School News

Students Learn Self Defense Techniques During Physical Education
Alex LeMoine

This semester, freshmen PE students at Prairie Ridge High School are learning self defense techniques under the instruction of Team Curran Jiu-Jitsu. Jeff Curran, a professional fighter of 20 years and founder of Team Curran, spends each 45-minute session demonstrating self defense skills and allowing the students to practice themselves. 

“We have them coming in for five sessions and every Friday they’re coming in to teach the freshmen some skills and techniques,” said Michelle Loeding, a PE teacher at Prairie Ridge. “On the first day they taught some release techniques and today they’re going to do some escape techniques.” 

The goal with the curriculum is to incorporate simple and common skills that students can easily remember and apply to a real-life scenario. 

“When I put into real context what life could be like if somebody were to actually try to hurt you, I get their attention. It’s been fun working with them,” said Jeff Curran.

The students see value in what they are learning. 

“I’m really liking this class because the world isn’t a perfect place and sometimes you might run into a bad situation and it’s always good to be prepared,” Prairie Ridge freshman, Brady Rogers, said. 

His classmate and fellow freshman, Grace Koeppen, agreed.

“It’s very helpful, definitely in the future, if you run into a sketchy situation you’ll know what to do,” said Koeppen. 

Jeff Curran and his team will continue to visit Prairie Ridge for three more sessions this month.

Three D155 Schools Named Best STEM High Schools
Shannon Podzimek

Three District 155 high schools rank among the nation’s Best High Schools in science, technology, engineering and math. Prairie Ridge High School, Cary-Grove High School, and Crystal Lake Central High School earned spots in the top 16 percent on Newsweek’s list.

  • Prairie Ridge High School  - 2,145
  • Cary-Grove High School - 2,660
  • Crystal Lake Central High School - 3,908

Thirty-nine percent of D155 graduates from the class of 2019 are pursuing STEM career paths.

District 155 offers more than 50 STEM courses. D155 was the first district in McHenry County to implement the MobileMakersEdu coding academy at Crystal Lake Central High School during the 2018-19 school year. The Mobile App Development course teaches students to develop fully functioning apps as well as the skills to become part of the fast growing engineering and software design job market. developed a scoring system that analyzes data, what schools offer in STEM fields, and how students are prepared for postsecondary endeavours. Skilled teachers who develop curriculum to provide innovative instruction are also a factor in rankings.

Newsweek released the top STEM High Schools for 2020 on November 8.

D155 Students & Parents Explore Manufacturing Careers
Shannon Podzimek

Eighty-eight students and parents had a unique opportunity to explore local manufacturing careers during the second “Made In Your Own Backyard” event on October 10. The event aims to increase awareness of products manufactured locally; and educate parents and middle and high school students about the diverse manufacturing field.

“I didn’t know that locally they actually make big products like this, so it was really cool,” Dylan Deleon, a Crystal Lake South High School student.

District 155 partnered with feeder districts, General Kinematics, Mathews Company, Precision Waterjet, and Swiss Automation. The Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce founded the event in 2018 and sponsored this year’s event along with the Cary-Grove Chamber of Commerce.

“Most kids in today’s world are focused on going to college and we, as America, need people in trades. And, this is a great way to expose them to that,” said Rob Stuebing, a Cary-Grove parent.

The event began with a brief presentation about relevant coursework offered by each D155 high school. Students and parents then toured two manufacturing companies. The event was free to attend because of generous donations from the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Cary-Grove Chamber of Commerce.

“I signed up for it because I’m taking CNC [precision machining] right now and I really think the machines are cool and I wanted to learn more about them,” said Kathryn Thompson, a Cary-Grove High School student.

This open house event is a localized version of MFG Day, a national day of recognition to inspire a future generation of manufacturers.


Four D155 Students Earn Spot in All-State Theatre Production
Alex LeMoine

Four District 155 seniors were selected to participate in the All-State production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida as a part of the 45th Annual Illinois High School Theatre Festival. Cary-Grove senior, Allan Lopez, and Crystal Lake South high school students, Daniel Marable and Gabrielle Urbina earned spots in the company’s ensemble. Prairie Ridge High School senior, Nicholas Lingner, earned a place in the orchestra. 

“What I have enjoyed most about my participation in this musical is meeting students and staff from different schools as well as the opportunity to work alongside the crew. I’ve really enjoyed bonding with the company as we work towards our common goal,” said Allan Lopez, Cary-Grove senior.

The All-State cast, crew, and orchestra are comprised of top student performers, musicians, and technicians from across the state. More than 175 students auditioned for the musical and only 98 were selected for the final production company.

“Auditions for the production were held at Glenbard North High School in early June. I selected "High Flying Adored" as my audition song as it is similar to the style of the music in Aida. I also had to perform a monologue for the audition,” said Daniel Marable, Crystal Lake South senior.

Rehearsals for Aida will take place over several weekends this fall. Aida runs Thursday, January 9 through Saturday, January 11, 2020, at the Braden Auditorium at Illinois State University. 

“I wanted to be in the All-State production for the opportunity to make music with other great musicians. I love playing percussion and have a great time performing music with other people,” said Nicholas Lingner, Prairie Ridge senior.

The Illinois High School Theatre Festival is the largest and oldest non-competitive high school theatre festival in the nation and is produced by the Illinois Theatre Association.  

Four D155 Students Named National Merit Semifinalists
Rochelle LeBreck

The National Merit® Scholarship Program named four District 155 seniors as 2019 National Merit® Semifinalists. The semifinalists represent less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors and are the highest-scoring students in each state.

Carissa Hufford- Crystal Lake South
Daisy Kucharski- Prairie Ridge
Robbie Nollett- Cary-Grove
Vad Patel- Cary-Grove

Carissa Hufford is a senior at Crystal Lake South High School. She is involved in choir and theatre and volunteers at BraveHearts, a therapeutic horse barn. Carissa plans to study animal science with a concentration in equine therapy and production. She credits her parents for the National Merit® Semifinalist recognition.

 “I wouldn’t anywhere near where I am right now without their constant love and support and how much they were willing to sacrifice to show that dreams really can come true,” said Carissa Hufford, a Crystal Lake South senior. 

 Daisy Kucharski is a senior at Prairie Ridge High School. She is involved in madrigals, math team, science olympiad, scholastic bowl, and set-crew. During her junior year, she earned a perfect score on the ACT. After graduation, Daisy plans to study finance.

Robbie Nollett is a senior at Cary-Grove High School. He plays the trumpet and sits first chair in the wind symphony, conducts the marching band as a drum major, and is a member of the Cary-Grove swing choir. He also participated in WYSE and is an active member of the National Honor Society. Robbie earned a perfect score on the ACT in February 2019. Robbie plans to attend a four-year university and study materials, chemical, or biomedical engineering. 

Ved Patel is a senior at Cary-Grove High School. He participates in the marching band, math team, WYSE, National Honor Society, and is the captain of scholastic bowl. The senior received a perfect 1600 on the SAT in April and also earned a perfect score on the ACT his sophomore year. Ved plans to study biology or biomedical engineering and wants to eventually go to medical school. For the past year, Ved has volunteered at the Good Shepherd Infusion Center. 

High school students enter the National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®). The exam serves as an initial screening of about 1.5 million students each year. 

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2020 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July.