in 2018, the highland park community foundation initiated this award to recognize a highland park high school senior for significant personal achievement.
The award honors a student who demonstrates perseverance toward personal goals when faced with obstacles or other challenges, acknowledging the student’s growth during high school as opposed to the attainment of a specific level of achievement or status. Among other things, the award recognizes a student who:
- Demonstrates a genuine commitment to persevere despite obstacles or a disability
- Sets personal goals and challenges him/herself to achieve them
- Thrives in the school environment
- Works hard and is a positive influence; and
- Shows appreciation for the help he/she receives
L to R: HPCF Board Member Jean Meadows, HPHS teacher Sam Toro, Carlos Sanchez, HPCF Board Member Nancy Mills
2023 – Carlos Sanchez
On May 22, 2023, the Highland Park Community Foundation proudly recognized Carlos Sanchez with the 2023 Personal Achievement Award. During his high school years, Carlos faced many difficulties related to Covid 19, school closure and Zoom learning, family struggles, and mental health issues. He showed remarkable resilience and persistence in working through these obstacles and setting goals for his future.
Quoting his teacher Sam Toro, “Carlos continues to improve his school attendance, challenges himself academically, holds a part-time job outside of school, and takes advantage of Homework Club. He has independently applied to three different colleges in case he decides not to commit to joining the Marines after graduation.” As we learned, Carlos is also very artistic and has a good sense of humor.
We know Carlos will build on his many skills, engaging personality, and perseverance to achieve his career and personal goals. Congratulations, Carlos!
2022 – Mesfin Radtke
It was our honor to recognize Mesfin Radtke as the recipient of the 2022 Personal Achievement Award at Highland Park High School Honor’s Night and provide him with a $1,000 scholarship to further his studies.
Throughout high school, Mesfin worked relentlessly to overcome obstacles to achieve success in all of his classes. He proved himself to be a strong self-advocate and was an active participant in the school community. As described by one of his teachers, “during the pandemic and remote learning, Mesfin took advantage of the resources available and reached out to his teachers to meet one-on-one over Zoom during free periods. Every time, he made sure to say thank you and express his gratitude for their meetings. This year, as in-person learning resumed, Mesfin continued his hard work and even challenged himself to learn Spanish. As a senior in a class with mostly freshman and sophomores he was determined to achieve this goal.” In his sports of football and wrestling, Mesfin has been honored for his commitment, sportsmanship, and academic achievement. Additionally, he is attending classes at the Tech campus to further his interest and skills in automotive mechanics, and has been recognized there, too, for his work and achievements.
We congratulate and wish Mesfin the best of luck as he matriculates to Southern Illinois University. Given all we learned about Mesfin in the award selection process, we are confident he will reach his goals!
2021 – Luis Cordova
We are delighted to recognize Luis Cordova as the recipient of this year’s Award and provide him with a $1,000 scholarship to further his studies. As we learned from one of his teachers, Luis is an incredibly hard-workingand respectful young man. He comes from a military background, which shows, his teacher said, when he uses “sir” and “ma’am” when speaking to adults. He puts forth his best effort in his studies and actively helps his family take care of his younger sister and his grandfather. Luis will be the first person in his family to attend college. “A gem of a student,” Luis will undoubtedly continue to thrive at Columbia College where he is headed in the fall of 2021. Congratulations, Luis!
2020 – AARON BURKE
It was our honor to recognize Aaron Burke, who was nominated by three different HPHS staff members, with the 2020 Personal Achievement Award. As stated by one of his nominators:
“Aaron Burke is a kind-hearted, self-reflective worker who has strong morals. He has a strong desire to be academically successful as evidenced by his organizational skills, regular completion of school work, and strong teacher feedback regarding participation and reflection in applying learning to self/life while in class. After school, Aaron was a part of the Giant athletic scene as he contributed dedication and a great attitude to the football, wrestling, and baseball teams. Aaron was a part of the peer-mentoring program and he did a great job as a peer mentor in Science Essentials. He supported multiple students and was flexible about changing who he supported as needed. Aaron’s plans are to pursue an Associate’s Degree, work in the schools as a paraprofessional and continue coaching young adults.”
L to R: Arden Yazici, Jean Meadows (HPCF Board Member)
2019 – arden yazici
The Highland Park Community Foundation proudly presented the 2019 Personal Achievement Award to Arden Yazici at Highland Park High School’s 2019 Student Honors Night.
Embodying all of the traits the HPCF envisioned when the award was created, Arden was recognized for being a great self-advocate, an involved and dedicated student, and for giving back to her community in numerous ways. By her very nature, Arden embraces the Foundation’s vision for an inclusive, well-rounded, and vibrant community. We were proud to honor Arden and wish her all the best in her academic studies at Seattle University and in all her future endeavors!
L to R: Nancy Mills (HPCF Executive Committee Member and Past Chairman), Jason Estrada, Karen Reisin (HPCF Board Member)
2018 – jason estrada
The Highland Park Community Foundation awarded its first Annual Personal Achievement Award to HPHS student Jason Estrada.
For the 2018 award, we were proud to honor Jason Estrada, who was selected for his outstanding character, creativity, and commitment to his peers. Jason was nominated by Megan Counts and Leslie Levin on behalf of the Social Studies Department.
Nomination Written by Megan Counts and Leslie Levin:
Jason Estrada exemplifies the best that any educator hopes for. Highland Park values community engagement, connections, and relationships and these are Jason’s natural strengths. As a school community over the last four years, we have watched Jason emerge as a loving, responsible, determined leader. Jason leads with his heart and exudes a brotherly kindness and authenticity in all his daily interactions. Jason has repeatedly demonstrated maturity and seriousness of character as he worked to pursue his path to success and graduation. Jason takes responsibility for his own outcomes. Yet while focused on his own life, he has always steadfastly provided guidance and support for his peers as well; he is equally as aware of the happiness and wellness of others as he is with his own concerns. Jason is the type of young man who understands that character is best revealed by the choices we make and the actions we do when nobody is watching. Jason has the strength of character and the morality to do what is right without ever expecting praise or reward; Jason is guided by an internal strength and goodness that impacts his classmates, teachers, and anyone else who is lucky enough to be in his sphere of influence. When Jason graduates, he will be missed very much by our school community and he will be carried in the hearts of those whose lives he touched.