Bonito Juarez Community Academy
Jonah Bondurant is a diverse learners teacher at Bonito Juarez Community Academy who has made quite an impact on a lot of his students. His students say Mr. Bondurant is genuine, kind- hearted, and committed to being a teacher. He puts in a lot of effort outside of his teaching responsibilities in training students in restorative justice practices. He started the ITAG on restorative justice, and has been proactive in heading the peer conferencing initiative in order to have students be able to resolve conflicts among themselves and support others in the process as well. Due to Mr. Bondurant efforts and initiating such a huge organization for Benito Juarez Community Academy, he has made a change in the re-make of the schools education system and society for his students. He cares a lot about his community and the students that he teaches, and would do anything to help further along their education well beyond high school. It is for these reasons, and more, that Jonah Bondurant truly defines what it means to be a difference-maker in the educational system and within his community! He is more than an educator; he is an advocate, mentor, and father figure to many.
Legal Prep Charter Academy (LCPA)
Zoey Keeney has served as a Legal Prep Charter Academy (LCPA) teacher since fall of 2014, Chicago’s only legal-themed charter high school. Zoey first worked as an English teacher, also juggling Entrepreneurship and Constitutional Law, and now works as LPCA’s Junior and Senior Collegiate Scholars classroom teacher. Zoey also serves as the Alumni Counselor, working with LPCA’s ever-growing number of alumni as they navigate the worlds of colleges, careers, trades, and more. Lastly, Zoey served as the Athletic Director for the last two school years, expanding LPCA’s programming and enriching the experiences for athletes and players.
Zoey helped turn LPCA’s athletics teams into a unified program and supported the boys’ varsity basketball team as they not only won the Blue West conference but entered into the Red West conference in 2018. Zoey is skilled in connecting LPCA students to various resources at both colleges and within the broader communities in which students and alumni interact. Zoey is well connected in the West Garlfield Park community and uses her point of view to help strengthen LPCA’s relationship within both the local community and Chicagoland at large. Zoey has also established a unique relationship with the non-profit One Goal since 2017 and piloted a new 3-year program model for college access.
The transitional programming provided for juniors, seniors, and alumni by Zoey helps increase college persistence for first generation students. Zoey is constantly creating innovative programming with impactful student-first structures and systems to help push the work done in both Legal Prep and for One Goal. Through these roles, she has been able to be an advocate for the community, parents, the school, and most importantly the students. Zoey’s biggest passion is teaching students the soft-skills that open equal doors of opportunity across post-secondary options, hoping to create equality and change within both the workforce and world of higher education. Zoey received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and in 2016 finished a Masters of Arts in Education with a Reading Teacher Endorsement.
Perspectives/IIT Math and Science Academy
Denise Moore is an experienced specialist with a history of working in the education management industry. She is a well-liked discipline life teacher (ADL) that works in Chicago, IL at Perspectives/IIT Math and Science Academy. There she takes on the challenge and role of teaching and educating young scholars on what it means to be ethical, and caring young adults. She dedicates her time to the development of their social emotion skills. She helps them to develop positive self-perception and healthy relationships. Ms. Moore is known around the school as being selfless, genuine, committed and caring towards her scholars. She has helped countless scholars with their college application process, and she has brought numerous organizations and programs to the school. Besides being an excellent teacher, she has coached volleyball, basketball, and now currently her favorite, cheerleading. Ms. Moore teaches her scholars about real life. She teaches how to stand up for yourself, and how to gain confidence to be motivated well beyond high school. She’s very active, and takes on the role of being “mom” to a lot of her students. Her students trust her and come to her for advice. 95% of Perspectives MSA graduates are accepted to college, and Ms. Moore is a big reason for that
Corliss Early College STEM High School
Trenton Sapp has been teaching at Corliss Early College STEM High School for three years as a Broadcast Technology teacher.
Born in the south side of Chicago, Trenton Sapp is a Chicago native where he was taught by his parents that the most important thing in life is knowledge. Trenton’s passion for teaching came to him in college where he felt that too many people were concerned about making their own lives better and not enough people stopped and were concerned about the generation that follows. Thus, through one of his fraternity brothers, he became a tutor/mentor in the Upward Bound Program at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
After graduating from Southern Illinois with a bachelor of arts, he became a teaching aide at George Westinghouse College Prep for Broadcast Technology. There he started paying attention to the struggles that today’s youth face. He made it his goal for them to understand what they face while using the art of broadcast technology to help them express their challenges while channeling their energy, not into what’s happening to them, but into the solution to get them out of that situation.
In 2016, he was hired at Corliss High School where he took this opportunity as an honor to teach in an area he considered his neighborhood while being able to directly impact inner city youth the best way he knew how. During his time here, he learned how to let the students express themselves but to not judge. He states, “my job is to be a guide and step into their world to show them that although their going through rough times, there is always a way to turn positives into negatives. “
Sapp and his students have created a three-season web series called “Behind the Field” about the struggles of everyday teens while they recently wrapped up their first season of another web series called “Out of Bounds”.
He believes that “…the youth we have today have a voice and my passion and goal is to allow them to be heard. My main goal is to provide them with a ‘no excuses’ mentality. My saying in my class is ‘Get comfortable with being uncomfortable’ because there’s always the next step or the next goal in life. Our job as educators is to provide the students with the drive and mentality to overcome all obstacles and I want to continue to give them that opportunity.”
North-Grand High School
Jessica Vargas is a School Counselor at North-Grand High School, a neighborhood school located in the West Humboldt Park area of Chicago. As a counselor for seven years, Ms. Vargas has done much more than provide academic support for her students; she goes above and beyond to be a consistent support and advocate for them. She has developed genuine and trusting relationships with students, parents, staff, and community partners, which is largely due to her caring and collaborative nature. Further, Ms. Vargas leads North-Grand’s Behavioral Health Team (BHT), through which students of socio-emotional concern get referred to, screened, and supported via various school-based interventions, such as grief groups, anger management groups, school-based therapeutic counseling, mentoring programs, and more. Through the BHT, she has helped to maintain various partnerships and connections to community agencies that provide valuable services to the students and families. She also sponsors the school’s Dreamers Club which is dedicated to supporting students who are undocumented. The Dreamers Club provides emotional support, helps develop students’ advocacy skills, and increases post-secondary awareness so that they have a secure plan after graduation. Since Ms. Vargas has been a sponsor of the program, the club has grown significantly in membership, which has largely to do with her diligent efforts in helping students find their voice and empowering them as leaders within the school. For the last two years, she has also sponsored the school’s Students Run Chi running club, which trains students to run their first half-marathon. The program provides free running gear and Ms. Vargas serves as one of the mentors to assist students in developing the discipline and perseverance to physically and mentally train for a feat they have never accomplished before. Our students have walked away from this program feeling extremely accomplished and proud of themselves, which shows in the classroom.
As a school counselor, the work is intense, fast-paced, and requires much, both emotionally and mentally. Ms. Vargas regularly checks in on her students but also makes time to check in with her fellow team members to provide support. She is a respected and admired colleague by her peers for constantly demonstrating integrity and empathy.
Jessica Vargas is more than just an educator, she is a hero in our community as evidenced by the many lives she has impacted. We are blessed and honored to be able to share her impact.