Alumni Spotlight

  • Text "Alumni Spotlight" with a magnifying glass for the O.

    If you are a District 36 alum who would like to share a story of how you have remained connected to our school community, please email Communications and Community Relations Coordinator, Kate Hughes.

    Please click on the headlines below to read the stories in their entirety.

  • D36 Alum Makes a Difference in the World Through Military Service

    D36 alum Austin Welch graduated from United States Military Academy at West Point in 2015 as Cadet First Captain and Brigade Commander. In this role, he served as the senior cadet in charge of more than 4,400 cadets at West Point. Austin is currently a First Lieutenant assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, was accepted to be a Special Operations Aviator and is undergoing training in the MH-47G Chinook Helicopter. In addition to his military duties and passion for aviation, Austin is also a determined athlete who completed the 2015 Boston Marathon carrying an American flag. Reflecting on his time in D36, Austin says, “My experience in The Winnetka Public Schools was undeniably impactful and inspiring for one main reason: the teachers. I believe teachers are so uniquely positioned to leave indelible footprints on the hearts and minds of their students and I have countless examples of Winnetka educators doing so in my life...They helped to push and encourage me to become the man they knew I could be and for that I am exceedingly grateful.”

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  • D36 Alum Leads Rainforest Conservation and Entrepreneurial Endeavors in Ecuador

    A passionate conservationist, global adventurer, and avid surfer, D36 alum Jerry Toth (Washburne Class of 1992) is making a meaningful difference in the world. After graduating from Cornell University with a B.A. in Economics, Toth worked on Wall Street but decided to pursue other challenges. He channeled his interest in environmentalism into co-founding a non-profit organization called Third Millennium Alliance, which established the Jama-Coaque Reserve in 2007 in order to protect 1,400 acres of rainforest and cloud forest in coastal Ecuador. Toth serves as Director of the organization, which has planted over 15,000 trees and continues to make an impact protecting the Pacific Ecuadorian Forest and empowering local communities to restore deforested land.

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  • Catching Up with Alumna Ellen Whitesides Kalisz

    Ellen Whitesides Kalisz (Washburne Class of 1995) is currently making a difference in the world by serving as an international consultant for education-related projects. In winter 2018, she is spending time in Ethiopia working for the World Bank, guiding the Ministry of Education on teacher training focused on math, english, and native languages. Whitesides Kalisz teaches Mathematics and Statistics to graduate students at Harvard University's Kennedy School and formerly served as the Vice President of Business Development for Illustrative Mathematics, a community of educators dedicated to the coherent learning of mathematics. In 2015, she partnered with Skokie teachers on a year-long team project on Ratio and Proportional Relationships for Illustrative Mathematics. Whitesides Kalisz credits the influence of her Winnetka Public Schools experiences for fostering a love of mathematics. Therefore, it was "full-circle" to work alongside D36 teachers on this national math project.

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  • D36 Alumni Spread Holiday Joy with the NTHS Swing Choir

    Seven Winnetka Public Schools alumni are members of New Trier High School Swing Choir, which will have performed for over a dozen community events in December by the end of next week, including three local Rotary Clubs, Michigan Shores Club, and the downtown areas of Glencoe and Wilmette.

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  • D36 Makes a Difference Through Teaching and Entrepreneurship

    In honor of National STEAM Day (November 8​, 2017​), ​we highlighted District 36 alum Christopher Hull (Washburne Class of 1998, New Trier High School Class of 2001) who is both a teacher and entrepreneur in the technology industry. Christopher has been a seventh grade social studies teacher for over 10 years at Elm Place Middle School in North Shore School District 112 (Highland Park). He also co-founded Otus, a student performance platform that allows school systems to generate critical classroom data and gather it alongside data from the most popular third-party tools, providing actionable insight to educators.

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  • D36 Alum Pursues Successful Career in Hollywood

    D36 alum Maddie McCormick (Washburne Class of 2005, New Trier Class of 2009) is enjoying breakout success in Hollywood, most recently with a lead role in “Camera Store,” a Netflix film released this summer, an HBO pilot, and other film and TV roles. While pursuing her passion for a career in acting, Maddie graduated magna cum laude from UCLA, with a BA in Psychology with a minor in Film in 2013.

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  • Hubbard Woods Students Benefit from Butterfly Garden Created by D36 Alum

    Hubbard Woods Kindergarten students recently enjoyed learning about the school's new butterfly garden, created as an Eagle Scout project by Hubbard Woods alum Andrew Vagra (Washburne Class of 2016, Loyola Academy Class of 2020). With the guidance of Principal Carmody and his former fourth grade teacher Ms. Bierner, Andrew created the beautiful wildflower habitat for students to learn from and enjoy for many years to come. After he answered Kindergarten students' questions, Andrew noted that, "It was also fun to coincidentally see the first graders outside observing the garden for a special project which combined their observations with musical instruments to create a symphony."

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  • D36 Alums Use Technology Expertise to Help Students in Need

    Through their organization Binary Heart, which is “dedicated to empowering the next generation of innovators,” several New Trier students are making a meaningful difference in the world. Seven million tons of usable electronics are discarded annually, yet millions of students nationwide do not have access to home computers or internet access. By using their technology expertise to refurbish computers and other digital tools to donate to students via Northwestern Settlement, Binary Heart’s members fulfill their mission to “empower minds to seize the digital age.” At a community drive earlier this summer, Binary Heart collected over 50 computers and dozens of other electronic devices.

