Monthly Archives: May 2014

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By Kaanan Raja and Emma Venetis

Kelly Snyder was a loving mother, an inspiring teacher, a true friend, a compassionate wife, a boisterous singer and a resilient fighter. As a French teacher for two years at DGS,  her passion for the  French culture brought a tremendous increase of students into the program. After a long battle with cancer, Kelly Snyder passed away on May 21 at the age of 53.

After doing everything from Girl Scouts, to being a thespian involved in her high school speech team, to singing back-up vocals at a Barry Manilow concert, Kelly Snyder found her passion in teaching French.

Daughter of Kelly Snyder, senior Shannon Snyder has witnessed the dedication her mother had to teaching.

“Teaching was what she lived for,” Shannon Snyder said. “I’ve never once have seen my mom complain about her job because she was so passionate about the French language and teaching to all the people she could.”

Fellow French teacher Isabelle Menke was not only Kelly Snyder’s coworker but her friend. She has also experienced the enthusiasm Kelly Snyder brought to the Foreign Language Department.

“She was such a caring person, you couldn’t help but like her,” Menke said. “She cared about her colleagues and especially about her students…she left a big hole in our department.”

Outside the classroom, Kelly Snyder’s passion extended onto music, nature, her church, her friends and her family.

“She was very involved with the church in her hometown, and she loved singing in the choir,” Shannon Snyder said.

Kelly Snyder’s love for music reached far beyond her experience in choirs, and has left some wonderful memories. Shannon Snyder recalls a moment at her sister’s birthday party when her mom dressed in a leopard printed V-neck dress and black pumps, singing and dancing to Ricky Martin’s ‘Shake Your Bon-Bon.’

“She was a classic oldie but a goodie with her love for disco, [Ford Thunderbird], John Travolta and retro clothing,” Shannon Snyder said.

It was through her vibrant and empathetic nature that Kelly Snyder was able to touch the lives of those around her.

When freshman Paige Patera was dealing with medical issues this school year, she felt that her teacher Kelly Snyder was supportive and actively tried to help her.

“She would ask me everyday how I was feeling and try to help me be as comfortable as I could be in French class,”  Patera said.

Kelly Snyder’s positivity and selflessness never faltered throughout her battle with cancer. Fine Arts Department Chair Glenn Williams was moved by her strength throughout her illness.

“Her reaction to cancer continues to inspire me…Kelly gave me perspective on things that matter in life.  [She] reminded me that I’m in control of how I respond to the circumstances in my life,” Williams said.

Senior Deanna Bailey, friend and neighbor of the Snyder family, agreed with Williams and was likewise inspired by Kelly Snyder’s constant resilience and vigor.

“She didn’t let cancer get the best of her. I was always surprised to see her in the halls during school because I knew what she was going through…I hope one day I can be as strong in the face of adversity like Mrs. Snyder was,” Bailey said.

While Kelly Snyder’s death has been a tremendous loss to her family, friends and the DGS community, she will always be remembered for her strength, kindness and passion.

“I will always remember her as a caring woman with a love for her family, every shade of red nail polish, and French cuisine,” Shannon Snyder said. “She may be gone physically, but she is always around us…the marks that she has left in this world and on people’s lives will last forever.”


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Crowded in the auditorium during the 2010 Mad Dash event, the Class of 2014 was challenged by Assistant Principal Vince Walsh-Rock to leave DGS a better place than when they arrived. Now, as these students are finishing up their final days as a Mustang, it is clear that the Class of 2014 impacted DGS in many ways.

Student Activities Director John Aldworth, who started his first year at DGS when the current seniors were freshmen, believes that “a lot of what has happened [over the last four years] can be attributed to this graduating class.”

Aldworth points to many things that have started as a result of current seniors, but feels that one of the most important events that the Class of 2014 has played a role in is the school-wide fundraisers.

“Over the four years that the Class of 2014 has been here, we’ve raised over 200 thousand dollars for philanthropies which…is…something that [the] seniors should be very proud of,” Aldworth said.

