigrants, and they have shown growth and perseverance through this process.” About Richard and Henry they say, “They came up with the topic, they took charge, and they were so driven and independent.”

Lueder told the Board that part of what makes Adem and Kat’s project so powerful is that it covers a topic, immigration, that is controversial. The students organized an in-school discussion featuring an impressive speakers panel that included elected officials and immigration experts.

“Part of our challenge was to learn ways to bring this topic to a full discussion without offending people,” Adem said. The discussion, which was open to all students at Niles West, provided opportunities for candid conversations about immigration that otherwise would not have taken place, according to both sponsors. The team will also be raising funds to create a new scholarship for Niles West students.

Richard and Henry’s Eat Smart project was a comprehensive effort that included:  a school-wide messaging campaign; a visit with a Northwestern University cardiologist who provided results of his own research about healthy eating; a field trip for students to University of Illinois, Chicago, to learn from the director of the school’s nutrition program how race and socioeconomic class affect eating habits; and a visit to UIC’s food science lab.

Coming Together Committee

Coming Together Celebrates “Journeys to Niles Township”

Coming Together Logo

Now in its eleventh year, Coming Together brings life to the cultural diversity in our community by examining the journeys people took to get to Niles Township. Supported by institutions throughout Skokie, Niles, Morton Grove, and Lincolnwood, which are among the most diverse communities in the country, Coming Together has celebrated the multitude of cultures that call these communities home over the past ten years.

Central to these communities are the stories of what brought residents to Niles Township. Some are journeys of recent immigration, others of being transported to these lands against their will. Still others are journeys of fleeing oppression or relocating to seek greater prosperity. These journeys are as central to the residents of Niles Township as are the cultures they embrace and celebrate. Coming Together will explore something all community members have in common: our Journeys to Niles Township.

Coming Together is a community partnership among Skokie, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, and Niles. The project builds bridges of knowledge and understanding between people of different groups and ages. Each year Coming Together highlights a different topic, with an emphasis on literacy, cross-cultural awareness, and community-building.

Past cultures that have been celebrated by Coming Together include Asian-Indians,

Filipinos, Assyrians, Greeks, Koreans, “Voices of Race,” Latinos/Hispanics, Chinese, Muslim American Cultures, and in 2019, Polish Culture.

The annual opening ceremony will take place on Sunday, January 26 at Niles West High School, 5701 West Oakton, Skokie. Beginning at 1 p.m., guests can enjoy cultural and historical displays, hands-on activities and refreshments. The program begins in the auditorium promptly at 2 p.m. The event is Free and open to the public.

Free activities and programs continue for six weeks, including book discussions, film screenings, craft and cooking demonstrations, and other events highlighting immigration, migration, local history, community resources, and current events.

Central to the Coming Together mission is literacy, with a variety of books selected each year to help develop a deeper understanding of the featured topic. Discussion questions are available in the brochure and online at ComingTogether.in. This year’s books include:

Adult/High School

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

Upper Elementary (6-8)

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Middle Elementary (3-5)

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Lower Elementary (K-2)

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

The Little Red Stroller by Joshua Furst, illustrated by Katy Wu

For more information, including event details, please visit ComingTogether.in.


Coming Together Co-Chairs

Chris Renkosiak


(847) 494-1189

Samina Hussain, District 219


(847) 626-3959

Focus on Your Future Graphic which lists D219 career pathways

D219 Invites Students to Post-High School Options Fair on Feb. 19

Focus on Your Future Graphic which lists D219 career pathways

D219 invites students, parents and community members to hear from representatives from companies, organizations and institutions to discover what training, skills and credentials are required for fulfilling careers at the Focus On Your Future program held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 19 at Niles North High School, 9800 Lawler Avenue, Skokie.

Focus On Your Future will provide information on post-secondary options including associate degrees, certificate programs, apprenticeships, and other job training credentials, as well as gap-year, study-abroad experiences, and summer enrichment programs. All students should attend, including those students anticipating a four-year college plan. This event covers the education, training, and skills required for fulfilling careers and experiences within career pathways.