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  • D36 Alum Receives Honorable Mention from C-SPAN's StudentCam Filmmaking Contest

    D36 alum Lucy Spahr (Washburne Class of 2014) channeled her passion for storytelling and filmmaking into creating Global Warming: The Dead Zone, a documentary to raise awareness on the impact of climate change. She submitted the film to C-SPAN’s StudentCam contest, which asked students to highlight an issue that Congress should address. The film, one of over 2,900 submissions from students around the United States, received an honorable mention. Spahr studied filmmaking during a summer program at UCLA and has created films for the New Trier Greg Harris Film Festival, but otherwise has no formal filmmaking training. She enlisted the support of a geoscience teacher at New Trier to serve as an expert in the film, which stars both her grandfather and younger brother, Spencer (Washburne Class of 2016).

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  • D36 Alums Give Back to Washburne Students as Part of NTHS Senior Project

    Washburne alums Kristen Doyle (Class of 2013) and Jon Organ (Class of 2013) are giving back to D36 students as part of their New Trier High School Senior Project. Jon and Kristen are working with Ms. Schroer’s chorus, guitar, and piano classes in a myriad of ways, including conducting choral pieces at a recent spring concert, arranging a guitar trio, and helping students who may need extra support reading music or learning a new piece. Jon reflects on the opportunity to mentor younger students and shares, “For those who invest themselves in the music programs in D36, it becomes a meaningful part of their lives. A large portion of credit is due to the dedicated teachers who aid students in their journey. My work done at Washburne is a beginning step to what I hope will be helping many others continue on their journey as well.” According to Kristen, “I know my time at Washburne really influenced the path I took in high school and helped me to realize how much I love performing and singing. I would love to think that I'm able to help other kids realize they have those same passions!” For Washburne students who will graduate next month and venture on to high school, Jon advises, “Do what you love, even if it isn't popular.” “You'll only regret the things you didn't try,” says Kristen. Upon graduating from New Trier, Jon will attend Berklee College of Music in Boston and Kristen will attend Cedarville University in Ohio.

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  • D36 Alum, Northfield Village President Fred Gougler, Honored as "Man of the Year" by Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce

    D36 alum Fred Gougler, President of the Village of Northfield, was honored as “Man of the Year” by the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce at its 41st Annual Recognition Luncheon on April 12. As Village President, Fred is responsible to work with trustees and Village staff to oversee finances, ensure public safety, encourage economic development, and improve infrastructure in Northfield. He attended Crow Island School and graduated from The Skokie School in 1967. He graduated from New Trier High School, studied at University of Rochester, and went on to earn his M.B.A from University of Illinois.

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  • D36 Alum Pursues Entrepreneurial Venture

    Niloo Mirani (Washburne Class of 1999) began honing her skills in entrepreneurship and developing a passion for cooking by helping with her family’s restaurant business as a child. In 2016, Niloo launched Niloofar, maker of Persian Trail Mix (also know as "Ajil"). Through this business venture, Niloo’s mission is to make the unique cuisine of her Persian heritage more accessible and encourage Americans to “learn more about the Persian culture I know and love.”

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  • Kazunori Hokura Makes a Difference at Japan's Largest Broadcasting Organization

    Kazunori Hokura, (Washburne Class of ‘94) is video editor for “NHK World TV,” an international news channel on NHK, Japan’s largest broadcasting organization, headquartered in Tokyo. He fondly recalls his Winnetka Experience as a middle school student in District 36 and the supportive Winnetka community. When the Hokura family moved to Winnetka from Japan, Kazunori says neighbors hosted a welcome party and classmates in his neighborhood helped him prepare for school. As a Washburne student, he remembers the excitement of going to work with his father during “Shadow Day.” During a school assembly, he was fascinated by a drum solo and has been playing the drums ever since. His interests in the arts continued as he progressed through New Trier and into adulthood. Upon graduating from New Trier, Kazunori attended Musashi University, where he majored in European and American literature. Kazunori encourages aspiring journalists to “try to be a good listener to the opinions of others, even if you cannot agree with them. I believe a journalist should always be a learner of new things.” The District is proud of the difference he is making in the world through his work in journalism.

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  • D36 alum Grace Donnelly helps lead Coding Club at Carleton Washburne School

    Coding Club is now launched at Washburne, offering support for students who may want to learn a new programming language or work on developing an app, website, or game. Former D36 student Grace Donnelly, (New Trier High School Class of 2018), is helping lead Coding Club along with Washburne teacher, Mr. Selgrat.

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  • ​Washburne Alum Demonstrates Leadership On & Off the Football Field

    The District is proud of 2014 Washburne alum Clay Czyzynski (New Trier Class of 2017) for how he has used his athletic talents to demonstrate leadership. When he was a second or third grade student at Hubbard Woods School, Clay recalls hearing the statement, “You determine your future ...the way you work is going to have an affect​ on​ the outcome,” and applied this mantra to his life. As the Varsity football team quarterback, Clay led the Trevians to a conference victory against Maine South, which ended their 77-game winning streak and was their first conference defeat since 2000. In addition to other honors, Clay was recognized twice this fall in USA Today’s “Play of the Week” column, was named All-Conference his junior year, and Most Improved when he was a sophomore.

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