Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Staff Spotlight: Cheryl Tolish

     In the third installment of this series,  we'd like to introduce Cheryl Tolish for our 
"Staff Spotlight"! 

1.     Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the southwest suburbs, Hickory Hills, but my grandmother lived just about a mile from the MKC. I remember driving up Kedzie to visit her and loving the smells of baking bread and cookies that came from the Nabisco factory! Little did I know that someday I would be working right here in the neighborhood.

2.       Where did you go to school-high school, college, grad school?  (Be as detailed as you like!)

I attended Amos Alonzo Stagg in Palos Hills, and I loved every minute of it. It was then that I decided I wanted to be an English teacher someday. Once out of high school, I went to three colleges before I graduated. I started out at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI, but my dad, who was an electrician, got laid off, so for financial reasons, I had to return home and attend a community college for a year. Then I transferred to Villanova University outside Philadelphia, where I earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. Leaving Carthage was a huge disappointment at the time for I had made good friends and was enjoying my classes. However, in hindsight, I realize that being able to live and attend school in another part of the country was an amazing opportunity that helped me grow as a person. It was one of the first times that I understood that I need to trust that God has a plan for me.

3.       Did you know you’ve always wanted to work in the field you’re in now? What drew you to the MKC? (Or, in Amy’s case—what was your epiphanous moment? How did you conceive this idea?)

I did not realize that I would be working in the field of grant writing until about ten years ago. Up until then I had been a teacher. I taught English at all levels: grammar school, high school, community college, and college, and I enjoyed every class I ever taught. There is something very rewarding about knowing you have helped a person achieve an “ah-ha! I get it!!” moment.  But when I was teaching at my parish school, Infant Jesus of Prague, in Flossmoor, I was asked to help our school apply for a Department of Education Blue Ribbon by writing the application. I did, and we were fortunate enough to win. After that, I started doing more writing for the school, and I eventually came to understand that as much as I loved the classroom, my new calling was to use my talents as a writer to find resources to enhance the educational experiences of students. I became a full time grant writer at Prairie State College, then at Maria High School. Being at Maria, I knew of the plans to create the MKC, and while seeing Maria close was painful, I couldn’t help but get excited about the prospect of establishing a Catholic community center that would have the potential to serve so many more people than Maria could. When I was invited to join the MKC team, I jumped at the chance.

4.        What is your favorite thing about the Center?

I have so many favorite things about the Center. The people with whom I work are dedicated, driven, and very, very talented. Working with them brings out the best in me. I also love to see how much the scholars appreciate and enjoy the space. They realize they have something special here, and they take care of it. Probably the thing I love most is what comes out of the Daily Reflections. The way the scholars open up, with honesty and integrity, is inspiring.

5.       What is your favorite food?

Hmmm. That’s a tough one. I guess I will go with veal scaloppini with risotto.

6.       What is your favorite book? Why?

Another tough one.  There are lots of books that I like, but Catcher in the Rye comes to mind because I love Holden Caulfield’s determination to preserve her sister’s innocence. I also love Pride and Prejudice because I have always had a huge crush on Mr. Darcy.

A special thanks to Cheryl for taking the time to answer these questions!!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Staff Spotlight: Amy Eckhouse

In the second installment of this series,  we'd like to introduce Amy Eckhouse for our 
"Staff Spotlight"! 

1. Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Alton, IL-- a town just south of St.Louis, MO. 

2. Where did you go to school-high school, college, grad school?

I attended Marquette High School in Alton, IL, a Catholic High School now called Marquette Catholic High School where I was taught by the Ursuline Sisters.   After high school, I went on to study Special Education at Eastern Illinois University and received a B.S. in Education.  Years later, I attended Loyola University and I obtained a M.A. in Spirituality.

3. Did you know you've always wanted to work in the field you’re in now? What was your epiphanous moment that lead to the idea for the Maria Kaupas Center?