Students should preregister for the event at app.strivescan.com/students and select event 02/19/20 Niles Township: Focus On Your Future. D219 students should bring school ID; all other adults and non-D219 students, must bring driver’s license or valid photo ID to enter the building.

For more information, please contact Lisa Edelson, Education to Careers Coordinator, at lisede@d219.org (847) 626-2062; College and Career Counselors Allegra Giulietti-Schmitt (North) at allgiu@d219.org (847) 626-2170 or Dan Gin (West) at dangin@d219.org (847) 626-2682.

Affinity Group Logo

AFFINITY Dec. Meeting Rescheduled for Jan. 30

There will be no AFFINITY meeting this month (originally scheduled for Thursday, December 19) but in 2020, AFFINITY will once again be up and running. Thank you to everyone who attended the November meeting. We hope you all enjoyed the presentation and found the resources helpful.

AFFINITY wants to keep the momentum going and invites you to attend the next meeting. The next meeting will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 30, 2020 in the Niles West Lit Center, Niles West High School, 5701 W. Oakton, Skokie.

Affinity Group LogoThe African/Black/Caribbean Families Fostering Inspiring & Nurturing Independence for Today’s Youth (Affinity) welcomes K-12 families to join in monthly meetings for a time of connection through food, dialogue, trust, and most importantly, support, for students and their families.


5Essentials Survey

Please remember to take the 5Essentials Parent Survey by February 14, 2020. This survey will allow you to share your thoughts on the important elements of school effectiveness in a survey about Niles West High School District 219. Your participation in the parent portion of the survey will help us understand the conditions at Niles West and guide improvement. Your identity and survey responses will be kept completely confidential and will never be connected to you or your child. We would really love your feedback. 

Click here for the survey. 

Thank you very much!

Niles West High School Administration

D219 Default Announcement logo

Safety Message from Niles West Principal

Niles West Principal Karen Ritter sent the following note on December 12 to Niles West students, families, faculty and staff members. 

Dear Students, Teachers/Staff, and Parents/Families,

The safety of our school community is always our top priority, which is why I must inform you of a situation that came to light today involving a threatening message. A recent Snapchat group message has been circulating among students, alluding to a student using a “Mac,” which could be interpreted as a Mac gun.

We identified the students involved in the group chat and conducted an investigation, in addition to notifying local law enforcement. Through our investigation, we learned that the threatening message was sent as a response to a prior verbal altercation. Police are following up with the student who made the threat and the student’s parent/guardian.

Our Student Services Department is aware of the situation. If you need to speak with a counselor, social worker, or psychologist, please do not hesitate to contact one of them.

Please know that we take all situations seriously that could be threatening to our school community. We recognize that we have had a series of recent threatening messages communicated via social media. Students should not use threatening language, even in jest. We will enforce school discipline and work directly with law enforcement whenever students use language or exhibit behavior that poses a threat. We remain committed to providing our students with a safe, positive learning environment.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.


Dr. Karen M. Ritter
Niles West Principal

Students Honored at D219 Board meeting on

Those Who Make a Difference Honored at 12-3 Board Meeting

Four students were honored with the Those Who Make A Difference Award at the D219 Board of Education’s December 3 meeting, and board members recognized their club sponsors as well.

Seble Maru and Nahom Tekeste, Niles North

Students Honored at D219 Board meeting onSeble Maru, a junior, was nominated for the Make A Difference leadership award by Jonda Cherry, a Special Education paraprofessional who sponsors DREAM (Developing Resourceful ways to Encourage Alliances and Mentorship), an organization that encourages black, Afro-Caribbean, and African girls to gather together, share common experiences and form a sense of unity.

Last year, DREAM partnered with another club, NOTICE, to create a program called “Who Am I?”, which asked students to research and represent biographical sketches that highlight significant contributions black people have made throughout the history of the United States. The students presented their pieces in performances in the Niles North auditorium that were open to all students throughout the day.

Maru portrayed Madam C. J. Walker, an African-American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist who was considered the wealthiest black self-made woman in America at the time of her death in 1919.

Maru credited sponsor Cherry for challenging her and fellow students to recreate the stories of the historical figures, whose stories are not all well known.