Social Studies teacher Derek Hoovel also noted the role that that current seniors have played in this fundraising and believes that while there are many times when he feels that DGS has been losing a sense of community, raising money for St. Baldricks and Make-A-Wish was a time “when this school did seem to come together.”

Hoovel is hopeful that the Class of 2014’s participation and energy in these fundraisers has established a standard that other classes will continue in the future.

While these large philanthropy events have positively impacted the way the DGS community functions, the introduction of new sports, activities and traditions have also helped the school grow. Aldworth is proud of the involvement by the Class of 2014, and said, “student involvement has increased over the last four years.”

New activities have been popping up everywhere and many of these are largely influenced by the Class of 2014. Senior Rob Quinn began the Robotics club, while senior Dylan Tysiak played a huge role helping Lacrosse to become a DGS sport. Senior Jimmy Kruse was one in the group of students who began the tradition of bringing Special Need students to Prom. DGS has also had two state championships–Special Olympics basketball and boys volleyball both of which had  significant involvement from the Class of 2014

Hoovel feels the interest in involvement that the Class of 2014 has had in new activities has strengthened the DGS community.

“There [is] a niche for every student, which didn’t really exist before,” Hoovel said.

Senior Kassandra Bernardo, Student Council President, explained how a class of people with a wide variety of talents and interests have joined together over four years to make DGS a better place.

“The class of 2014 has impacted DGS in the best way; by providing our school community with a diverse group of students who have a variety of talents,” Bernardo said. “There are great leaders, phenomenal artists, epic dancers, talented athletes and so much more. It has changed DGS in the last four years to be a collective group of people who break the negative social norms and stigmas.”

After four years, Walsh-Rock agrees with Bernardo that this year’s seniors can leave DGS knowing that they’ve made a positive impact on the school.

“[The Class of 2014] has really accepted the leadership of shaping a positive culture in ways that we didn’t anticipate,” Walsh-Rock said. “Not every class would necessarily have accepted the challenge of that…I think you can…say that [the Class of 2014] left [DGS] better than [they] found it.”

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Senior students can always imagine graduation-the principal stammering through seemingly endless names, crying mothers (sometimes even crying graduates), proud fathers, lots of flowers, and friends sharing one last laugh at their high school before they depart to their futures. One celebration ties the whole event together: the graduation party. In the movies, you can see a few different types.

First there’s always the backyard bash with little paper lanterns adorning trees, more patio chairs in a single place than one could imagine, and a bonfire to end the night. This party is normally just the closest friends of the host, or at least just a few extended acquaintances that fill up the backyard space.

There’s also the big, I-invited-my-whole-graduating-class party, complete with the coolest DJ the internet could find, strobe lights, and dancing everywhere in a completely open house. This is the party people will be talking about until next fall.

Grandest Party of Them All

Senior Adrian Bico plans on throwing the biggest party he’s ever had for graduation, and just like any other party a teenager throws, the guest list is very important for Bico.

“I plan on having a big one I want all of my closest friends there, like anyone from marching band, and all the people who I know I’m going to miss next year,” Bico said.

As for activities, there is nothing that he hasn’t tended to.  Bico has a very relaxed structure for his party, like a “choose-your-own” adventure.

“People can just hang out and do what they want. Since it’ll be in the summer I live by a public park so people can be there, just hang in my backyard, or just hang around my house. [As always,] there will be food,” Bico said.

Keeping it Close–Family Parties

Some students don’t picture the biggest party they’ve ever had when it comes to graduation. Senior Hannah Borchardt has always imagined a family-based party.

“I have a big family and some friends so it’ll be kind of big, as in…50 people,” Borchardt said.

Borchardt did imagine her party as something a little different when she was younger, based on other parties she’d seen before.

“I imagined it with a lot of people, [a] pool party kind of thing with lots of food and fun,” Borchardt reminisced, “Which is sort of what it’s going to be– minus the pool.”

Although Borchardt wants to have a good time, she is not too concerned over the details of the event.

“I’m not really doing a whole lot [of planning], it’s going to be pretty chill [and] in my backyard, so it’s not really a big deal,” Borchardt said.

