Youth Programs

The Round Lake Area Exchange Club is honored to recognize the work of our youth. As National Exchange states, America’s young people are its most precious resource. RLA Exchange embodies this philosophy and makes available each year opportunities for high school seniors to participate in a Youth of the Month/Year Award contest and also recognizes a senior with its Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award.

Youth of the Month/Year Award

2017-2018 Theme “Strengthening America Through Socially Responsible Communities”

Michelle Diaz, February 2018


Giselle Soto, January 2018

Giselle is receiving the Exchange Student of the Month Award for January, and I cannot think of a more deserving candidate. One thing that truly sets Giselle apart from her peers is her personality.  It is a rare day when Giselle is not smiling.  She is one of the kindest students that I have met. On top of having a radiant personality, Giselle has high hopes for her future. She is applying to several colleges:  Bucknell, Denison, College of the Holy Cross, and DePauw to name a few.  Giselle wants to one day work in the STEM field.  She is a top- notch student, who is able to balance her Honors and AP classes with a life full of family, friends, Panther Crew, volunteer work, and she is also a Schuler Scholar.  I cannot think of a more deserving candidate for this award.
– Kelli Snyder

Andra Pop, December 2017

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Andra Pop over the last three years as her School Counselor. I remember meeting Andra has an excited sophomore, eager to excel and advocating for herself to take rigorous classes so early in her high school career. As a senior, she is now enrolled in our most rigorous curriculum and continues to be an exceptional student with a 4.013 GPA. Andra is someone that I know that I can count on to be a leader, it is for that exact reason that she was selected to become a Panther Crew Leader her junior year. Within her capacity in this role, I have watched her take freshman under her wing and inspire them to take their freshman year seriously and to get involved. Andra is also a member of our student council and Spanish Honor Society, both organizations that take an active role in bettering our school community. Her senior year I chose Andra to participate in Senator Althoff’s Youth Advisory Council. The council was established to get high school students from the 32nd Senate District involved in the legislative process, and she took second place in their competition.
– Penina Noonan, School Counselor

Gary Lambert, November 2017

Gary Lambert is a senior and easily one of the most likeable students in the school.  He si outgoing, friendly, and always includes others in whatever it is he might be doing.  When he isn’t at school or work, he enjoys gaming and has taught me a lot about the industry and the online gaming community as he stops by my office everyday just to say hi… And get some candy.  He attends the Tech Campus where he had taken advantage of every opportunity afforded him there and will be attending college in the fall majoring in Game Programming.  He is one student I will truly miss when he graduates in the spring.
– Amanda Smith, School Counselor

Alexis Cordova, October 2017

I have had the privilege of being Alexis Cordova’s counselor for the last 4 years.  I have never seen a student with so much determination and drive as I have seen in Alexis. Despite having her own medical issues, she has never once used that as an excuse not to excel in everything she does. She is a role model for our freshman students, a captain of her volleyball team, and a support for any student who needs it. She is a student who I always reach out to if I need a mentor for a new student because with her bubbly personality and her knowledge and love for Round Lake there is nobody better than her to represent our school. There will definitely be a void when she leaves us here at Round Lake High School  but I cannot wait to see how successful she will continue to be.
– Sarah Schaefer, School Counselor

2016-2017 Theme “Inspiring a Community to Become a Better Place”

2016-17 Youth of the Year, Ashley Schenk

Larry Brown, March 2017

Larry Brown is one of those students who is always smiling and friendly. While he has not always had the perfect life, he never once used that as an excuse to not do his best. Larry has goals to become a Special Education Teacher and he is not waiting to get his experience learning about what it takes to be an effective teacher as he takes the time to learn now. He volunteers his time to help the Life Skills students not only in their PE class but also outside of school at functions. It is a pleasure to watch him make sure that all students feel welcome at Round Lake High School by being a mentor for the Life Skills students but also being a Panther Crew Leader for our freshman students. Larry not only works outside of school to save for his education, but he puts himself in everything he can to help out at the school on the little free time he has. Larry is an all-around great student academically but more importantly a great asset to Round Lake High School.

Ashley Schenk, February 2017

Ashley Schenk is an exceptional student and has worked extremely hard to maintain her 4.229 GPA, to become the top of her senior class. She pushed herself to take a rigorous course load, while also maintaining involvement in a multitude of Panther Activities, community service work and employment at Sammy’s. She has been a member of student council, Sister-for-Sister, Teen Court, Tech Wizards where she was a teacher and mentor, 4-H where she served as a mentor for kids, and she got involved in Teens for Teaching. Her sophomore year she found her passion for our Colorguard and Winterguard teams. Junior year she was invited to join National Honor Society and joined the National Hispanic Institute. Ashley has also become a leader in many of the programs she has joined. Personally, I have really witnessed Ashley flourish in is our Panther Crew program. She is a leader who is used for everything, from babysitting at our functions to going into the special education classrooms to talk about peer pressure, and serving as a mentor to freshman. Her senior year, she became Color Guard Captain, a College Ambassador and continued her valuable community service work with both National Honors Society and 4-H. She was also recognized by the Daily Herald as a part of their Daily Herald Leadership team, and earned the Rotary Youth Leadership Award due to her involvement in her school and community. Ashley has the dream of going away to college next year and plans to pursue a major in psychology or international studies.

