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High School Girls Learn Lessons of Life

The first Future Teachers Summer Academy taught Joliet Township High School students about more than just their future careers.

When Anna Gatson returns to in a couple of weeks, she does so with a new perspective.

“You need to be able to meet people and talk to people without judgement first,” she said.

This new-found perspective was the result of an experience at , which was held July 20 to 22 at The experience is part of the Multicultural Education Recruitment and Teaching program, or M.E.R.I.T. The M.E.R.I.T. program has an active club at Joliet West – the Future Teachers’ Club and one will begin at in the fall.

“The main purpose is to recruit more (students) of color who want to go into teaching,” Nora Melesio, University of Saint Francis Community Outreach Coordinator, College of Education said. “It’s a national problem and we’re addressing it locally.

Gatson was one of 11 girls who participated in the academy over the summer. In addition to discussing education-related topics, the girls faced physical challenges. The center includes an outdoor, low ropes teams course where facilitators help groups to navigate obstacles designed to challenge groups to work together to accomplish tasks.

Gatson is entering her junior year. Estefani Gonzales is a student at Joliet Central and is going into her senior year. She too attended the academy and knows she wants to be a teacher.

“When I grow up, I want to teach kids and leave them with a good perspective of what they are learning,” she said. “I want to give the kids the vibe of actually learning something.”

Like Gatson, Gonzalez walked away from the academy with a life lesson. By the end of the weekend, with the help of some team-building activities, Gonzalez said she considered the 10 other participants to be like family.

“I just thought that was so beautiful,” she said.

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