In-School Endings

One other type of party graces the senior choir students at DGS. Acapella Choir director and director of the spring musical, Laura Coster, likes to honor seniors throughout the year. However, the spring is when she plans some especially memorable moments.

“The main thing we do is sing at the graduation ceremony. Acapella choir this year is singing a really traditional song called ‘The Irish Farewell’ which they have all sung every year before either in choir or in Madrigals,” Coster shared.  “Something cool we do is when the freshman come in, we sing the Alma Mater on the very first day of school, and then sing it as the very last song at graduation.”

Coster is also very sentimental when it comes to the seniors.

“We have a special cake for all of the seniors after the musical. On the final days of school, seniors all take a photo in their [senior] shirts, which we hang up in the choir office,” Coster said.

As far as graduation parties go, students at DGS definitely have a variety of ways to celebrate. Any senior knows, there is always a bittersweet feeling as their high school career comes to a close, so the graduation party is one tool to make the departure a little sweeter.

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What impacts have you had at Downers Grove South?

Having been here a long time, I’ve seen a lot of change for the better at South…I cannot attribute all of this to me this is really a team effort. DGS has sharpened its focus over the years helping students not just get to college, but to improve their skills in every area. Over the years we’ve instituted lots of different interventions for students when they struggle, so that they come out of the other side being better prepared for school, college or for the world of work or military or whatever they choose… I really can’t say it’s been my impact, because it’s really not just me.

What has been your favorite moment at South?

I really enjoy the graduation ceremony, quite a bit. I enjoy any ceremony where students get recognized. Our Senior Awards night is a nice event, and our Academic letter ceremony in the fall is a nice event, so those are really some wonderful things. And of course it’s always good to see our teams win. I don’t think I could choose just one. I think the graduation is really a nice ceremony, so I think that’s probably my favorite.

How have you seen DGS grow?

We’ve been more diverse in our student population, and we have spent a lot of time in the past several years focusing our attention as a school on how to acknowledge that diversity better. I think that’s one thing we have grown in is our tolerance, and our desire to do the right thing. I think the Mustang Way institution, although the more mature you are as a student the less you need it because you’ve already personalized it, and internalized it. It’s been good for our students and staff to reiterate the right things to do, and grow as a school community on how to display all that. I think that it’s been a huge undertaking and a huge benefit.

What will you miss most at DGS?

I will miss the students and staff. I’ve spent a lot of time here, and I’ve spent a lot of time at events, and working with staff themselves so I’m going to miss the teams I’ve been on and miss the classroom activities and experiences that I’ve been involved in. I think that’ll be the hardest part for me; when you leave 3,000 people and go home by yourself, you know, it will be a little weird. But I’ll miss coming to school in the fall. When I think about it, I’ve been coming to school since about the age of 5, and next year will be the first year I won’t be coming to DGS, which I think will be weird.

Do you have any words of wisdom for Mr. Schwartz?

I mention him in my June web letter. I think I know him well enough to know that he is going to really enjoy the fact that in a brand-new way, this is his school. It’s been his school since he [went] here; it’s all of our [present and past students] school. It’s a little different feeling when you officially have the title of principal; it becomes your school in a brand-new way. He gets to see things through new lens, and I think that will be exciting for him and he’s going to be a great principal.

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DGS annual Awards Night showcases the best and the brightest DGS has to offer. Awards from the community, scholarships, recognition for the top two percent and the Outstanding Senior Department awards are some of the different recognitions given during the night.

Awards from community organizations and honors from school departments consisted of different achievement and scholarships given to various seniors for essays they wrote or actions they took. Senior Melissa McLean feels her career at DGS and her community involvement helped her win the West Suburban Teachers Union award.

“The award was a lot about community involvement,” McLean said. “Based on that criteria I was involved in the community through sports, service work, my church and activities at DGS.”

The top two percent for the 2014 graduating class was recognized for their academic achievement throughout their high school career. Senior Jason Chang feels the most rewarding and troubling aspect of staying on top of academics was keeping on task and concentrating when needed.

