Senior Daniel Reyes: A Recipe for Success

A Recipe for Success

St. Francis de Sales (SFDS) senior Daniel Reyes first began learning his way around the kitchen as a hobby: “I started cooking at home a few years ago to pass the time,” he explained. A friend took notice and encouraged Daniel to check out the culinary arts program run by the Chicago nonprofit organization After School Matters. “My friend told me about a program that paid students to learn to cook, and then let them eat the food they cooked,” said Daniel. “I thought that sounded pretty good!”

Daniel enrolled in After School Matters’ Culinary Arts program his freshman year. “As I cooked more and more, I started to fall in love with it, and started looking at it as a career,” he said. “I would put in extra work so that my instructor could see that I was really trying.” Daniel’s extra efforts and talent did not go unnoticed by Gloria Hafer, the program’s head chef and culinary instructor. By the end of his freshman year, Daniel had graduated to the Advanced Culinary Arts program, and was later selected to be a team leader.

Over this past summer, Daniel was further promoted to intern. In this role he has not only been responsible for mentoring his peers, but also for teaching and guiding other teens enrolled in the program. “Daniel has taken great strides in pursuing his passion in the culinary field,” said Hafer. “I am very proud of all he has accomplished to date, but look forward to the best yet to come!”

Now in his final year with After School Matters, Daniel meets three times a week with 30 other students from SFDS, Carver, and Washington high schools, and EPIC Academy. After receiving instruction on new dishes, he and his team must prepare, plate, present, and—last but not least—share them with each other, but their education does not end there. Later this month, Daniel and his class will bake and present a cake for hundreds of attendees of a culinary fundraiser downtown, one of several high-profile events he has had the opportunity to participate in through the program.

Looking ahead to next year, Daniel is planning to continue his culinary education, and is considering schools such as The Culinary Institute of America in New York, and Johnson and Wales in North Miami. As for the remainder of his senior year, outside of the classroom and kitchen, Daniel divides his remaining time between student council, newspaper club, and photography club. He has also served as a student ambassador with SFDS’s STARS program since his freshman year, traveling to schools with Associate Dean Stephen Sanchez to talk to 7th and 8th graders about SFDS. “The one most important thing I like to talk to them about is the family atmosphere here,” said Daniel. “You don’t get lost in the crowd.”

Daniel says that the teachers at SFDS are what he will miss the most after he graduates. “Over the past four years, they have become like family,” said Daniel. The feeling is surely mutual; fortunately for the teachers, the aspiring chef says that he will always be happy to return to the school to cook for them.

Jorge Perez: Alumni Spotlight


Jorge Perez, SFDS Class of 1990, Building Community

Growing up in the Bush neighborhood, St. Francis de Sales High School (SFDS) alumnus Jorge Perez got his education in Community 101 at an early age. His lessons took place in the bakery and grocery store his family owned and lived above at 83rd and Houston. “It was a town within a town,” recalled Jorge. “Everyone knew each other.” Working for his parents taught him skills that would form the foundation for his personal and professional future. “I learned early on to talk to everyone on a first-name basis, to maintain relationships.”

After graduating from SFDS, Jorge continued to manage his parents’ store during the day while studying economics at night at Roosevelt University. His most powerful real-world economics lesson came during that time period. “The steel mills closed down,” explained Jorge. “To see that all fall apart in your neighborhood, you ask yourself, how can I get involved, how can I fix those things?”

One look at his resume makes it clear that “getting involved” has been Jorge’s lifelong mission. After obtaining an MBA from Loyola University, Jorge served as President of the Calumet Area Industrial Commission (CAIC) from 2001 – 2008. There, he recruited many new local and regional business leaders, and worked with members and elected officials to promote the new face of industry in the Greater Calumet Region.

Jorge went on to serve as Deputy Commissioner for Chicago’s Department of Aviation, then as Vice President of Strategic Planning and Policy for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), before taking the helm as Executive Director of The Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA) in 2011. Founded in 1979, HACIA has been a leader among organizations of its kind, providing training, education, and leadership development for its more than 300 members; lobbying for legislative change within the industry; and giving scholarship assistance to students in related fields of study.

With its 40th anniversary on the horizon, HACIA continues to expand its own horizons. Under Jorge’s leadership, HACIA has teamed up with similar organizations in Texas, Florida, and New York to collaborate on projects. “We have a much bigger opportunity to work together regionally or nationally, which is exciting,” said Jorge.

