North Shore Kiwanis Reporter (Chicago)

Winning Essays from the 2014 8th Grade Essay Contest

Posted in Local Schools, Service Project by claycerny on July 14, 2014

This year’s essay contest had several excellent essays, which are posted below.  Our club thanks our local schools, teacher, and students for doing such wonderful work.


Photos from the event are post after the essays.


Nguyen Hua


Goudy School

For as along as I can remember, martial arts have influenced me. The sport can be described as destructive and brutal. Yet, at times, it is showcased with magnificent beauty and grace. Out of all the coaches I have known, one stands out as an influential elder with virtues and beliefs that ultimately affect my decisions today. Most importantly, this person also stands out as a friend.

Sensei Miran, just the mention of the name gives everyone in the TKD community thoughts of a fearsome man with exceptional skills and incredible speed. Yet, above all, Miran is also a person gleaming with knowledge and passion. Being taught by him, I can relate how easy it is to talk and share thoughts with him. Miran incorporates his virtues of respect, passion, confidence, and determination into everything he does, including teaching students. “Everything is a game of chess,” he would say. This implied that everything we do on a daily basis uses the mind, and the ability to think critically is crucial to success.

The things that Miran has taught me will always stay in my mind. From those moments and even now, I continue to memorize and utilize these virtues to strive and improve. My life would not have been the same without the influence of Miran. Every single one of my decisions can be credited to him, something that I will never forget.

Jocelyn Neidballa

Goudy School


An elder who has influenced me was my fifth grade musical director, Toby Nicholson. He was my first musical director and saw potential in me. Toby inspired me to keep doing my main love, musical theater, and devoted all his time to something he loves.

Toby gave me courage and saw potential in everyone. He got to know me personally. I got very comfortable around him, and I was open both onstage and offstage. He didn’t forget about anyone involved and took his time to get us at our best.

Toby inspired me to keep doing musical theatre. The Wizard of Oz was the highlight of my fifth grade year. I got to be myself without being judged. He wrote letters to everyone, and mine said that I did a great job portraying the Scarecrow and that I should continue in musical theater because I could go far.

Toby is devoted to the arts. As our volunteer director, he was focused and loved helping us. He inspired me to keep doing what I love.

This is why Toby Nicholson has influenced me. He gave me confidence and sees potential in everybody. He is the reason why I continue to do musical theater. Lastly, he loves what he does and doesn’t stop.



Susie Lin

Goudy School


Every child has a dream they hope to one day accomplish, but with life’s daily challenges in the way, not necessarily everyone can do so. However, my influential elder and older sister Melissa has shown me that it is possible.

When she was in high school, Melissa was forced to take on the responsibility as head of the household, due to the fact that my parents could not always be around. Melissa had to juggle her advanced placement classes and several extracurricular activities while still managing to complete all the household chores. Even though she shouldered much stress and had to work long into the night, through all of her hard work, Melissa still excelled and preserved her honor roll status.

Even now, Melissa is in college, but her busy lifestyle has not changed. She has to balance a demanding job along with her six classes. Despite this, when I need her, she drops everything and makes me a priority. Now that I am older, I can empathize with how challenging school, family, and life in general can be. But seeing Melissa achieve everything she sets out to do, I know I can accomplish the same.



Lesley Manzo

Hayt School


I think that the most influential person in my life would have to be Derek Smith, also known as Mod Sun. He was born March 10, 1987. He is a rapper and refers to his musical genre as “Hippy Hop.”

“Movement on dreams; stand under none” is what state name stands for. His motto is: “No fans, just friends.” In 2011, he was chosen by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top sixteen unsigned artists in the world. He is just the type of person who seems to have all those positive vibes that make you want to be that way and look at the bright side of things and not the bad. If you look on his website, it says, “Mod Sun’s mission statement is very clear: Choose to be happy.” That basically says it all. Choose to be happy. That’s what you have to do.

Going to one of his concerts is one of the best things you could do. I’m happy to say that I got to go in 2012. Although I was there for a band called Never Shout Never, which was my favorite band back then and still is now, there were others playing at the concert as well: Me Like Bees, Man Overboard, and Mod Sun. At the time, I didn’t know who he was, and I had never heard of him. But as soon as he came onstage, there was this wave of energy that went over the crowd. I can’t explain it. This was new to me, but it was really cool. He was jumping around all over the stage, and his long hair was all over his face.

