School News

This Week on #WorkforceWednesday: A Look Inside Fat Tomato, Inc.
Alex LeMoine

Carlo Nasca graduated from Crystal Lake South High School in the fall of 2004 with no plans to start a restaurant. In the years since, he has founded his own business and become a widely recognized chef. His business, Fat Tomato, Inc., began with a traveling food truck and has now expanded to a cafe in Rosemont, IL where Nasca serves tacos and other cuisine. 

Carlo Nasca graduated from Crystal Lake South High School in the fall of 2004 with no plans to start a restaurant. In the years since, he has founded his own business and become a widely recognized chef. His business, Fat Tomato, Inc., began with a traveling food truck and has now expanded to a cafe in Rosemont, IL where Nasca serves tacos and other cuisine. 

In 2019, the Fat Tomato food truck was named one of Chicago’s best food trucks by WGN. With the truck, Carlo caters private events around the Chicagoland area and is able to serve a wide variety of clients. He customizes menus for each client or event and serves gourmet tacos, sandwiches, Italian specialities, and more.

Nasca graduated from Crystal Lake South after struggling to complete his tenure in district 155. He says his time in high school was defined by “not caring”. He often cut class and didn’t see the value in what he was learning at the time. Now, as a business owner, he appreciates the perseverance high school taught him. 

“I could say that I would be a better student and I would pay attention and all that stuff, but I guess whatever I did then it was a path that led me here, so I can’t say I regret anything,” said Nasca. 

After taking an extra semester to finish his coursework, Nasca went to school to become a mechanic. Before the launch of Fat Tomato, Inc., he worked as an auto mechanic, a FedEx delivery driver, and spent time in other restaurants to make ends meet.

“Use things that make your life a little bit tough, use them to your advantage,” said Nasca. “Everything you learn along the way will help you do what you are truly meant to do.” 

Nasca’s advice to current high school students is this: “Even if you don’t know what you want to do right now, just do something. You have to show up to something. Everything’s in steps--you’ll show up and figure it out along the way.”

For the rest of our conversation on the hustle after high school, listen to D155’s Workforce Wednesday podcast with Carlo Nasca here.

#WorkforceWednesday is a marketing campaign that will provide valuable content to prepare students with life-ready skills and to initiate and strengthen workforce partnerships in our community which aligns with the district’s strategic plan.

The #WorkforceWednesday marketing campaign is an opportunity for the district to engage, interact, and have two-way conversations with students, staff, business partners and industry professionals across multimedia platforms.

This Week on #WorkforceWednesday: Perfecting the Job Interview
Alex LeMoine

District 155 hosted mock interviews at Crystal Lake Central on December 4, 2019 and at Prairie Ridge High School on December 5, 2019. Mark Rzepecki’s students in the Language Academy and Christine Graham’s speech class participated in the event at Central, while Steve Karlblom’s students in the work program took part at Prairie Ridge. 

District 155 hosted mock interviews at Crystal Lake Central on December 4, 2019 and at Prairie Ridge High School on December 5, 2019. Mark Rzepecki’s students in the Language Academy and Christine Graham’s speech class participated in the event at Central, while Steve Karlblom’s students in the work program took part at Prairie Ridge. 

Both schools invited district 155 staff, as well as members of the community, to come and interview students. In three different rounds of interviews, students were asked many questions related to their academic interests and achievements, their strengths, job skills and plans for joining the workforce.

The event gave students the opportunity to prepare for an interview, interact with members of the workforce, and practice communication skills. Students at the event represented a variety of grade levels and content areas.

“I want to be a nurse and the communication I had with other people really helped me because later on I’m going to have patients and I need to communicate with them,” said Angela Hernandez, a freshman at Crystal Lake Central in the Language Academy.

“I think this is preparing me by giving me real-world examples and getting interviewed by three different people because not every interviewer is the same,” said Kathleen Costello, a senior in Christine Graham’s speech class. 

Administrators from district 155 and district 47, members of the D155 Board of Education and representatives from a variety of local companies were present at the event.

Rob Revak, the retired Human Resources Director at AptarGroup, Inc., a manufacturing company in Crystal Lake, said, “Whether you consciously think about it or not, probably a first impression happens within the first 30 seconds. So, I suggest to students to leave their cell phones in the car, have a resume that has been looked over [because] that is very telling in terms of attention to detail.”

Each student was scored by their interviewers and given constructive feedback to take forward with them into the workforce. 

For more of our conversation on perfecting the job interview, listen to D155’s Workforce Wednesday podcast with Crystal Lake Central’s Christine Graham here.

#WorkforceWednesday is a marketing campaign that will provide valuable content to prepare students with life-ready skills and to initiate and strengthen workforce partnerships in our community which aligns with the district’s strategic plan.

The #WorkforceWednesday marketing campaign is an opportunity for the district to engage, interact, and have two-way conversations with students, staff, business partners and industry professionals across multimedia platforms.

D155 Presents #WorkforceWednesday with Susan Powalowski
Alex LeMoine

District 155 is excited to launch Workforce Wednesday with Susan Powalowski, a 2007 Cary-Grove graduate who now works as a Search Automation Specialist at Google in Chicago, IL. After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2011, Powalowski began her career at Google in June of 2014.

District 155 is excited to launch Workforce Wednesday with Susan Powalowski, a 2007 Cary-Grove graduate who now works as a Search Automation Specialist at Google in Chicago, IL. After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2011, Powalowski began her career at Google in June of 2014.