When I was in high school, I had a very wise mentor/Ursuline Sister in Theology and knew from these experiences in spirituality that I wanted to contribute in the same way that I witnessed in High school.  I taught for 28 years - most of these years, freshmen/junior/senior Theology and for fourteen of these years, directed Kairos retreats, coached girls' basketball and softball.  These years working with young people were unbelievably rewarding and even though I recently moved my career in a different direction, I will never forget the hundreds of students who crossed my path.
Months prior to Maria High school closing, the Sisters of St. Casimir and the Christian Brothers had a vision for the former convent which is now the Maria Kaupas Center.  They believed that this space would be perfect for a Catholic center.  They put together a think tank and ultimately decided to carry this vision out.  Last year, as Maria High School was coming to a close and getting ready for the Charter Public School to enter,  the Sisters of St. Casimir and the Christian Brothers graciously asked me to visualize what the former convent could be, I jumped at the chance to give some insights.

In January of 2013, I was hired to put the collective vision in place. What an immense honor.  The Maria Kaupas Center has so much potential.  We are at the very beginning stages of development.  Stay tuned!

4. What is your favorite thing about the Center? 

My favorite component of the center is that it is a place where young people from the public school can come to learn about God, community, leadership and service.  It is a pioneering model...
I love it that the first thing we do before any programming is go to the chapel for 15 minutes to unwind from the day and have a short conversation about God's love,  the benefits of paying it forward, or being committed to the decisions one makes, etc. I love it that this center is a fun, safe place to play pool, ping pong, board games, foosball, bags and so many other possibilities.  Currently, the students who come to our center get dismissed from school at 4:00.  They need a place like the Maria Kaupas Center to unwind, have some popcorn, do homework, or simply talk to their friends.  

5.What is your favorite food?

Chicken Alfredo

6. What is your favorite book? Why?

There is no way I can pick a favorite book, but the one I am enjoying right now is Michael Singer's "The Untethered Soul". 

I enjoy books that delve into the development of consciousness.  Michael helps the reader appreciate the present moment.

A special thanks to Amy for taking the time to answer these questions!!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thank You: PNC Neighborhood Wishlist

As many of you know, we have a grant-funded class called "Eating Light, Eating Right". It's a program about making healthy eating choices and exploring more healthful options in your everyday consumption. 

Yesterday the MKC had some special visitors from PNC! They came to interview MKC staff, volunteers, and teens to talk about this awesome project. 

Over 100 projects were funded through the PNC Neighborhood Wishlist program, and six were chosen to be spotlighted. The MKC's "Eating Light, Eating Right" program was one of the six projects to be spotlighted! 

This is such a huge honor for us!

To learn more about the PNC Neighborhood Wishlist, visit their About Page.

Here is a sneak peek at what went on at the Center yesterday-- we'll look forward to viewing more once PNC make the content from their visit available!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Staff Spotlight: Wendy Lynn

In the first of a multiple-part series, we'd like to introduce Wendy Lynn as the first profile for our 
"Staff Spotlight"! 

1. Where did you grow up? 

I grew up on Chicago's northwest side. 

2. Where did you go to school-high school, college, grad school? 

 I attended: Alvernia High School (’69) which closed in 1989. Alvernia was an all-girls’ Catholic high school run by the School Sisters of St. Francis.St. Xavier University (’85), B.A. business Administration
University of Illinois at Chicago (’07), MBA, concentration in accounting and finance.

3. Did you know you’ve always wanted to work in the field you’re in now? What drew you to the MKC?

While in high school, I wanted to work in Catholic education. Life took me in another direction where I had to go to work instead of college. I had a successful career in business for 39 years, mostly in human resources. My work required that I feel comfortable in strategic planning, law, finance, and accounting as well as human resources, so I operated as a general manager in my last corporate position as Vice President of Benefits Consulting for an insurance company in Chicago.