Everyone was singing. In his songs, Mod Sun spoke about being happy and being about the “hug life.” I definitely saw his positive energy rubbing off on every else, including me. Now he is one of my favorite artists, who continues to influence by life by teaching me to stay positive and be happy.


Abdul Feroz

Hayt School


Elders. . . knowledgeable, experienced, influential, and wise. Everyone has an elder in their life who they can look up to for advice or general guidance. One of the major elders in my life was my grandmother, Khatoon Wahid, who provided me with wisdom and advice.

My grandma influenced my life by teaching me about the world. She taught me how everyone had the power to make changes and how the world was beautiful but cruel. She had lived in Burma before it became a communist country. She told me about the peacefulness in Burma and also about the cruelty. She told me to think about on the positive side and always have hope.

In addition, my grandma was a strict person on the rules of society and the treatment of others. She influenced me to be responsible for my actions and to respect others no matter what. She told me that actions had consequences and that words were just as strong as actions. Therefore, I always weigh the pros and cons of my actions before acting.

Overall, my grandma has been a major influence upon my life. Sometimes I began to think why I would never need this advice in the future. However, when I encountered a problem my grandma taught me to solve, I knew why. My grandma taught me from her mistakes and experiences, shaping me for good.



Aqsa Muhammed

Hayt School


Throughout my life, I think the person who influenced me the most was probably my late grandmother, Zarina. She will always be the kindest and purest person I ever met. No matter what, this woman would keep going. She would never stop, ever.

Throughout her life, she stayed positive no matter what happened. At age 49, she was diagnosed with cancer and even then, honestly, I never saw her wipe that smile off her face. She was kind to everyone: strangers, friends, and family. It didn’t matter to her if you were black, white, tall, short, fat, or skinny. No matter what race, color, or religion you were, as long as you were kind to her, she would be kind to you. She was the most real and amazing person I’ve ever known . Every single morning, there’s nothing else except the memory of that keeps me going. Just the look on her face, the smile widespread across her mouth, the sparkle in her eyes even though we all knew she was tired.

Day after day, she would fight. “Fight for all the amazing things,” she would say. For all the amazing things she had seen and yet to see. She fought lymphoma for over seven long years and not a day went by where she wasn’t all that she could be. She put so much effort into everything and, despite the pain and everything that was pushing her down, she would never stop trying.

Although she had diabetes and cancer, and because she was on so many dietary restrictions, she wouldn’t let this stop her. She would always say, “Live life to its fullest; no regrets.” She would eat all the things she wasn’t supposed to. Run and jump around with us kids even though she was supposed to be on bed rest. Even though she would be in immense pain, she knew, even before cancer, that any day could be her last. She always wanted to give the people around her a good time and not have them down because of her. She never made it seem like she hated cancer or hated being in the state she was in. She always appreciated everything and knew that everything had a purpose for happening and that everyone had a purpose for living. She is and always will be the most influential and one of the most important people in my life.



Inara Virani

Passages Charter School


My cousin Sahar is my influential elder. She was born and lives in Pakistan. My cousin has gone through so much in her life. When she was little, she fell into a gutter. The gutters in Pakistan are filled with dirty water, which makes them disgusting. Luckily, my cousin kept her elbows on the sides to keep her body from falling in. That’s just one of the tragedies Sahar went through.

Sahar was also burned. In Pakistan, there is barely any hot water, so you have to heat water on the stove. My cousin was about five years old, and she was running around her house. She didn’t see her mom coming with a pot of boiling water and accidentally bumped into her. Sahar’s entire front body was burned, and she had to stay in bed for months. She didn’t like it, but she learned that whatever she was going through back then would help her accomplish her goals now.

My cousin has taught me many things. She taught me that the little things I’m going through now are just little tests to see whether or not I will give up. She said to ignore the small things and prove to the world that nothing can bring me down. For example, I used her advice when my childhood best friends started rumors about me. I was hurt and wanted to cry, but I remembered my cousin’s advice. She said to ignore them and stand up for myself. That’s exactly what I did. I stood up for myself. This is why Sahar is my influential elder.



Erica Navarro

Passages Charter School


My influential elder is Pastor Osvaldo due to his positive impact on my life. Pastor Osvaldo always finds the bright side of bad situations. He is also someone I can count on because is open-minded and doesn’t judge or criticize people. Instead, he does all he can to help them.

