School News

Two D155 Students' Work Featured in IAEA Art Show 
Alex LeMoine

Two art students in District 155, Kaitlyn Ellison and Kaitlin Martin, had their artwork selected to appear in this year’s Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA) state-wide student art show. Ellison submitted an original photograph and Martin created a piece using colored pencil.

“The piece of artwork that was selected for the show was a photograph I took of my sister through a sheet of ice. I took it in February of this year after the ice on our pool had started to melt. When I found out my piece won, I was very excited and honored I had won such an award. Everyone had such amazing pieces!” said Ellison, a sophomore at Crystal Lake Central.

Ellison is currently enrolled in Art and Design with Crystal Lake Central Art teacher, Kerry Parrish and has previously taken Visual Art & Technology and Photo I. She is interested in pursuing a career in photojournalism. 

“She is a very hardworking, and talented photographer, the honor is well deserved. She is also a Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Award Winner, so other agencies have recognized her work,” said Parrish of Ellison.  

Martin, a junior at Prairie Ridge, was one of three 11th graders whose artwork was selected for the art show.  She has taken several art classes at Prairie Ridge, including Studio 1, Studio 2: 2D, Studio 2: 3D, and AP® Studio.

“I am thrilled to have Kaitlin's artwork selected.  Kaitlin is a hard working student with lots of great ideas.  Although the piece selected highlights Kaitlin's drawing abilities she has also had 3d work selected for the IHSAE as well.  She is a very skilled artist and an all around great person,” said Aaron Cummins, Art teacher at Prairie Ridge.

Students across Illinois in grades kindergarten through high school submitted their work at the end of last year and over 40 pieces of artwork will be featured on the IAEA’s website all year. Elementary, middle school and high school teachers served as judges for the art show. Submissions were judged on creativity, originality, craftsmanship, and personality. 

Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge are the only school in the district that enters to be in the art show. To see D155 students’ artwork and view the IAEA student art show in full, click here:

Five D155 Students Named National Merit Semifinalists
Alex LeMoine

The National Merit® Scholarship Program named five District 155 seniors as 2020 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.

Max Beck - Prairie Ridge

Luke Kim - Prairie Ridge

Alexander Kitchen - Crystal Lake South

Henry Ryerson - Crystal Lake Central

Sajiv Shah - Prairie Ridge

Max Beck, a senior at Prairie Ridge, is part of the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team that was founded last year, along with the math team and the EIU Academic Challenge team. Outside of school, he is part of an international community of people writing music for retro computers and game consoles, for which he has written songs, helped build a website, and run a few livestreams. Beck is on track to graduate from Prairie Ridge in December 2020. Afterward, he plans to spend time in the workforce before attending college to study computer science and 3D graphics.

Luke Kim has also been selected from Prairie Ridge High School. Kim is a senior involved in National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, Student Council, LINK Crew, Spanish Club, and Varsity Academic Challenge (ACES) team. This spring, he established an outreach program called Fútbol for Hope partnered with HOPE's IN, a nonprofit based out of Barrington, which sends supplies and staple foods to Guatemala City, an impoverished community that was deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kim also volunteers at TOP Soccer, a local organization that works with children with special needs and allows them to develop teamwork and soccer skills in a safe and supportive environment. 

“I hope to study at a university after high school, specializing in incorporating sociology and medicine to help make the world a better place. I'm not sure what college exactly I will be attending, but hope to go to one that fits my interests and allows me to really grow,” said Kim.

Zander Kitchen is a senior at Crystal Lake South High School. He has been recognized as a National AP scholar and is involved in National Honor Society, Student Council, drumline and band, the Crystal Lake South math team, and is a student member of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME). Kitchen is also a varsity wrestler and has served as an AVID program tutor. After high school, Kitchen plans to study engineering and eventually serve in the military as a fighter pilot.

Henry Ryerson attends Crystal Lake Central High School. The senior is passionate about anything to do with computers. He is involved in Computer Club at Crystal Lake Central and his hobbies include coding, video games, and working independently on projects. Ryerson’s plan is to attend college in the future.

Sajiv Shah is the Co-President of National Honor Society, plays football for Prairie Ridge, is a Life Scout in Boy Scouts, is in German National Honor Society & German Club, and competes in Math Team, Scholastic Bowl & the ACES team. He plans to attend a 4-year university, to study economics and mathematics. Shah hopes to pursue a career in finance and eventually move into politics.

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 1.6 million students each year.  The semifinalists represent less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors and are the highest scoring students in each state.

