It's off to Tanzania for 13 OPRF students

? School alums raise funds to send worthy kids to world-wide range of summer learning programs.

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By ROBERT FELTON

For the third straight year, the Alumni Association of Oak Park and River Forest High School is sponsoring Summer Enrichment Scholarships as a means of allowing students who show promise, yet lack adequate financial means, to attend a summer enrichment camp.

The program began shortly after the Alumni Association's inception in 2002. In its inaugural year it provided five scholarships for a 15-day trip to Costa Rica to study ecology and biology. It has since identified, and sent students to, dozens of summer enrichment programs worldwide in the areas of science, math, the arts, writing, and foreign language.

"Many students attend such programs paid for by their families, but there is a significant number of students who have not even considered these opportunities," said Bobbie Raymond, spokesperson for association. "The Summer Enrichment Program wants to address the challenges of equalizing the opportunities for students who show promise irregardless of their race or economic level."

William Sullivan, chairman of the association and Raymond, decided to target freshman to junior students for the program, because their summer accomplishments could be applied to their course work while at the high school.

"One of the wonderful things about this program is that it is actually a rarity in this state," said Sullivan. "There are several program that exist funding college scholarships and internships but virtually none which fund summer enrichment programs. This is why we felt that this program was so vital."

The program, which this year raised over $14,000 to finance scholarships, is financed entirely through fund raising efforts such as the "Huskie Tailgate Party" organized by the association.

This year, 13 of the school's 24 award recipients are traveling to Tanzania, Africa to study wildlife conservation and anthropology. Biology instructor Jamie Bender will accompany the students on the two week excursion and looks at it as a wonderful way to inspire the students.

"This trip will give the students a wonderful chance to learn about the interrelation of species and gain a greater understanding for the culture in Africa," said Bender.

Students are chosen based on financial need, demonstrated talents, GPA and recommendations by teachers at the school.

"It was a wonderful experience," said Matthew Crain, an OPRF senior who traveled to Japan last year through the program. "I was able to immerse myself in the culture, practicing the language and studying the architecture. I found the 'Himeji Castle' to be especially intriguing."

Melia Reid, currently a sophomore at the high school, studied drafting at the Art Institute for one week last summer. 

"We hope many more students can attend similar programs in the future," said Raymond. "With funding from the Alumni Association and other sources, the program deserves the opportunity to expand."

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