Alifia Zulifkar Merchant, a resident of Oak Park, was recognized as a Top Freshman in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University, where she is majoring in Environmental Science. Merchant was one of three freshmen who received the Newcomb Scholar Award at the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Recognition Program on May 7, for her outstanding academic achievement.


Andrew Ozga of River Forest – a 2003 graduate of Fenwick High School who also received his bachelor’s degree from Marquette in 2007  – earned a master’s degree in physical anthropology from Ball State University on May 9. In addition, Ozga has been accepted into the doctoral program at the University of Oklahoma where he will study molecular anthropology and genetics.

Burlington bachelors

On May 17, the University of Vermont distributed a mix of bachelor’s degrees to some 2,240 students at the university’s 205th Commencement Ceremony in Burlington, Vt. Among those receiving degrees were two students from Oak Park, Halley Snelling, who was awarded a bachelor of arts in English, and Sarah Gulezian, who earned a bachelor of arts in political science.

Making the grade

Stephanie Rae Smith, daughter of Philip and Susan Smith, of Oak Park graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 2007 and is currently a sophomore at Indiana University, where she is majoring in political science and Spanish. Smith was been named to the Dean’s List in the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences for the fall semester of 2008, in recognition of outstanding academic achievement. In order to be placed on the list, students must complete 12 graded credit hours in a single semester and earn at least a 3.7 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.

Captain and priest

Oak Park’s Ariana Puentes-Hernandez played the roles of Sea Captain and Priest in St. Lawrence University’sproduction of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will in Canton, N.Y. Puentes-Hernandez is a graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School and is currently majoring in Performance/Communications Arts and minoring in Fine Arts.

Much ado about something

Oak Park native and graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School Carling M. Fitzsimmons recently played the role of first watchman in Kenyon College’s production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in Gambier, Ohio. Fitzsimmons is currently majoring in English and Music at Kenyon. She is the daughter of Angela and Michael Fitzsimmons.

Scouts’ marketer

The Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana recently named Bryn Reese, an Oak Park resident, its first chief development officer. Reese’s primary duties involve overseeing the fund development and marketing department for the largest Girl Scout council in the country. The council represents more than 94,000 girls and 250,000 adult members in 245 communities in Illinois and Indiana.

“We are thrilled that Bryn, an accomplished fundraising professional, is spearheading Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s development and marketing efforts as part of the senior leadership team,” Maria Wynne, CEO, said.

Piping up

The Concert Choir of Fenwick High School received its 10th consecutive Division 1+ rating this past March. Members of the choir include Mary Bindon, Jamie Bonk, Dominic Bolton, Christina Bortolotti, Margaret Carey, Max Cervantes, Lauren Coffey, Nellie Conboy, Gabriella Cozzi, Michael Deacy, Gabrielle Dougherty, Ashley Douglas, Molly Downey, Tara Doyle, Megan Frank, Abigail Gancer, Brendan Hickey, Mariah Jones-Hicks, Eileen Kemp, Brittney Kulik, Zanny Laird, Gianna Marchetti, Emma McKernin, Mary Beth McLean, Keith Miller, Paul Mleczko, Kathleen Mullen, Danielle Pape, Rachel Roberts, Gianna Saviano, Marina Sinnott, Margaret Mary Stephany, Anne Stohlquist, Katherine Trainor and Ashley Woosley.

Making the grade II

Amanda G. Chen of River Forest, and a student in the Robert McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, was placed on the Dean’s List for the fall quarter of 2008 in recognition of her academic achievement. A student must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.75 on a 4.0 scale to be placed on the Dean’s List.

Undergrads over and out

Seven Oak Park residents and one from River Forest received bachelor’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago this past December. Suzanne Ayoub earned a bachelor of science in management; Matthew Bratko, a bachelor of arts in liberal arts and sciences; Matthew Flynn, a bachelor of science in entrepreneurship; Nicholas Harland, a bachelor of arts in liberal arts and sciences; David Reyes, a bachelor of arts in the teaching of history; Meghan Ristau, a bachelor of science in marketing; Natapon Ruengpinyophun, of River Forest, a bachelor of science in electrical engineering; and, Haldis Toppen received a bachelor of arts in liberal arts and sciences.

On the road again

FootHills Publishing has just released All Over America: Road Poems, a collection of poetry by Charles Rossiter of Oak Park. This is Charlie’s second book by FootHills Publishing. His first, The Night We Danced With the Raelettes, was released in 2007.

If you’re an old road traveler, or dream about exploring the vast landscape of America, these topics may ring some bells:

“Wild horses of Assateague, Minnesota nuns, the Kentucky State Fair, tin roof bar stories in Shawano, Wis., tracing history in Tucumcari, father-son Badland moments, people and places encountered along the road, wide-eyed moments of joy and wonder all over America.”

To order the book, contact FootHills Publishing, P.O. Box 68, Kanona, NY 14856 or

Making the grade III

Augustana College in Rock Island placed two students from River Forest and one student from Oak Park on the Dean’s List for their performance during courses taken in the 2008 fall term. The prerequisite for placement on the Dean’s List is a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. The students are Danielle Marie Rousakis, a junior, majoring in business and classics with a Greek emphasis, and Jillian Shea Merrifield, also a junior, majoring in English education, both of Oak Park; and Wesley R. Samore, another junior, majoring in general studies.

A high note

Oak Park’s Bryant R. Smith, a student in the School of Music at Northwestern University, has been named to the Dean’s List for the fall quarter of the 2008-09 academic year. In order to be placed on the Dean’s List, a student must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.75 on a scale of 4.0.

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