Powalowski came back to Cary-Grove in November of 2019 to share her experiences after high school and in the world of digital marketing with current district 155 students. She sat down with us to discuss what she’s learned since her tenure at Cary-Grove and how students can best prepare themselves for life after high school. 

“The luxury you have as a student in high school is that if you don’t do well in one class or in one subject, it’s one class and one subject and the consequences are not very high,” said Powalowski.  “It’s very low risk to try different things in high school and fail at them because that’s how you learn your own preferences.”

She stressed the importance of taking risks and exploring your interests during high school, as well as understanding the value of what you learn.

“My Intro to Business and Intro to Computers classes taught me skills that I use every day,” said Powalowski.

She recalls not knowing which experiences were going to lead her to where she is now, but was committed to trying as many new things as possible.

“I ended up getting a second internship before my senior year of school that put me more on the business side at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and that opened a lot of doors for me that I didn’t even see until years down the line,” Powalowski said. “That ended up being the reason that I got hired into an internship after college in digital marketing.”

Fast forward to 2020, and Powalowski has been working at Google for the past five years.

As for how to best prepare for the workforce, Powalowski shared what she thinks are the most important tips to land a dream job of your own:

  1. “…Use your career center early and often, and get them to work on your resume.”

  2. “Apply for jobs that you don’t think you’re going to get because you never know, and it’s good practice to interview.”

  3. “Research your type of role and know the salary range going into [the interview] to make sure it’s what you want.”

  4. “...Ask excellent questions in the interview. My favorite is, ‘What does it take to be successful in this role?’”

  5. “In the interview, be thoughtful about your answers and don’t be afraid to take a pause and collect your thoughts.”

For more of our conversation with Susan Powalowski, listen in to D155’s Workforce Wednesday podcast here.

#WorkforceWednesday is a marketing campaign that will provide valuable content to prepare students with life-ready skills and to initiate and strengthen workforce partnerships in our community which aligns with the district’s strategic plan.

The #WorkforceWednesday marketing campaign is an opportunity for the district to engage, interact, and have two-way conversations with students, staff, business partners and industry professionals across multimedia platforms.

Haber Oaks Presents the Annual Holiday Store
Alex LeMoine

Each year, the staff and students at Haber Oaks Campus put together a holiday store to commemorate the season of giving. This December, teachers and staff donated gently used clothes, toys, decorations and more to give students the opportunity to buy gifts for their friends and family. 

The students were allowed to make purchases with “academy bucks”, a school wide currency that students can collect for positive contributions to the school community and academic achievements. In some cases, students had been saving up all semester to take part in the holiday store and buy gifts for their loved ones. 

Juniors and seniors in Anne Tubridy’s business math class served as the store employees, helping their fellow classmates purchase items, recording the balances of school bank accounts, and facilitating the buying and selling of goods. 

Alex Lazaro, a senior in business math, said, “We use cash registers. Basically, you have to do things like how an actual store would run. You have to work as a team in order for everything to work out.”

Alex and his classmates applied the skills they’d learned over the course of the semester to make this year’s store a success. Every student at Haber Oaks had the opportunity to participate and pick out a variety of presents. 

Wrapping paper, gift bags and other materials were also made available to students so that they could package their gifts to take home just in time for the holidays. 

Students and Staff at Haber Oaks Host Fundraiser for Turning Point
Alex LeMoine

On Thursday, November 7th the Haber Oaks Campus staff and student body faced off in a dodgeball competition to raise money for Turning Point, a non-profit organization that provides shelter and services to those affected by domestic violence in McHenry County. For a week leading up to the tournament, students in Lisa Abraham’s civics class led fundraising efforts throughout the building. Each classroom competed to raise enough money for the chance to play dodgeball against their teachers. 

On Thursday, November 7th the Haber Oaks Campus staff and student body faced off in a dodgeball competition to raise money for Turning Point, a non-profit organization that provides shelter and services to those affected by domestic violence in McHenry County. For a week leading up to the tournament, students in Lisa Abraham’s civics class led fundraising efforts throughout the building. Each classroom competed to raise enough money for the chance to play dodgeball against their teachers. 

Jeramee Brown, a senior in Abraham’s class, said, “There’s nine classrooms and each classroom was in competition to raise the most money. We reached our goal, but we set a goal of $100 towards Turning Point for women who are abused or in any sort of domestic violence.” 

By the end of the week, Haber Oaks raised over $130. Fellow classmate, senior Jada Arcos, also participated in the fundraising efforts. 

“For the fundraiser we sold donuts and we played a dodgeball tournament. The staff won the first game and the students won the second,” said Arcos.

The civics students all came together to make announcements throughout the week, advertise with posters across the building and visit each classroom to spread the word.

“Part of the civics curriculum is doing some community service or giving back to our community,” said Lisa Abraham. “So, we decided to look at agencies that help with homelessness in McHenry County, and the students voted and decided that Turning Point was who they would like to donate to.”

Her students already seem to be looking forward to the next time they can give back to their community. They are looking to extend their efforts even further the second time around.

“I think we should do it again,” said Brown. “I think we should continue it for longer than a week. A week was kind of short and we raised a lot of money.”

Speaking of what she hopes Haber Oaks’ donation will accomplish, Arcos said, “I think it would be good to put it towards moms and children, or even guys, who are looking to better themselves.”