Some of the things Pastor Osvaldo has taught me are to always have faith, hope, and to think positively. This has impacted my life because I have become a happier person and now know that a blessing will come after every bad situation.

Due to Pastor Osvaldo, I have gained more knowledge of my religion as well as my savior. Now I look at things in the world with a different perspective and have learned to think about both the positive and negative consequences of actions before I commit them.

Pastor Osvaldo has also taught me to never give up and to fight for what’s right even if I’m fighting alone. For example, one time during an event at our church we were playing a bean bag game, which I wasn’t good at. During the game, Pastor Osvaldo encouraged me to never give up and keep trying and do my best. Since then, I have tried to do the best I can no matter what.



Micquela Washington

Peirce School

Although I only had thirteen years with my grandmother, I felt like I spent an eternity with her. To me, my grandmother’s words had the power to inspire a nation. My grandma Ruth was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and she moved to Chicago with her sisters to guarantee her family a better life. The love she had for her family will last forever and a day.

She worked for 25 years while taking care of her five children. She taught me that sometimes you have to go to the end of the Earth to make sure your family is protected. My grandmother opened her house after school to make sure that the neighborhood kids stayed off the streets.

My grandma was the glue that held together my family. Even after her death, she still continues to teach me lessons that will stay with me forever. She taught me that “grief doesn’t change you. It reveals you.” She opened my eyes , turned my life upside down, and showed me how short life really is. My grandma taught me, “Whenever there’s a human being, there’s an opportunity to be kind.”



Marilyn Toapanta

Peirce School


Someone who has influenced me is my older sister. Not only is she my sister, but my role model and my best friend.

She went through a lot as a child. My parents moved from Ecuador to New York City and left my sister in Ecuador with my brother. She was too young to take care of herself and my brother, but she was still somehow she was able to manage it. After a while my brother was sent to New York with my parents, and my sister was left with some cousins. Something horrible happened to her that traumatized her.

Now she’s 20 years old and is in college finishing school. What I like most about her is that she is determined and doesn’t let what other people say get in her way. She doesn’t let the criticism get inside her head. I see her as a strong woman. She’s helped me make the right decisions and leads me on a path to a better future. She wants the best for me and wants me to be happy. I’m glad I have her in my life, and I’m proud to say that out of all people she is the one who has influenced me the most.



Anthony Roman

Peirce School


The person who inspires me the most is my brother Johnny. Every time he smiles, I feel like a new person. The most inspiring thing about him is that he has Down’s syndrome. Even though he has challenges, he is still cheerful every day and has a lot to contribute to the world.

Johnny inspires me to work hard in school because he himself is a hard worker. When I first started in 8th grade this year, I told myself it was going to be hard, and I wouldn’t be able to do all the work. But my view of the 8th grade changed after my brother told me that he goes to work , and it made me realize he has to work very to do what he does, so I should too.

If it wasn’t for him, then I wouldn’t see life the way I do today. When I found out that he had Down’s syndrome, I was a little shocked because I thought that he was very sick and that Down’s syndrome was really bad to have. But this isn’t the case. Even though he has Down’s syndrome, he can still make a change, like he has in my life.



Guy Lohoua

Swift School


I feel that the most influential person in my life right now is my Math teacher, Mrs. Loveland. I feel Mrs. Loveland is the most influential person in my life because she has been my teacher since the fifth grade. Along the way, when I’ve lost my way, she gives me helpful advice such as “trust yourself” or “you only fail if you never try.” And that advice always puts me back on track.

Mrs. Loveland is a caring person who never hesitates to help out a person in need. She is strict at times, but sometimes we do need a little tough love. Mrs. Loveland isn’t afraid to tell us that the harsh realities of this world, but she also helps us build personalities to fight those harsh realities. If it weren’t for Mrs. Loveland, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. She has literally made our classroom into a land full of love!



Elmer Rodriguez

Swift School


My significant elder who taught me things in life is Juan. When Juan first came to America, he had no money, no place to stay, but that didn’t stop him from trying to make it. He eventually found a great place to live, made good money and had a great job.   He didn’t have anyone in his life, no family. He was a loner, but he decided to move where my parents live, which is Chicago, Illinois, near the beach.