“It’s pretty cool being recognized for the effort I’ve put into what I’ve learned…The biggest part for me was being able to stay on task. It took a lot of effort to stay focused on working and not just watch[ing] TV or goof[ing] off,” Chang said.

The presidential Award for Educational Excellence is a national award given to students who have shown academic excellence throughout their academic career. The students chosen are dedicated to their school work and showed hard work throughout their high school life. 154 DGS seniors were given this recognition, the highest DGS has ever seen.

The outstanding seniors are seens as the best and the brightest that DGS has to offer. Only one student can win each of the 13 awards presented. The award is given to a student who was recognized by his/her teachers and department heads for his/her dedication to the subject and outstanding achievement from his/her four years of high school.

Senior Shirali Shah feels that winning this award will help her strive to be a better student, making her realize she can achieve anything she works towards.

“Receiving this award helped me to believe in myself a little more and…helped me realize that I am capable of achieving a lot if I keep working hard,” Shah said. “I was never someone who strived for this award…There was never a moment in time when I thought I was ever going to receive this award.”

Each senior who won an award was not notified in advance of their winning and some were completely shocked to find they have won. Many of the seniors who were recognized for their excellence went above and beyond in their high school careers and show promising futures in what they choose to do. Senior Nate Leung attributes his success to the support he received from his family and fellow classmates.

“This award will definitely motivate me to continue working hard in the future. However, I have to remember that none of this came by myself alone,” Leung said. “I would not have been where I was today without the support of my family and fellow classmates.”

 Senior Sam Boroumand credits the helpfulness of the DGS school as a whole to helping its students be prepared for the future they have to come.

“I think DGS has prepared all of [it’s students]…for the future. This school has provided us [with] so many opportunities to grow and develop our passions and skills through classes, activities, clubs, athletics, school events and so much more,” Boroumand said. “I think South’s continuous commitment to service events, charity organizations and the Mustang Way has all taught us how to be compassionate and respectful individuals when we step out into the great big world after graduation.”

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As a student’s high school career comes to an end, the most important thing for many of them is where they plan on going to college, and how much they actually plan on paying for it. Luckily for senior Julian Martinez, one college– Stanford University– has already taken such an interest in him that they are willing to pay for basically his entire college career with them.

Martinez was awarded the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship to Stanford University, with all room and board as well as tuition covered completely. The QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship is a scholarship handed out to students of extremely high ranking students that may not be able to afford a university of such high excellence.

“The only thing it doesn’t cover is the student contribution of about $5,000,” Martinez said. “But this is nothing considering that the full cost of attending Stanford University is over $60,000.”

Martinez was granted with this prestigious scholarship, but it did not come without a significant amount of hard work. Along with the six extracurricular activities and sports he participated in throughout high school, Martinez also has an outstanding academic history. With a 4.66 GPA on a 4-point scale and a 33 on his ACT, it’s safe to say Martinez has earned this amazing opportunity.

The QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship required a long process and a lot of waiting.

“First I had to fill out the QuestBridge College Match application. Then I had to wait until I was notified that I was a College Match finalist… At this point I had not yet received the scholarship; becoming a finalist just meant I was qualified for it. Becoming a finalist meant that if I was accepted into one of QuestBridge’s partner colleges, then I would receive the scholarship as well,” Martinez said.

After all the waiting and finally receiving notification that he had been granted with the scholarship, Martinez then filled out the application to Stanford.

Although he has been admitted into Stanford University in California, Martinez has yet to commit to the school. He feels that before committing he must visit the campus to ensure that it is the right college for him.

“Right now I’m deciding between MIT and Stanford, but I have a feeling that when I visit Stanford and I get to see their incredible campus first-hand, that I will be ready to commit,” Martinez said. “I think the main reason I have not yet committed is because I want to visit [Stanford] first and make sure it feels like the right school for me.”

With all the future plans in store for him, Martinez was sure to explain his gratitude for the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I feel as if I have won the lottery,” Martinez said. “I know that this is an incredible opportunity and I’m incredibly blessed to be in this position.”

