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February 10, 2020
District 207 Board Honors Students with 207s Best Award

Written by Communications Department Intern Hannah Pisani

The District 207 Board of Education named three students as “207’s Best” for the month of February. Zarak Tariq from Maine East was honored for in the area of Technology Innovation. Izabella (Skye) Thompson from Maine West was honored for Improved Performance. Paolo Vacala from Maine South was honored for Technology Innovation.

Tariq received this recognition because due to his course work relating to technology has been extensive and includes: AP Computer Science Principles, Engineering & Design Capstone, Cybersecurity, Virtual Enterprises International (VEI), PLTW Civil Engineering & Architecture Accelerated, PLTW Computer Integrated Manufacturing Accelerated, Network +, PLTW Engineering & Design, Computer Programming, Robotics, and multiple Independent Study courses in Applied Technology and Business. In addition to his variety of CTE courses, Tariq has been active in several clubs such as Skills USA, Graphic Arts Club and serves as the Officer of Communications for Robotics.

Tariq even uses his knowledge of technology to help teachers. He has implemented and written directions for new technologies (Sphero, micro bits, and Raspberry Pi’s) so teachers can have a better understanding of where students are struggling. In addition, Tariq has made connections through several courses offered at school by helping to create a programming curriculum that teaches students javascript and block-based coding.

“In all my classes, he has been willing to take on any issue and work to find a solution for all his classmates,” says CTE teacher Wil Greenwald. “Every year during his free time he comes to me and asks how he can help. He has helped us develop projects for Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Robotics, and our Cyber/Linux classes. He is truly an educational asset inside and outside of our classes.” 

Tariq is leading a robotics program in Engineering and Design Capstone to compete this April in a Robotics Search Rescue conducted by SkillsUSA. On top of that, he has interned with Alvee Dass Technologies where he does 3D modeling, printing, and UI design using Python. Tariq plans to continue his work with technology by studying Software Engineering at Loyola University. 

Thompson was honored as one of 207’s Best for Improved Performance. After working through the grief that came after a death in the family she says, “I didn’t put any effort into myself. I didn’t care. I didn’t believe in myself. I realized I have to push through to get somewhere in life.”

Thompson found trust and support from her grandmother, dad, older brother and teachers including her current . These people helped her work through a time of pain and suffering. One of the people Thompson found comfort in teacher Carrie Barone who teaches Thompson’s Preschool Practicum class. “Her initiative, responsibility, and compassion for others is remarkable,” says Barone. “I am so proud of her work with the preschool children and her peers this year. She is so deserving of this award. She is humble, kind, compassionate,and has shown great strength and determination to reach her goals.”

Vacala was honored for Technology Innovation. He comes from a family that has worked in many aspects of art and he always knew he wanted to pursue art but wasn’t sure what capacity. At Maine South, he discovered graphic design which combines art and technology. 

He has taken the entire graphic design curriculum from Intro to Graphic Arts to AP 2D Design.

Vacala is the president of the Graphics Arts club and an intern at the digital marketing company American Eagle, where he is learning web design and modern marketing techniques. In addition, he is working on graphics for the Ed Foundation benefit. 

Vacala’s excellence of innovation in technology and graphic design are represented by the following list of some of his awards, honors and leadership areas:

  • IAGC Distinguished Student Award and Scholarship – 2020
  • First Place Newhouse Architecture and Design Competition – 2019
  • IHSAE (Illinois High School Art Exhibition) Design State Finalist
  • IHSAE Summer School Scholarship, Graphic Design at Flashpoint Chicago – 2019
  • President of Graphic Arts Club 2019-2020
  • Vice-President of Graphic Arts Club – 2018-2019
  • Graphic Design Intern – American Eagle 2019 – present
  • Graphic Design Intern – The Facts Media – 2018

“Paolo Vacala is an outstanding senior at Maine South and one of 207’s Best,” says his Advanced Graphics teacher Sheryl Peterson. “He has been a Technology Leader ever since his Freshman year. Paolo leads by example and has excelled in many areas in and out of high school. It has been an honor and a pleasure to have Paolo in class for four years. His kind and generous leadership style has made everyone around him better for it. I wish him the very best in all his future endeavors.”