When I was born, he told me he saw how I was going to be different from everybody else. He just saw something in me that made him look at me differently. You see, he taught me to never give up on my goals and work hard for them. It started when I got mad that I was the only one who couldn’t play soccer. So Juan took his time and taught me how to play. It was very difficult for me to learn, but Juan told me if I gave up I would never become the man I want to be in the future.

Juan taught me to be loyal and honest and to be the bigger person and, in return, God would reward me. Speaking of God, Juan told me to be religious and never forget what God helps us with and I had to pray and be thankful for what I was given.

With Juan teaching me, life is perfect for me, and I love it. What I hate is that he went out one night and didn’t return. He was shot and killed. It was gruesome hearing that announcement, but in time I have begun to heal. I will never forget Juan until I die, and I am thankful for what he has done for me.



Stecy Mbemba

Swift School


Who do you call when you need help? Do you call a friend, a parent, or teacher? I call Nely Bergsma. Nely has influenced me by teaching me to be independent, ambitious, and confident.

As a single mother, Nely’s very independent. She doesn’t depend on anyone for anything. She’s taught me to not only be independent in my actions, but also in my thinking and emotions.

Growing up was tough for Nely. Coming to America from Cuba, she didn’t know English. She also couldn’t go to a prestigious school. Despite that and many other disincentives, Nely persevered. Today, she’s the founder of Penado Charitable Organization (PCO), a program that mentors young girls like me. She knew what she wanted and made it a reality. This shows that it doesn’t matter where you came from, but it’s where you’re going.

Nely is very comfortable in her skin. From her, I’ve learned that you can’t teach someone something if you’re not sure of it yourself. That’s why you must be confident in your thinking, emotions, and actions. It also makes you feel better.

So, when I need help, I call a friend, a third parent, and a teacher: Nely Bergsma.



A Breakdown of Most Influential Elders


160 essays were submitted for this year’s contest. They broke down in this way:

30            Grandmothers

22            Grandfathers

17            Uncles

14            Teacher

14            Aunts

13            Sisters

13            Friends

13            Cousins

9              Coaches

8              Brothers

3              Celebrities (President Obama, Oprah, LeBron James)

3              Priests & Ministers

1              StreetWise Vendor



Kiwanis Club of the North Shore recognizes and thanks the dedicated students, teachers, administrators, parents, and families from the following schools:







 You make Andersonville, Edgewater, and Uptown a better place to live.


“The pen is the tongue of the mind”




2014 Essay Contest Chanpions

2014 Essay Contest Champions



Anthony Roman & his influential brother, Johnny

Anthony Roman & his influential brother, Johnny


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2014 Kiwanis essay contest 012


2014 Kiwanis essay contest 008


2014 Kiwanis essay contest 010


2014 Kiwanis essay contest 017


Reading & Writing Chicago Style II: Our Neighborhood Schools – Then & Now

Posted in Kiwanis Social Activity, Local Schools by claycerny on April 2, 2014

This fundraiser will support North Shore Kiwanis Club’s Local School Literacy Programs.

North Shore Kiwanis Club supports reading programs and an 8th grade essay contest at local schools, including Goudy, Hayt, Peirce, and Swift. All funds raised at this event will be used for these programs.

Our program will include presentations by Principals from neighborhood public schools in Andersonville and Edgewater as well as readings from student essays. Food and beverages will be provided. Silent auction/raffle that will include a book signed by Jimmy Carter and Cubs tickets.

The event will be held at the Swedish Museum (5211 N. Clark Street) on

Monday, April 28, 2014 from 7-9 p.m. Tickets $35 online & at the door

To order tickets: click here

A Great Performance at a Great School

Posted in Local Schools by claycerny on December 15, 2013

Last Thursday, I was very lucky to attend a performance at Senn High School.  The Civic Orchestra of Chicago was joined by Yo-Yo Ma in a rehearsal of Strauss’ Don Quixote, which will be presented in its final form at the school in April.  I enjoy classical music, but have little training in the art.  That did not matter with Yo-Yo Ma on stage.  He walked the audience through the performance and helped us understand how the music told a story.  After the performance, he took several questions, many of which came from enthusiastic children who were also musicians.  Before the performance, Senn’s principal, Susan Lofton, gave a stirring address about how the school has improved and how it is part of the Edgewater neighborhood.  The fine Chicago news website DNAInfo has a summary of the event as well as a video.

