Our EVANSTON WE ALUMNI make us proud! These former WE program participants worked hard to develop their workplace soft-skills and on are their way to a successful career.
Eric and his family came to the United States two years ago as refugees from Rwanda.
Perhaps more than any other applicant, Eric was determined to get into the Evanston WE Program. Even though he is semi-fluent in English and his understanding of the American educational system is limited, Eric put in extra hours with his counselor and teachers to seek out the WE Program and make all of the application deadlines.
When his mother became ill and could not attend the Program’s interview, he knew “the rules” stated that a family member was supposed to accompany him, so he brought his adorable little sister. When asked how he spends his free time, he replied, “I help my family. Every day after school, I take my younger sister to the library where we read and do homework until it is time to come home for dinner.”
Eric witnessed much tragedy in Rwanda and from an early age he developed a strong desire to help people. “When I was younger, my dream was to become a doctor.” When Eric first attended ETHS, he struggled to get up to speed with a rigorous American educational system and a new language. After spending 17 years in a refugee camp, he knows that his English skills are not strong enough for pre-med admission at a competitive college or university. He is, however, intrigued by the pre-health paths into therapy and nursing that an Oakton Community College associates degree can provide.
Eric is excited that the average salary for a family nurse practitioner is $88,000 per year, even for those just out of school. “I am truly enthused about the WE Program, as I know it will help me pursue and obtain my goals.”
This summer, Eric is thrilled to have an internship at Evanston Hospital—one of the best in the country—where he is working with the patient transport team. Through this experience he will become familiar with all of the departments and functions of the hospital facility. He will also increase his medical vocabulary and immerse himself in the patient care environment. “I have already learned so much, especially how to have good communications with the patients and staff.” The skills Eric learns this summer and the exposure he gets to different roles in the hospital will undoubtedly help him figure out what type of healthcare education he wants to pursue after high schoool.
Avontay, who recently moved to Evanston from North Chicago to live with his very supportive aunt and uncle, is a highly intelligent young man with an extremely mature outlook. Feeling as though his former school didn’t challenge him to his full potential and having overcome various challenges during his childhood, Avontay strives to make the most of his future and hopes to continue to move forward with purpose. “I’m incredibly interested in computers and technology, and I know that there are high paying careers that don’t require a four-year college degree.”
Being a quick learner and looking forward to what a two-year program can provide, Avontay is extremely interested in the field of programming and coding. “I’m aware that many of those who started our greatest tech companies in America didn’t have four-year degrees. I’m hoping to start my career in the field by the time I’m twenty-one.” Avontay knows that programmers and coders are in high demand and those with a two-year certification can expect to earn between $40,000–120,000 per year. Within four years, they can hit the $100,000 mark.
Avontay is a great fit for the Evanston WE Program because his work ethic is so strong. “At my old school, I almost never had homework. I knew that wasn’t right. ETHS is working me hard and that’s okay. I invite the challenge!” Among his other attributes, Avontay has an interest in different cultures. He believes this is a testament to his character and hopes to find effective ways to combine his passion for computers and programming with his passion for diversity. Avontay hopes to show others that no matter where you come from, you can accomplish anything with drive and motivation.
This summer Avontay has an incredibly in-depth and diverse internship in the Chrome Zone (a technology center at ETHS) where he is learning how to take apart and repair chromebooks and set them up for ETHS students to use this fall and throughout the school year. David Chan, Avontay’s supervisor and the Director of Instructional Technology, comments on how “Avontay has been a great resource for [the Chrome Zone]…and has jumped right in on several of the IT teams.” His internship involves three distinct IT areas: physical repair, software updates, and classroom networking. With this array of experiences, coupled with intense mentoring, Avontay will be well prepared to select the high tech career path that is best for his interests.
Shaun, who comes from a rich cultural background, has been living in the United States for three years. He is originally from central Ireland and also lived briefly in Switzerland. Shaun is fluent in English with a working knowledge of German.