In 2008, I learned that Maria High School was conducting a search for a new president, and I decided to apply for the position.  I hoped that my business background could help another single gender Catholic high school remain open. The many challenges that existed at Maria proved to be too great for us to succeed financially. So the Sisters of St. Casimir and the Maria High School leadership convened a think tank to bring life back to the complex on California Avenue and Marquette Road. Our best opportunity for a financially viable school was one that was publicly funded. We found a partner in Catalyst Network of Charter Schools which embodies an ethos that could point back to many of the world religions, especially the Catholic religion: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Catalyst – Maria opened in our beloved Maria High School in September 2012. When fully deployed, Catalyst will have 1100 scholars in grades K-12 for both genders.

The think tank also envisioned a Catholic Community Center which would operate in the former Maria High School convent, providing wrap around services to the school and to families in the community. It would also be a place for the St. Casimir Academy and Maria High School alumnae relations to take a foothold. So in the summer of 2012, we created a new think tank that would focus on the mission and vision of this Community Center.

Since the center was living out the mission of the Sisters of St. Casimir in a new way, we thought that the name Maria Kaupas Center, after the foundress of the Sisters of St. Casimir, would be a fitting name. 

4. What is your favorite thing about the Maria Kaupas Center? 

My favorite thing about the MKC is the people: the people who work here, the people who volunteer here, and the people who come here to share in our faith life: the students, the alums, and the people from the community.

5. What is your favorite food? 

Hmm, favorite food. It’s so hard to pick only one. I’ll say my father-in-law’s chili recipe. It’s not too spicy, and I think of him whenever we make it.
      6. What is your favorite book? Why?

     I have many favorite books. One that I just read is “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”. It is a story of Christopher, a 15-year old boy with Asperger's syndrome (a type of autism), who finds his neighbor’s dog “murdered”. I liked the book because it was poignant, at times funny, and gave insight to how Christopher perceived the world and relationships. His life is turned upside down and he has to figure out how to cope with the new information. A quick and engaging read.

A special thanks to Wendy for taking time to answer these questions!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Calling all 6th Graders at Catalyst- Maria Charter!

Do you know a 6th grader at The Catalyst Schools (Maria Charter) who would enjoy learning to sew? 

If so, please check out the information on "Sacred Sewing"! It's a service project at the Maria Kaupas Center open to 6th graders! 

Sacred Sewing Permission Slip & Information

The permission slip and fee are due by November 22nd, 2013 (that's this Friday)! 

If you have any questions, please contact us at the Maria Kaupas Center via phone at 773.925.8686, or email our Program Director, Amy Eckhouse

We hope to see you soon!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Response to Retreat: Girls

With the inaugural overnight retreat at the MKC at a successful close, we look back on the overwhelmingly positive response the young women had to this experience.

Their surveys revealed a positive, thoughtful, and poignant response to an experience wherein they allowed themselves to be emotionally vulnerable.

Their responses and quotes are phenomenal. 

"What I liked most about this retreat is that I feel like I have gotten closer to my friends. It felt good to sit around and be able to notice that we all have similar situations in life. Not everyone is perfect. I was able to be confident enough and let all those bad/negative thoughts that I had going through my mind. I now feel relieved. I left a big chuck of negativity behind me. TIME TO MOVE FORWARD AND BE STRONG."

" My favorite message was 'Life is a test; experience is your tutor'-- it's so true."

"Change who you are by changing what you do."

"I liked how we went to the chapel and gave all our things to God. each one of us opened up and saw life differently... not full of darkness-- full of light."

"I liked when we played the rope game. I was able to see that I'm not the only one hurting."

"What I liked most about the retreat is learning that God isn't mad at me and isn't trying to hurt me. I felt God's love..." 

"I liked that everyone shared something. It made us all more comfortable to share because now we know we're not the only ones hurting inside. Also, I feel that I have more people to talk to about my problems and feelings." 

"I liked getting out everything I felt."

"What I liked most about this retreat was getting to share my feelings out loud. it made me feel much, much better than I did at first. i had lots and lots of anger and stress. After this retreat I feel better."

"I liked that we all got to relieve some stress and weight off our hearts without being judged."

"I feel better." 