Jorge’s economic development efforts have not gone unnoticed by city leaders. In 2016, Mayor Emanuel appointed Jorge to be Chairman of the City of Chicago’s Community Development Commission. As someone whose economics experience had previously focused on managing TIF dollars and land acquisition sales, Jorge says that overseeing the designation of new TIF districts has given him a new perspective. “Seeing the pipeline of projects coming through the city, you get a really good sense of what’s happening. If it weren’t for TIF dollars, many of those projects wouldn’t be possible.”

When he’s not focusing on the city’s economic growth, Jorge says that much of his time is spent trying to keep up with the growth of his 10- and 13-year-old sons, including their voracious appetites. His latest venture may help. Years ago, Jorge bought the building he grew up in from his dad, and lived there with his wife and sons until three years ago, “when we moved a whopping mile south,” laughed Jorge. The storefront has been vacant since 1994, but still has the baking equipment and zoning permits, leading to a project Jorge affectionately dubbed, “I want to hang out with my dad, and he’s bored out of his mind.”

“There are a ton of kids at the new charter high school down the street,” explained Jorge. “Dad and I have been slowly working on the building for a couple years, and we plan to sell pizza and a couple items on the weekend from a walk-up window.” He is quick to explain that this latest project is purely a labor of love: “It’s not intended to make money. Just to hang out and have fun with it, that’s the goal.”

For someone who has spent decades building connections, it comes as no surprise that the relationships that Jorge made at SFDS are what stand out most to him now. “There was a close knit group when I was in school, and we still get along really well. It’s great to see everyone still encouraging each other, and to see [my former classmates] doing well.” His advice to current students is to focus on making their own connections: “Make a lot of friends, get to know people, and keep all of those relationships warm.

Jim Kelly Retires after 33 Years of Service -- Thank you Mr. Kelly!

Congratulations on your Retirement and Thank You to Jim Kelly for 33 Years of Service!Mr. Kelly started coaching boys basketball in 1985 and since then has also coached girls softball and boys baseball. Starting in 1990, he began as a substitute teacher and bus driver becoming the Head of Transportation in 1994. Read Full Article Here

Meet Juan

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Juan Gonzalez knows one thing about his college selection process: He has many good choices for college and all with sizable scholarship money.

When looking for a college, Juan wanted to stay local where he could get a degree in Computer Information Systems. Now he is choosing from many good schools including Loyola, DePaul, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois Chicago St. Xavier, Eastern Illinois, Purdue NW and Roosevelt. He is leaning towards Illinois Tech because of his chosen major and the excellent job placement for Illinois Tech graduates.

Juan is happy and excited about his future. In college he wants to study and learn more about computers, technology and information systems. He plans on joining clubs, maybe running track and joining greek life.

Juan’s family is happy about all the acceptance letters and the financial support provided by each acceptance. Juan received over $500,000 in college scholarships!

St. Francis de Sales helped prepare Juan for college. “Mr. Fennessy was incredibly helpful, explaining the application process, helping me apply for scholarships and encouraging me along the way” said Juan. At SFDS, Juan learned about various software programs and through the technology club his Junior year, he learned about hardware and how to troubleshoot problems.

Reflecting on his experience and success, Juan offers good advice to sophomores and juniors: “Start Early! Applying to college, doing financial aid applications, looking for scholarships takes time, get a jump on the process early”. Juan also recommends taking the ACT test more than once because you gain confidence from practicing. Finally, he recommends dedicating time each day and each week to researching schools, filling out applications, applying for aid and talking to your teachers and Mr. Fennessy.

We are excited to hear about Juan’s success in college and look forward to him coming back to St. Francis de Sales to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

Chris Cole: Alumni Spotlight

In honor of International Women’s Day in March, we took the opportunity to have one of our seniors interview St. Francis de Sales alumnae and business leader, Chris Cole.

Chris Cole graduated from St. Francis de Sales in 1971. She went on to graduate from Northern Illinois University with a BA in Accounting. After four years at Deloitte as an accountant, she left and started her long career at McDonalds Corporation.

Anissa Vanna, a senior at St. Francis de Sales, interviewed Chris on what it means to be a woman in the business world and what her advice would be for the students of today. Chris had lots of good advice and stories. Both women talked about their St. Francis de Sales education, their dreams and experiences.

Click the link here and read up on what Chris and Anissa talked about.