Learning can begin before the morning bell in Vernon Hills
Last spring, Stevenson High School's Joey Hanson (left) of Hawthorn Woods and Daniel Sacketos of Kildeer took part in an after school event organized by the Best Buddies. The Stevenson club has returned this year. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:04AM
VERNON HILLS — If a couple weeks back at school hasn’t provided enough learning and fun, students at Vernon Hills High School can start their education experience even before the morning bell sounds.
Among the extracurricular options for the Cougars will be the bass fishing club, though only early risers need apply.
Jerry Miceli, the assistant coach of the school’s competitive bass fishing team, reported that head coach Doug Dusthimer can be found on the campus pond before dawn every morning of the school year.
“He’s a sick individual,” was the compliment Miceli paid to Dusthimer. “I pull up in school, and I see his canoe on top of his Jeep.”
Getting a bit more serious, Miceli credited Dusthimer with teaching students the finer points of one of humanity’s oldest activities.
“Doug is really good at teaching the kids how to work the structure,” he said.
Thanks to a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, club members are able to fish without licenses at VHHS’ pond, Big Bear Lake and some of the nearby golf courses.
In addition to the club, the high school also fields a competitive bass fishing team, which qualified for the state championship a year ago on Carlyle Lake, east of St. Louis.
At Hawthorn Elementary District 73, students were able to dive into their school’s extracurricular programs this week.
The Vernon Hills Park District is in its fourth year of operating two after school programs, that combine mentoring, tutoring and recreation services.
After-School Enrichment is a one-hour arrangement that gets kids involved in arts, sciences and board games immediately after classes. The Hawthorn After-Club is a game-focused recreation program that runs until 6 p.m.
“The whole general idea is to create something affordable that’s enriching,” said Kelly Cushion, the parks’ recreation supervisor.
The sessions for both programs vary in length and in price, from $64 to $90, depending on how many weeks are included.
Cushion said the park district has condensed both offerings from Monday-Thursday programs to Tuesday-Thursday sessions, primarily because the start of the week proved to be an unpopular time.
“The Monday classes were always being dropped by students,” she said. “We noticed that, well, people don’t like their Mondays.”
Also returning this fall will be one of District 73’s most venerable programs, Aprendiendo/Jugando. Similar in format to After-School Enrichment and Hawthorn After-Club, the 23-year-old program focuses on serving the area’s Hispanic students.
Maria Delannoy, who leads the program, said it was founded by former Hawthorn South principal Ruth Brockmann.
“She felt we needed to provide social academic enrichment for the students who had just arrived from Mexico in our schools,” Delannoy explained. “The focus of the program was to transition them socially and academically so they could get adjusted to a new culture and way of doing things.”
The award-winning activity now includes sports, nutrition education, field trips and community networking, Delannoy said.
At Stevenson High School, the beginning of the new year ushered in the return of Best Buddies.
Founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver two decades ago, the international nonprofit includes an Stevenson chapter that pairs student volunteers with classmates who suffer from intellectual or developmental disabilities. The goal is that two Patriots from different backgrounds can build a friendship.
One of the focal points for Best Buddies in 2012-13, group sponsor Lauren Frick said, will be to teach students the harm that can come from using “the R-word,” an offensive way to describe those with mental disabilities.
“We’re promoting kids to stop using the words ‘retard’ or ‘retarded,’” Frick explained.
Peer buddies are paired with classmates with disabilities to spend social time together every week. Program associates help organize the group’s field trips and other activities.
Frick, who leads the club with cosponsors Deanna Warkins and Josh Hjorth, said it is common for buddies and their peers to switch partners during the year.
“We can all still be friends, because it’s a friendship club,” she said.
Most of the participants enjoy having someone their own age to spend time with, Frick added.
“Many times, they’re in segregated classes,” she said. “This is their time to be a teenager.”