This overnight retreat for the young women from CMHS was so successful. They left feeling positive, in control, and rejuvenated physically and spiritually. It was amazing to see an anonymous survey with ALL positive responses. Not one girl had anything to negative to say about their experience, their peers, or themselves. We are so proud of the young women who went on this retreat. 
They arrived with open hearts and minds and had an amazing time. 

We cannot wait for the next retreat!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Good Search Cause "Maria Kaupas Center"

The Maria Kaupas Center was Just Accepted as a GoodSearch Cause! 

Please check out 
www.goodsearch.com and select the "Maria Kaupas Center" as your cause! 

Every time you use the search engine, we get a donation. They also have a shop app, swipe agreement, and more!

You can check out the Frequently Asked Questions page on the GoodSearch site for more information.

Please share this with your friends! A few clicks a day can make a BIG difference for us! Now, I'm not asking you to give up Google, because, let's face it-- it's fantastic! Though, even if you use GoodSearch just a few times a day it will make a huge difference for us. 

For example, you could use it to direct yourself to Facebook or your email account. It's that easy!
Thank you all so much for your support!!! 

Our potential is limitless, and it's made possible by generous donors, volunteers, and an amazing staff!

Let Go: Give it to God

As was Reflection the day before, yesterday's Reflection was an amazing experience! Our teens came into the chapel in a quiet, contemplative mood. 

The teens were then asked a poignant question--
 "If you could, with a snap of your fingers, give anything to God-- just leave it with God... what would you give?" 

The teens thought about it for a moment-- and then, one by one, walked up to the alter to relieve themselves of something... to "Give it to God".

"I want to give God my old self. I want to start over... make good choices. I don't care if people make fun of me anymore. There. Take my old self, God. Now I can start over."

"I want to give God the bad decisions I've made.. if I've offended anyone, I'm sorry. I don't want to do that anymore."

"I want to put it out there... I haven't been very nice to my mom. I want God to take that, because I don't want to be mean to my mom."

I was so awesome for us to watch the teens regulate themselves. A few teens were a bit fidget-y during yesterday's Reflection. It was the usual  two or three teens you may seem snickering or making faces at one another. Yesteryday, we didn't need to say a word. Their peers were very serious with them. 

"Stop that. This is serious."

"Hey man, we're in chapel. That's not cool. Relax."

This process of intimate, serious sharing is paving the way for us to engage the teens in the Circle Process. The Circle creates a safe, intimate, and sacred sharing space. The teens are getting something out of it-- opening up to their peers, becoming vulnerable... and they want to protect that space. Every day we are more and more impressed with our teens. They are making such amazing progress so quickly. 

We cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Circles: Justice and Peacebuilding

Yesterday many of our teens were not present-- try outs, athletics, play practice... they do it all! We are so proud an pleased with their level of involvement!

We had a small group at the MKC yesterday-- only about 20 teens. This was the perfect time to try a more intimate form of Reflection. Everyone held hands, became quiet together. We talked about some rudimentary quantum physics, and the idea of shared energy. 

Then, the teens were asked an intimate and poignant question- 
"Who needs healing light in your life?"

While our group is usually willing to share amongst their peers-- this was a different experience. With less people, each teen got a chance to speak more. They felt comfortable and willing to give a name-- and then a reason they needed healing energy/light. 

On a normal sharing of concerns and love we may hear answers like:

"My mom." 

"My dad."

"My cousin."

Yesterday we were given a much more telling glance into the emotional weight these teens are carrying: 

"My mom needs healing light... because she is having a hard time at her job(s)..."

"My cousin. He is in jail again... and he needs love." 

Our teens were more willing to share intimate details about a need for healing in their lives and the lives of those they love. This is an important step towards implementing  The Circle Process here at the Center. 

The Circle Process is one wherein:

1. A talking piece is the primary mode of regulating the conversation, so that each person has an equal opportunity to speak.

2. Participants engage in an intentional conversation about values and a set of guidelines for how they want to be together.