Shaun is an incredibly smart and capable young man who is an avid reader and tested “off the charts” when he arrived in the United States as a middle school student. Nevertheless, he struggled to find his academic stride and sense of direction. “When something interested me, I got an A. But when I didn’t care for the subject, I didn’t put in that much effort and it showed.” Fortunately, through the support of his parents, his growing maturity, and his exposure to auto tech through courses at ETHS, his grades are looking strong.
Until recently, Shaun’s parents, like many Europeans, did not feel the need to own a car, so his exposure to anything automotive was limited. During his first auto tech class at ETHS, Shaun’s hidden talent was revealed. “I knew I had found my interest and I was good at it.” Now, his favorite classes are automotive and manufacturing technology. “I like what I’m studying, and I know I'll be successful at it.”
On average, auto technician salaries start at $23,000 and can increase to $63,000 per year. Many manufacturing tech positions start at $50,000 per year. “I don’t understand why everyone in America puts so much emphasis on college when some really good careers don’t require four years of school and hundreds of thousands of dollars.” The ability to pursue his interest in automotive technology is what makes Shaun genuinely excited to be a part of the Evanston WE Program.
This summer Shaun is interning at Greenwood Motorsports, a division of the Evanston Autobarn family. Working with his mentor and Greenwood manager, Jason Saini, Shaun works on the restoration of classic luxury and sport cars for Greenwood’s clientele. With the skills he has picked up in auto tech at ETHS, he is already working on big projects like replacing a car’s frame and engine, soldering, and maintaining the shop. Jason enthusiastically expressed that, “Shaun is learning a lot and proving that investing in youth training really pays off.”
Hannah moved to Evanston from Michigan four years ago and is already feeling good about ETHS. Combining her passion for the fine art of pastry making with the creative and flexible future a culinary degree has to offer, Hannah is excited about pursuing a career as a pastry chef.
“I really enjoy the creative aspects of baking, like using many different tips to pipe a design on a cake or cupcake and to experiment with various flavor combinations.”
Beginning to build a strong foundation from her studies through the ETHS programs that prepare students for careers in culinary arts and hospitality management, she has already earned her food safety/sanitation certification, which she passed with flying colors. Hannah can choose from a range of specialties that include breads and fine desserts and she can look forward to a salary that ranges from $40,000 as an assistant to $100,000 as an executive pastry chef.
Hannah knows that pastry chefs must fully understand their ingredients and the nuanced chemical reactions that occur when making breads and fine pastries. She likes the discipline and precision this field requires. “I'm looking forward to working with and learning many skills from my mentor, and I’m excited to gain practical experience from The Evanston WE Program.”
This summer Hannah is working with some of the Midwest’s best pastry chefs at Bennison’s Bakery. Working side-by-side with her mentor Gina Figura, Hannah works 40 hours a week perfecting her challenging and detail-oriented craft. Gina states that Hannah, “takes initiative and picks up skills exceptionally fast!” Hannah’s hands-on experience has greatly broadened her knowledge and yielded some tasty results for Bennison customers. She learns to prepare different pastries every week. So far, she has covered delicious items such as macarons, bostock, doughnuts, filled tarts, croissants, breads, almond horns, and monkey bread! Hannah, who started with a strong interest in the culinary arts, has now confirmed her passion.
Coming from a multiracial family with parents who love to cook, Eve (who likes to be called “Evah”) has developed a strong passion for food and a curiosity for world travel. This combination has led Eve to develop and pursue an interest in the culinary field as a personal chef, with the long-term goal of working for either an executive or celebrity one day. Already embracing her creativity and passion for this field, Eve experiments with different seasonings each time she prepares a dish.
A relative, who is already employed in the field, reports that the lifestyle of a personal chef is perfect for someone like Eve, a young woman who is ambitious, creative, dedicated, and is open to traveling with clients. Uncertain about culinary school as a practical goal, Eve believes the Evanston WE Program was a positive sign. “Now with the help of a mentor and the WE Program, I will have all the motivation and means to reach my goals.”
