Elyse Smith is Teacher of the Year finalist.

The Alumni Association of Oak Park and River Forest High School has launched a challenge-grant campaign to raise funds for its summer enrichment program.

The proposed $500,000 endowment was suggested by an alum and supporter of the program. “Starting June 2012 and ending June 2015, all contributions to the Alumni Association will be matched dollar for dollar by the donor,” according to a press release from the association.

The anonymous alum donated $15,000 to the program this past summer, which helped cover travel expenses and cost of the course for 37 students. “Our goal for the fund is $500,000 of which $200,000 will come as a matching grant from my foundation,” the alum stated in the release. “The Alumni Association has developed an efficient and effective grant-making program that opens doors for students who might not otherwise get these opportunities.”

This past summer, students studied in such courses as marine biology, field ecology and conservation in locales as far flung as the Florida Keys and Tanzania in East Africa.

The three-year campaign is being chaired by Stephen and Mary Jo Schuler. A kick-off gala is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 2. For more information: 708-434-4381 or alumniassociation@oprfhs.org

Teacher of the Year finalist

A District 97 teacher has been named a Teacher of the Year finalist by the Illinois State Board of Education. Elyse Smith, a kindergarten teacher at Longfellow Elementary, 715 S. Highland, is among nine statewide finalists for the award, which is part of the ISBE’s Those Who Excel program, recognizing outstanding educators in the state. Teacher of the Year finalists are nominated by their peers. The winner will be announced at an Oct. 20 banquet in Normal.

National Merit semifinalists

Seventeen students at Oak Park and River Forest High School have been named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists for the 2012-13 school year, the high school announced this week.

The 17 students are: Eigen Aoki, Louis Blankemeier, Richard Castaneda, Jack Cramer, Scott Daniel, John Davis, Will Drickey, Emilia Floody, Benjamin Levin, John Martin, Rucha Mehendale, Elliot Mertz, Maya Rawal, Lauren Richardson, Leah Sacks, Cody Stocker and Ruth Whittaker.

Eight other OPRF students were also named as National Achievement Scholarship semifinalists. Of the 168 Illinois schools participating in the ’12-’13 National Merit program, OPRF had the seventh highest number of semifinalists.

D97 custodian honored by state

The Illinois State Board of Education has recognized a District 97 custodian with its Those Who Excel Award.

Frank DiPaolo, an eight-year buildings and grounds worker at Irving Elementary School, 1125 S. Cuyler, has won ISBE’s Award of Meritorious Service. He was nominated by the Irving School PTO last spring. Along with keeping the Irving building functional, DiPaolo also helps out with PTO fundraisers.

“He has offered martial arts instruction as a silent auction item, choreographed dance routines for many contests, and coordinated the set-up of numerous special events,” said the PTO in its nomination statement to ISBE. “In his eight years at Irving (15 years in District 97), Mr. DiPaolo has become our school’s backbone. Every day he supports our building, but more importantly he supports our students.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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