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On April 13 the DGS Key Club hosted their second annual 5K run the Mustang Trot. Deciding last year to raise money for the coeducational service club Kiwanis, this year the club decided to raise money for the school philanthropy, Make-A-Wish and raised $2,000 with 129 participants.
Counselor and one of the Key Club advisors Amy Klug, along with the rest of the Key Club board decided to change the name of the 5K to the Mustang Trot “so that [they] have the ability to use the event to raise money for various charities every year.”
“The Key Club officers chose to support the school-wide philanthropy this year, which was the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Klug said. “Next year, the officers will once again select the charity to support, but the name of the race will always be The Mustang Trot. We will not change it again.”
Preparations started at the end of last school year and continued all the way until the day of the event. The Key Club board has been doing many tasks that ultimately helped make the event run smoother.
Co-President of the Key Club board and senior Melissa Gorman explained how the board “split [themselves] amongst different committees.”
“The one that I [was in charge of] last year was donations for raffle items/gift baskets, which is also one of the main things I did this year,” Gorman said. “I went to about 20 businesses this year and spoke with the managers about our event, my goal being to get the local businesses involved in supporting our event through monetary donations and/or raffle items.”
During the Mustang Trot there were 25 raffles that the participants could enter in hopes to win prizes, while helping raise money for Make-A-Wish. The prizes for these raffles ranged from gift cards to spirit wear to even two free prom tickets.
Something that was added to the event this year was the Pony Trot. The Pony Trot was sponsored by Peer Leaders. This event allowed children to run through an obstacle course, and then they won medals and were able to get their faces painted.
Both Gorman and Klug agree that the 5K went well and was more organized than last year’s event.
“We had a good showing, and the rain held off entirely,” Gorman said. “Everyone I talked to had a wonderful time; that’s all I needed to hear to know all of our hard work paid off.”
For the Mustang Trot there were many winners for various awards, including the overall winner, best costumes and the best team name.
The overall winner with the fastest time was math teacher Matthew Quatman, and senior Julian Martinez was the fastest DGS student. Freshman Karen Contreras was the fastest female student.
One of the fan favorite awards, Best Costume was awarded to The Caribbean Soul dance team, known as “Team Fuego,” who also won Fastest Average Team Time.
“The Road Hogs” team, made up of career and technical education teacher Christina Castillo, English teacher Lauren McSweeney, career and technical education teacher Courtney Pesha, math teacher Christine Tarchinski and special services teacher Allison Rennie won Best Team Name.

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“High school is the best four years of your life.”

Yeah, right, OK. I’m not sure I buy that.

“I can’t wait to graduate and leave this place behind.”

Really? I’m not on board with this one either.

As much as I’m not going to miss measuring time with bells, riding in yellow buses and changing into a Physical Education uniform every day, I can’t say that I’m ready to turn the page on the last four years of my life and never look back.

In the last four year I’ve grown a lot—we all have. Morphing from a 14-year-old teenager into an 18 year-old young adult is a big change and I don’t think anyone is leaving DGS the exact same way they entered. For most of us, this has been a positive change.

These years have given us the opportunities to experience different things and taught us lessons that have molded us, in one way or another. For me, this has meant a shy, awkward girl with no idea what being passionate about something meant transforming into a confident leader with at least a little direction for my future.

Four years after I first walked these halls, because of the wonderful people I’ve met and activities I’ve had the opportunity to experience, I had the confidence to walk in the middle of the large gym. It was during a pep assembly, under a spotlight, in a dress and I got sprayed with silly string. On purpose.

But there have been more than a few memories that I cringe to think about. I grimace when I think about how I ever thought blue eye shadow would be flattering on me, the amount of Facebook photo albums I have with hearts in the title (Homecoming 2<311!!!), or heaven forbid, my freshmen year self ’s idea of ‘flirting.’ Good, bad, amazing or awkward, high school has been a time in which I have become the person I am today.

Sure, I can almost taste the freedom that I’ll find in college. That being said, I also know how many home-cooked meals I won’t be tasting next year. I’m excited to meet new people, but I’m also dreading saying goodbye to the friends I have made in high school. As much excitement as I feel for the future, I still feel nostalgia for the piece of my life that is almost over.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to leave high school completely in the dust. I want to move forward, but I want to remember the person I’ve been throughout my time at DGS. I want to remember the people I’ve met, the mistakes I’ve made and the way I’ve grown.