The Other Side of Closing Trumbull School

Posted in Local Schools by claycerny on April 17, 2013

A great website on Chicago news, DNAinfoChicago, has an article on the closing of Trumbull School that gives some very different views from CPS.  Please read this article and make up you own mind.

Hayt School is a Great School

Posted in Local Schools, Service Project by claycerny on February 18, 2013

We recently met with our old friend Principal Dan Gomez of Hayt Elementary School.  Principal Gomez described the successes his students are enjoying.  He also described a major renovation of the school that makes it ADA compliant.  Our donation of $500 will be used to purchase books for the school library and classroom collections.  We thank Principal Gomez and his dedicated staff for their service to the children of Edgewater.

Hank Kiel, Phyllis Nickels, and Principal Dan Gomez

Hank Kiel, Phyllis Nickels, and Principal Dan Gomez

Passages Charter School

Posted in Local Schools, Service Project by claycerny on February 18, 2013

Our club recently donated $500 to support reading and literacy programs at Passages Charter School.  We met with Principal Nicolle Feinberg and Dean Robert Flick who told us that the school is growing and generating results.  Passages is ranked 13th in the state and now offers classes from Pre-K through 8th Grade. The school is very diverse with students who speak 33 different languages.  We our happy to support this school through our gift of a $500 gift card to Women and Children First Bookstore in Andersonville.

Principal Nicolle Feinburg, Robert Flick, and Kim Kaulas

Principal Nicolle Feinburg, Robert Flick, and Kim Kaulas

2012 Division One Thanksgiving Party

Posted in Kiwanis Social Activity, Local Schools by claycerny on November 21, 2012

Today our club enjoyed a fine lunch and even finer jazz music at Division One’s annual Thanksgiving Party, which was held at Lane Tech High School.  The event was catered and served by Lane Tech’s very dedicated Key Club, which is also carrying out service projects that include blood drives and food collections.

The following members of our club attended the event: President Greg Katzman, Kim Kaulas, Mary Scheuller, David Behm, Hans Kuhnle, Gloria Aykroid, Phyllis Nickels, and Clay Cerny.  We thank Lakeview and the Lane Key Club for their hospitality and service.

Lane Tech’s Jazz Band Knows How to Swing!

North Shore Kiwanis Club


Kegs For Kids

Posted in Local Schools by claycerny on August 19, 2012

Friends of Peirce will hold its annual Kegs for Kids fundraiser on Sunday, September 9 from 12 pm to 5 pm.  The location will be Hopleaf Bar (5148 N. Clark Street).  Anyone who cares about local schools (especially Peirce) or wants to taste enjoy a one-of-a-kind beer tasting (with food from local restaurants) should attend this event.

Helen C. Peirce School of International Studies is great local school staffed by committed teachers.  Kiwanis, it deserves our support.

Essay Contest & Lunch with Dick Simpson

Posted in Local Schools, Public Event by claycerny on April 28, 2012

Our club and our friends at the Ravenswood club are hosting events in early May.

On Tuesday, May 8, at 12:15, KiwanisClubNorthShorewill host its annual 8th Grade Essay Contest at the Fireside Restaurant.  We will be joined by students, teachers, and parents from 7 local schools.  All Kiwanis club members and friends are welcome.  We will service pizza and soft drinks.  There is no charge for this event.

On Thursday, May 10, Ravenwood Kiwanis Club will host former alderman and UIC professor Dick Simpson, who will discuss politics in Chicago.  The event will be held at Barba Yanai Restaurant in Lincoln Square (4761 N. Lincoln), beginning at 12 noon.  Lunch will be buffet style.  Cost is $25 (advance) and $30 (day of event).  Free parking is available at MB Financial Bank.

Reading Grant to Peirce School

Posted in Local Schools, Service Project, Uncategorized by claycerny on February 20, 2012

At our meeting last Tuesday, the club awarded a $500 grant to Peirce School to purchase books from Women and Children First Bookstore in Andersonville.  Principal Nancy Mendez and International Baccalaureate Program Director Jennifer Foss told us about many exciting things that are happening at the school.  Jennifer is launching the IB program, which will make Peirce a feeder school to Senn High School, which has a similar program.  The school is also holding a Career Day on April 12 to expose 8th graders to different options for their future.  We thank Principal Mendez and Ms. Foss for their visit and their commitment to teaching students at Peirce School.

Jennifer Foss, Principal Nancy Mendez, and Kim Kaulas