Students will find out if they have advanced to Finalist standing in February 2021. Beginning in March 2021, National Merit Scholarship winners will be awarded.

Prairie Ridge Autos Teacher Uses GoPro in Class During Remote Learning
Alex LeMoine

Stiljan Agolli, an autos teacher at Prairie Ridge High School, is using a GoPro to film his lessons for students during remote learning. Agolli records lessons and live demonstrations for his students in Autos I, Advanced Autos, and Autos Seminar. In addition to having class over Zoom every day, Agolli uses his videos to supplement his students' learning and simulate hands-on experiences.

“I do my Zoom class through my computer in my office and then if we’re doing hands on for that day, if they are watching a live demonstration, then I roll my tool cart over here with my camera set up and my GoPro,” he said. 

Agolli also records videos during his planning periods and lunch hours to review concepts he has already covered in class, or to prepare for future lessons. Eventually, his goal is to use the GoPro to livestream during his classes with real-time demonstrations and repairs.

He is also encouraging his students to engage in hands-on activities while at home and create videos of their own.

“Getting kids to work in groups and build a portfolio and build more relationships with others has been very successful,” he said.

This year, students in autos classes at Prairie Ridge will also have virtual internship opportunities at local businesses in McHenry County. Agolli has planned visits to numerous auto repair and restoration shops in the area where he will hold his class over Zoom while shadowing mechanics or welders and talking to shop owners.

“I’ll be traveling to different shops to find out what they need, what they look for in students and so on, so we get those students jobs while they’re still in school,” said Agolli.

His personal goal is to find all of his students jobs over the course of the semester. Agolli’s mindset is that remote or in-person, there is plenty of work to do to improve students’ learning.

“Everybody’s always trying to find the next and best thing, which is amazing, and everybody’s sharing all the wealth. We’re also communicating with the local colleges and trying to figure out what is best for kids. We’re always striving for the best,” he said.

Fall 2020 Food Service for D155 Students
Alex LeMoine

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Illinois State Board of Education recently announced the extension of the free summer food service program for children ages 18 and under. District 155 will now provide free grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals for children who live in District 155 boundaries, regardless of free/reduced lunch status. 

Meals will be available for pick-up at Crystal Lake Central High School, located at 45 W. Franklin Ave. in Crystal Lake (field house entrance off Walkup). Food will be provided Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

For everyone’s health and safety, bagged meals will be placed on a table for drivers to grab and go to limit exposure and adhere to social distancing guidelines. If your child has any food allergies, please check the nutritional labels on food items.

Information about continued meal distribution will be sent out via email to families, and it will also be posted to the school district websites and social media. Questions about food distribution can be directed to

Prairie Ridge Student Develops Alumni Website to Stay Connected During Remote Learning
Alex LeMoine

Ryan Huellen, a junior at Prairie Ridge High School, has created a website for Prairie Ridge alumni to connect with current students online during remote learning. Currently, over 55 graduates have added their information to the site’s network, including their field of work, educational experiences, employment, memorable high school experiences, and a way for high school students to contact them. 

Huellen developed the website in his computer science class at Prairie Ridge, taught by Brian Burger. He has had an interest in programming and learning about computer science since he was just nine years old, an interest that has come to fruition in his computer science classes at Prairie Ridge. The idea for the alumni website came after Prairie Ridge Industry and Careers/Wellness division leader, Bryan Peckhart, attended a conference that discussed the concept of connecting students with district alumni and inspired Huellen to create his own site. 

“Anything related to software engineering, whether regarding the user interface, user experience, or all the backend code, it all interests me. In a world where we are all connected online, I strive to see where I can impact and change lives for the better,” said Huellen.

Huellen used tools like Google Firebase, VueJS and TailwindCSS to create the website from scratch while ensuring that it is visually appealing. The site maps where in the United States each alum is based and also has a search function that allows users to find graduates based on their field, graduation year or colleges attended. 

“I plan to reach out to a few former students already on the platform who have noted both their degree and career in relation to computer science,” Huellen said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning in District 155, Huellen and his teachers at Prairie Ridge understand the need to increase virtual connections and get creative with professional opportunities for students.

“Under current circumstances, as some seniors may be unsure about their field of interest due to a lack of internships, on-hands experience, or the newfound inability to visit college campuses, I think making these connections, especially in a time like this one, can be extremely beneficial,”  said Huellen.

After high school, Huellen plans to pursue his passion at a university with a computer science or software engineering program. Though he is not sure where in the country this interest will take him, Huellen knows he wants to land in the middle of the nation’s technological innovation.

To check out Ryan's updated website, click here!