3. The process opens and closes with some form of ceremony.

4. Building relationships precedes and is treated as equally important as tackling difficult issues.

The "Circle" is a safe space, where resolution can be found, voices can be heard-- and restorative justice can begin. 

It is an important conflict-resolution model-- and a way to go beyond resolution to restoration. 

More about Circles and the Circle Process:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Food Drive: Grand Prize!!!

Our canned food drive is in full-swing! 

The teen who brings in the most cans/shelf-stable items will be awarded this awesome fleece!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Making Connections: A New Alumnae Association

As is all things, life is change.

Though our schools have closed they have forever opened our hearts. The trials, tribulations, and lessons learned in high school follow you to college and beyond. They help shape a person intrinsically, extrinsically, spiritually, and emotionally in a way that is only comprehended long after graduation. 

We seek to bring this new Alumnae Association and the Maria Kaupas Center together, sharing connections, resources, good memories, and a bright future. 

The Maria Kaupas Center is a place designed to help today's teens develop those same gifts-- with the same spirit of caring expressed by Mother Maria Kaupas. 

If you are an alumnae of either SCA or MHS, you have special gifts, and we would love for you to come share them.  If you have an idea for an after school class or session, please email Britt Quinn for information on making a difference in the lives of students through volunteering. 

Additionally, we would love to see you at our next Alumnae Association meeting. You can come, share ideas, stories, and help shape what the future of what our Alumnae Association will look like. We are currently looking for volunteers to take minutes and chair the meetings. Please inquire about these important positions! 

Come connect, re-connect, and share you unique thoughts and ideas!

Check out the new Alumnae Association Page on Facebook!

Winter Tips: Staying Healthy!

It's that time of year! 

The season is changing, the air is becoming cold and damp. It's here again; cold and flu season is upon us. 

With the weather change, less daylight, and an overall feeling of "lowered resistance"- it's important to take some steps to stay healthy in the Winter. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers some easy tips for staying healthy during the season when everyone is sick. 

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get a vaccination each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. There are also flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent the flu.

1. Avoid close contact.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

2. Stay home when you are sick.

If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

3. Cover your mouth and nose.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Clean your hands.

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Practice other good health habits.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

We want our teens healthy, active, and able to come to school and the MKC! Let's make sure we are hand-washing (even after eating tasty nachos and licking our fingers), getting enough sleep, getting enough vitamin C & D, and staying well enough to enjoy the season!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What is Commitment?

Too often I hear disapproving concerns about today's teenagers.

The most vocal complaint about teens today is usually about their "lack of personal responsibility and commitment".

While teenagers today are different than they were twenty or thirty years ago, they are still teenagers. These are individuals in a transitional period-- they are learning about themselves, the world, and their relationship to others. 

One of the most important things we can pass on to adolescents is the meaning of "personal responsibility" and "commitment". If we model positive behaviors, our children will learn them. 

Keeping our promises
Being consistent
Not engaging in hypocrisy
Following through on our actions

These are the traits that we hope to pass down to our youth. We must do so by modeling and upholding these values. 

Yesterday in Reflection the teens were confronted with an important notion. 

If someone is only as good as their word, how good are you-- or how good are you perceived? 

Do people trust what you have to say? 
Do you follow through when you make a promise?
Are you making good decisions in a tangible way?

The teens were quiet and thoughtful on these notions. They understood that, in a very real way, their actions dictate the world's view of them. 

We encourage our teens here at the MKC to make thoughtful, positive decisions... and they are understanding what that looks like. The progress they've made in regards to personal growth, just since the beginning of the school year, has been amazing. 

We look forward to this new adventure every day. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

MKC Food Drive Kick-Off!

Today marks the kick-off the Maria Kaupas Center food drive. We are collecting donations to help replenish the food pantries in the area. 

We are so fortunate. We have enough food to eat, and we have access to much more than most. 
Let's show our gratitude for all we have by sharing with those who are not so fortunate. 

If you are interested in making a donation to our food drive, 
please contact Amy Eckhouse or Britt Quinn.