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Junior lacrosse player Andrew Long works hard at practice and is preparing for the rest of the team's season.

Junior lacrosse player Andrew Long works hard at practice and is preparing for the rest of the team’s season.

New to the DGS sports roster, boys Varsity lacrosse is making a name for itself. They practice eight hours a week to make sure people from neighboring schools know who they are.

The team has shown a strong dedication to the sport in their start-up year. Junior Ryan Thele feels the team’s closeness makes them strive to win.

“It’s a team sport, one where you build up a connection with your teammates on a brotherly level,” Thele said.

Although the season started off rough, junior Thomas O’hern has high hopes that the team will go far.

“We got off to a rocky start, losing a couple of close games, but right now we are in a position that looks pretty good, so I think we’re turning it around for the [better],” O’hern said.

With an overall three:eight lost so far this season, the team is pulling together to get as far as they can.

Though some of the players may have conflicts at times, they know what they have to do in order to get to the championship.

“We work [well] as a team because of our personal connections with each other,” Thele said. “Whenever there is any strife between the players we know to look past it and move on for the good of the team.”

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Senior Joe Becht slides into third base.

Senior Joe Becht slides into third base.

College is a new start for many people; moving on from the sheltered high school life and going onto bigger and better things that are sometimes far away. Senior Varsity baseball player Joe Becht is moving 2,140 miles away to Santa Clara, California to not only pursue his passion in baseball, but to also further his education.

Becht plans to play for Santa Clara University, where he has received a partial scholarship and will use his talent in baseball to be the best player he can be.

Becht’s dedication to the DGS baseball is shown through his hard work and commitment on the field.

Fellow teammate junior Peter Hamot credits Becht’s commitment to certain key aspects that he brings to the team.

“He brings defense, speed, power and leadership to our team,” Hamot claims.

While having certain physical contributions are important to the team, the mental aspect is more crucial to have. Junior Alex Martinez feels that Becht’s great leadership skills, communication on the field and ability to pump up the other athletes all demonstrate his commitment to the team.

Becht shows leadership throughout the program and is someone that supports the other players. While it helps others, it also helps him become a better player.

“The more I play with these guys, the better they make me as a baseball player and the better our team gets altogether,” Becht said.

While describing what type of player Becht is, coach Darren Orel describes all the aspects he believes make Becht a talented player.

“[Becht is] extremely talented; he’s a very well-rounded player. He’s good at all aspects of the game. He hits well, throws well, fields well, runs well. He’s a total package,” Orel said.

“My main priorities are to excel in the classroom and on the baseball field and let the rest come as is,” Becht said.

The DGS baseball program has helped bring out the best that Becht has to offer. From his ability to play a great game of baseball, to leading the team, the DGS program has brought out the best in him as a player.

“I think he had all those qualities and he shaped them…We pushed him in the right direction and then he kind of ran with it…He’s very mature and has a lot of leadership qualities,” Orel said.

Many think Becht can go far in terms of his baseball career. Martinez, who has played with Becht throughout his last DGS baseball season, believes that Becht can do amazing things in his career.

“[He'll go as] far as his hard work brings him. [Becht] has amazing potential and can go very far in whatever he decides to do,” Martinez said.

While the idea of being so different from what he has known makes him feel unsettled, Becht thinks that by going to Santa Clara, he will find adventure in trying new things.

“Going to California is going to be a completely new experience for me, which is one of the main reasons I chose to go out west. I really like the idea of a completely new start and experience,” Becht said.

Although he doesn’t know for sure what he wants to achieve in California, he knows that he wants to continue playing baseball, a sport that has been with him since he was four years old.

“It is a hard feeling to put into words. Something about the game just feels right to me.  Baseball is my stress reliever,” Becht said. “I love the atmosphere of a baseball game. I love the way it is played. I love competing and the pressure. To me, there is nothing greater in this world than the game of baseball.”