Christina Larson, January 2017

Christina Larson is a wonderful example of what we hope to see in our Round Lake students.  She has managed to earn a cumulative GPA of 3.5 while taking multiple honors and AP classes, as well as keeping up with her exhaustive list of extra-curricular activities and jobs.  I get tired just listening to all of the things she does!  Christina has been a great student to watch grow and mature into the young woman she is today.  Her caring and compassion is what is leading her to the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee to begin her studies toward becoming a pediatric nurse.  I have every confidence Christina will achieve her dream and will not let any obstacle stand in her way.

Brenda Martinez, December 2016

Brenda Martinez has been chosen for the December student of the month at Round Lake High School due to her academic excellence, leadership, and her dedication to the community.  Brenda is an exceptional student with a 4.259 GPA, who excels in all areas.  Brenda has taken on leadership roles within the Lake County DACA Council and within the high school as a College Ambassador and Panther Crew leader where she is a mentor for 14 freshmen students.  Brenda volunteers her time to work with students who have special needs through the Allied Soccer and Bowling programs.  In addition, Brenda has been involved in clubs at Round Lake High School such as the We Dream Club, College Prep Group, Powder Puff, Environmental Club, and French Honors Society to name a few.  Brenda plans to pursue a major in Accounting and has been accepted to University of Illinois Springfield, Dominican University, and National Louis University.  I am highly impressed by Brenda’s ability to balance her clubs, leadership responsibilities, and home life while still maintaining a superb grade point average.  She is remarkable young lady who is passionate about her education and giving back to others and to her community.

Brett Herdman, November 2016

Brett Herdman is an outstanding student and a true reflection of what a Round Lake student can accomplish.  He is involved in Panther Crew, played football, acted in our plays, and even spent last summer training in the National Guard.  All of this, along with his 4.2 GPA, has helped him already get accepted to University of Memphis, William Penn University, and Baylor University.  Brett is friendly to everyone he meets and is Panther Pride personified.

Dori Williams, October 2016

Dori Williams received the Exchange Student of the Month Award for October. One thing that truly sets Dori apart from her peers is her personality. Her luminescent demeanor is contagious, and it is a rare day when Dori is not smiling. She is truly one of the kindest students. For example, at the beginning of the school year, the counseling office had about 7 new students in the lobby area. Dori introduced herself to the new students and asked them what she could help them with to feel more comfortable. On top of having a radiant personality, Dori has high hopes for her future. She is applying to several colleges: UIC, Loyola, DePaul, and University of Illinois to name a few. Dori wants to be a Neonatal Hospitalist. She is a top notch student, who is able to balance her Honors and AP classes with a life full of band, family, friends, and volunteering at a local nursing home. In addition to those things, Dori is a member of Tri-M, and she is a Panther Crew Leader.

Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award

This program recognizes high school students who have made a dramatic change in their attitude and performance during their high school years. These changes have enabled the students to overcome adversities and prepare for graduation. The Round Lake Area Exchange Club opens up the application to seniors at Round Lake High School, Grayslake High School (2), Grant High School and Carmel High School. Students must live within the Round Lake Area. A committee of Exchange members review the applications/essays and select one winner each spring.

2016-17 ACE Award Winner, Hector Garcia (RLA Exchange & Lincolnland Exchange)

Hector Garcia

Hector Garcia is an impressive young man who has gone through many obstacles and has worked to improve himself throughout his high school career. His counselor has observed honesty, positivity, and a maturity that is rarely seen in high school students. Hector was nominated for the A.C.E. Award due to his proven resiliency when faced with serious challenges and has shown extreme personal growth.

During Hector’s freshman and sophomore years, he was a student that was considered “at risk” since he was not doing well in school, and did not seem to be motivated academically. He did not put forth a lot of effort in his classes, occasionally cut class, and was content with barely getting by with his grades. Unfortunately, the summer after his sophomore year, he had a major seizure, and found out that he had an AVM rupture in his brain which required surgery. He had to stay in the hospital for a month, and then missed the entire next semester of school while he was receiving physical, occupational, and speech therapy during the day, and working with a homebound tutor and completing online classes at night. This was a very difficult time for him, as he not only had to ondergo a major recovery period, but also missed out on everything a typical teenager would get to experience.

However, this unfortunate event ended up serving as a catalyst for change. While Hector was spending all day long for months at a rehabilitation center, he was wishing he could have been at school instead. He realized how important his education is, and not only pushed himself physically, but also academically during this time. When he came back to school, Hector was a completely different student. He worked hard in his classes, had better attendance, and began planning for his future. He still has memory and concentration struggles to contend with as a result of his brain surgery, but does not let that stop him.

This year, Hector has continued this enthusiasm for his education. He has earned solid grades, advocates for himself when he needs extra help, and is well-liked by his teachers and peers. He has been proactive when it comes to college planning, joining the College Prep Group and attending all after-school workshops. He has thought about his future, and is planning on attending the College of Lake County next year to study Digital/AV Production and Editing. He is mature, is able to reflect on his past, and is very optimistic about his future.