One of the greatest blessings of the teaching profession is to feel joy for a former student who has done very well. Jennifer Cassell, District 200 school board candidate, was a student of mine in the mid-1990s. She was the editor of the student newspaper; for three years I watched her manage and direct a team of students, all of whom are still close, produce a monthly newspaper. In those days, we still used the cut and paste method, which called for a lot of late nights, formatting, editing, and “sending to bed.” 

I got to know this group of young people very well. Her primary strength has always been collaboration; even though she was the leader, she almost always spoke the least and watched the most. 

Jennifer and I stayed in touch when she left school. She held my son, now a senior at OPRF, when he was a baby. She transferred schools, from the University of Iowa to the University of Illinois Chicago so she could be closer to her mother, who raised her single-handedly. 

A couple of years after she graduated, our family moved to the west coast and we lost touch. We moved back to Oak Park, and the first year we returned, I was sitting in Holmes auditorium watching the annual talent show. At the end of the show, I ran into Jennifer, who was there to watch her daughter. The first thing out of her mouth, after catching up on life details, was: “Some of the other alumni and I started a foundation to give scholarships to kids from Proviso East and grants to teachers for supplies. Do you know anyone at East who needs help?” 

In the years since I had last seen Jennifer, she had completed her degree, worked as a reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, went to law school, and took a job with the federal government in an advocacy related department. She’s also continued to raise her family, become an active community member, and teach at DePaul’s law school. Last year, she was featured in DePaul’s alumni magazine as one of the “14 under 40” to watch. 

Her campaign has been a family and friend effort, and through Jennifer and Reggie Wright, her husband and high school classmate, I have seen how a community of people with deep roots and longstanding friendships are able to come together and make something happen. Jennifer and her family are putting down roots; they live and work in the area; her daughter, a classmate of my daughter, attends OPRF. 

Jennifer has been an involved parent and now will be a balanced school board voice who asks the right questions, works collaboratively to find solutions, and always, always, always stays until the work is done. 

Jennifer Cassell is an exceptional person. We are fortunate to have her in our community to advocate for our children and schools. Vote for her on April 7 for D200 school board. 

Michele Vogt-Schuller 

Oak Park 

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