Personal chefs earn some of the highest average salaries in the industry, ranging from $30,000–$100,000 per year. This field is not only an outlet for creative expression, it offers slightly better hours than those of a traditional restaurant chef and it can lead to entrepreneurial opportunities. Some successful personal chefs, especially those in high-income urban markets, scale their careers up to launch agencies where they manage a number of chefs who serve a wide range of clients.
Eve is spending her summer internship at Found Kitchen, one of Evanston’s finest and most popular restaurants. While many high school students just dream about working in a successful, high-end establishment, Eve is living that dream every week. “It is a tough line of work and even if you are doing the same thing every day, you learn new, faster, and more exciting ways to do it every time. I can’t imagine a different career.” From her first day, she was integrated into the demanding, professional, and creative culture of the Found kitchen. She is learning, first-hand, that it takes much more than just a love of food to run a successful restaurant.
Noor is a young woman of incredible strength and ambition who arrived in the US from Iraq just six months ago. Already an A and B student taking rigorous classes at ETHS, her English is improving by leaps and bounds. Noor has faced many hardships, including the loss of her father and two brothers. Fortunately, her older brother, who has a young family of his own, was able to leave their war-torn country, where he was a construction engineer, and successfully send for Noor and her mother to join him in Evanston. His engineering degree was not honored in the United States, so he supports two households in two apartments through a job in sales.
Noor has always dreamed of becoming a doctor or pharmacist and loves her classes in biology and general and organic chemistry. At this time, her limited English and financial resources make traditional college access difficult. Therefore, Noor will take a more protracted, yet focused route to her ultimate goal. She will become a certified pharm tech, acquire a pre-healthcare associates degree, and then transfer, possibly to UIC, to complete her bachelor’s degree. She hopes to make it through pharmacy school by her late 20s, while working in a pharmacy to help support her family. A pharm tech can earn up to $38,000 per year.
As she works her way toward an advanced degree, she hopes to acquire sharper conversational and professional skills. Noor is truly impassioned by the Evanston WE Program and welcomes working with her wonderful mentor, who directs a Chicago-based Pharm Tech school. “I am so excited and look forward to advancing my English and having hands-on practice within the Pharm Tech field.”
Noor’s summer internship has been deferred until after her senior year but her plan is rock solid. She has enrolled in the Pharm Tech program at ETHS where she will earn her entry-level certification before graduating from high school. She will also be able to do an intense apprenticeship at a local pharmacy during the school year to continue building her knowledge and skills. She and her WE Program mentor have already found a local pharmacy to sponsor her and she is preparing this summer by taking intensive English classes to improve her language skills and strengthen her technical vocabulary.
Saniet is a confident young woman with distinct talents and interests. She loves doing hair and was exposed to the craft by her mother who braids hair as a side profession. With a shared interest for early childhood development, Saniet would like to run her own daycare someday. But for now, she is going to focus on a future in the beauty industry to see where this particular talent takes her. Saniet is a solid student who will pursue certification and a post-secondary degree with great passion and drive.
As a lifelong Evanstonian, she feels very connected to her community and school, and she likes to be a leader who helps those in need. “I love to help people in my community by leading and guiding others to do the right thing. I encourage friends to go out and get summer jobs, and I participate in various activities and community service events.” Saniet was happy to hear that the Evanston WE Program organizes local community service days as part of its required curriculum.
Saniet believes that hair styling offers a solid financial path towards a successful future and knows that a stylist can earn, on average, $40,000 per year and much more in an affluent area like Evanston. She is excited to be a part of the Evanston WE Program as she can explore this interest and develop her craft. “I think the WE program is a great program for kids that have different mindsets about what they want to do in life and what they want to experience when they leave high school.”
Saniet is spending her summer at Art + Science, one of the most innovative salons on the North Shore. She has already received extensive customer relations training by working at the front desk, booking appointments, and checking in clients. She is also getting the opportunity to drop in to the Art + Science academy, where she is able to observe the application of the latest products, styles, and services. Saniet expressed that one of her favorite parts of being in the salon is “having the ability to observe and gain hands-on experience”