STUDENTS | May 27, 2021
John F. Kennedy High School senior Angelo’s Naviance page displays a number that has never been achieved before by a Kennedy student—a college scholarship total of more than $2 million. After being accepted into top universities across the country, he decided to attend Vanderbilt University on a full ride, citing the campus and an unfamiliar location as two of the main reasons behind his choice.
“I wanted to gain some responsibility outside of what it’s like to live in Chicago,” he said. “When I went to Vanderbilt, it was beautiful. You can tell when a campus has life, and I felt it there.”
While you might think that breaking this record will be how Angelo remembers his time at Kennedy, he won’t be summing up his experience through a single number—or even a list of accomplishments. Instead, he explains that the people who make up CPS have been the highlights of his time both in elementary and high school.
“There are so many people in CPS who are looking out for the best of you,” he said. “I met some of the most interesting people here. I still keep in contact with some of my eighth-grade teachers, and, during high school, I met Ms. Olszewski, one of the most wonderful people I know.”
Of course, Angelo has also formed special bonds with his peers. One of his favorite memories of high school took place during the last track race of his sophomore year. A teammate of his, a senior, finished her race in first place, and Angelo immediately hugged her and started carrying her around. He describes it as one of his most wholesome experiences at Kennedy, proof that lifting up others (literally and figuratively) is often just as important as your own achievements.
He has a photo from that track meet of the two of them together, and he plans to print it out and bring it with him to Vanderbilt as a way of remembering where he came from.
In addition to running track and cross country all four years, Angelo stayed busy in high school by participating in a journalism program through After School Matters. It focused on advocacy and social justice, allowing him to learn more about topics including the Black Lives Matter movement and experience protests like the Drag March for Change. He wrote an article about undocumented college students.
Inside the classroom, he’s discovered his passion for psychology by taking Theory of Knowledge with Ms. Olszewski, which is part of the IB program at Kennedy and focuses on how the human mind evaluates different situations. He is also passionate about biology, hoping to eventually go to medical school to become a surgeon. Angelo admits that he doubted himself more near the beginning of high school, and that his time at Kennedy helped him develop more confidence.
“Kennedy opened up the possibility for me to say that I’ll be able to go into medical school and be able to reach my goals,” he said. “It also will remind me that just because I’m going to an elite college doesn’t mean that I can lose the motivation that I had in high school.”
Maturity stands out to Angelo as a quality that he’s cultivated within himself over the past four years. This growth became especially apparent to him near the beginning of the college process, when a few of his plans fell through. As a high school freshman, he might have let the pressure get to him. But, as a senior, he kept working hard, and, just a few months later, is preparing to head off to an amazing university as a first-generation college student and is leaving Kennedy at the top of his class.
“A few years ago, I tended to always want to know what was going to happen the next day,” he said. “As you get older, you realize that things will change in your life all the time. You just need to remember not to stress yourself out because everything will fall into place.”
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