The project “helped us learn about the important influence all these people had,” Maru said at the board meeting. She said that in her middle school there were not a lot of students who looked like her. When she came to Niles North and became involved with DREAM, “It made me feel that I matter more in this world, because there are other people who are like me and who share some of the same experiences as a black woman in America.”

Nahom Tekeste, a junior, was also part of the “Who Am I?” production. After researching the life of inventor George Washington Carver, Tekeste portrayed him in the production. He is a member of the NOTICE Club, whose name stands for Nurturing Our True Identity Commanding Equity. The club is sponsored by John Bias, a Special Education paraprofessional at Niles North, who nominated Tekeste for this award.

When receiving his award, Tekeste told board members that he credits NOTICE with helping him become “a better student and a better person.” He joined the club as a freshman and said that in the past two years he has seen the meetings evolve from simple conversations over lunch to more focused efforts to become more successful black students and young men.

Niles North Principal Jim Edwards said that the NOTICE Club made a big impression on the Niles North school community when, this September, the young men passed out roses to all female staff members on Women’s Appreciation Day.

Tekeste gave credit to sponsor Bias, who he said he considers one of his “uncles,” since he consistently emphasizes the importance of making good choices in school and in life.  Tekeste also thanked club supporters Glenn Sevier, a Niles North social worker who helps students talk about important issues, and Anthony Whyte, a Special Education paraprofessional who conveys the experiences he had as a teenager and his ways of succeeding in college and life.

Tekeste says that NOTICE has helped him keep his grades up and makes him focus on being a better person. The club, he said, “is a real brotherhood.”

Students Mike Schuller and Hammad Memon and Robotics Sponsor Rob Foster, Niles West

Students Honored at 12-2-19 Board meeting“When I think of a strong team, it is made up of committed individuals who have a strong work ethic, perseverance, creativity, and motivation that contribute to the collective skill set of the whole team,” said Niles West Principal Karen Ritter, when introducing the December award honorees. “It is made up of humble people who are not afraid to fail often in order to improve. It is made up of people who are committed to making an investment in one another to build a community, strengthened by collaboration, sweat, and literally, nuts and bolts.

“The Niles West Robotics 321J Team, led by teacher Rob Foster and Team Leads sophomore Mike Schuller and senior Hammad Memon, has found the secret to a successful team,” she said. “With just one day of practice at school on Mondays, Mike and Hammad led their team to win the Mundelein Robotics Championship in October of this year, followed by the Skills Challenge at Von Steuben High School. They also recruited students who have skills in coding, building, driving, completing the engineering notebook, and developing strategy. If you ask them how they won, they will not talk about themselves, but they will instead talk about the team and the individual strengths everyone else brings to the team.

“When I asked Mr. Foster about Mike and Hammad, he said that they energize each other and they have created great chemistry on the team. Mr. Foster said, ‘You don’t create technology in a bubble. Being able to work with others builds the skills necessary to be productive people in society.’ Mike attributes their success to Hammad bringing on the right people, and Hammad recognizes Mike for bringing the team together on Friday nights at his house for pizza and focused non-robotics time together. At the tournament, they won despite having a broken motor with only three minutes to repair it.

“They appreciate Mr. Foster’s dedication to the Robotics Club, but acknowledge the fact that Mr. Foster’s support stops after supplying them with materials. The rest is up to them.”

Schuller and Memon then gave a demonstration of their robot for the Board of Education, showing off this year’s intricate task of picking up cubes, balancing them atop each other, and moving them collectively to a drop-off point.

Foster told the board that Niles West has about 50 students actively competing in Robotics this year. “They are not only learning problem-solving skills and collaboration, but students like Mike and Hammad are learning leadership skills. They are truly emerging leaders among their peers.”

Foster also recognized Skokie resident Mike Horowitz, who is not only an assistant coach of Niles West’s Robotics team, but also a grandfather of a Niles West student who was also on the team.

Horowitz said he got to know honoree Schuller when he was still at Skokie/Morton Grove School District 69’s Lincoln Junior High, whose Robotics team is one of the “Little Nine,” the nine elementary school districts that send their students to D219 schools. Next year all nine districts will have a competitive Robotics team.

D219 Board meeting

12-2-19 Board meeting