The Notre Dame Club of Chicago has an affiliated Scholarship Foundation, and the mission of the Notre Dame Club of Chicago is to raise money for the Scholarship Foundation. Each spring, the Scholarship Foundation awards scholarships to high school seniors who have been accepted by the University of Notre Dame and have been determined by the University’s Office of Financial Aid to have financial “need” – to require additional financial assistance to enable the student and his/her family to afford the cost of a Notre Dame education. Only high school students whose primary residence is located within our Club’s boundaries, as determined by the Notre Dame Alumni Association (which is, essentially, Cook County), are eligible for the Notre Dame Club of Chicago Scholarship Foundation awards.
We have more than 70 students on campus who benefit from our Scholarships. The Scholarships range in amount depending on available funds and the students’ need. The Scholarships are automatically renewable for the Scholar’s four undergraduate years at Notre Dame (or five years for Architecture and certain other five-year undergraduate majors), so long as the Scholar remains in good standing academically and so long as the University’s Office of Financial Aid determines for each academic year that the student has continuing financial need.
I almost didn’t go to Notre Dame. My senior year of high school, I decided that I wanted to become a teacher, and I thought that Notre Dame did not have an education program. I found out that I could take education classes at St. Mary’s and my dream of attending the University of Notre Dame remained alive.
Then again, I almost didn’t go to Notre Dame. My family did not have a lot of money. In fact at that time my parents had been in and out of work and were in debt. I didn’t think I could afford to attend the school. After being accepted, though, I received a letter from the Notre Dame Club of Chicago saying that, because of my financial situation, I was eligible to apply for a scholarship from the club. I went through the application and interview process and was given a large scholarship that allowed me to attend the University of Notre Dame.
I enrolled at Notre Dame in 1997 as a mathematics major with the intention of becoming a math teacher. At ND I met my best friends and visited them when they studied abroad. During my studies, I was both tutored and became a tutor. At Notre Dame, I learned what it meant to work hard and study. I also discovered my desire to live my life as an adventure in the service of others. I worked hard to be able to meet all of my math requirements and education requirements and still graduate a semester early.
I graduated in January of 2001, and in October of 2001 I joined the Peace Corps. I spent over two years as a volunteer in Lindi, Tanzania teaching math and physics to secondary school students. In addition to my teaching, I was involved in secondary projects, such as health education and organizing a girls’ empowerment conference.
During my time in Tanzania, my father died suddenly. I had to leave my post and rush home to be with my family. I was devastated and found it hard to know what to do. I thought about how disappointed my students would be if I didn’t return and finish the job I promised to do. I returned to Lindi and appreciated my entire experience there.
While in Tanzania I was also able to travel around the country and neighboring countries, going on safari in the Serengeti, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and white water rafting down the Nile and Zambizi rivers. My service (and this particular adventure) came to an end in December of 2003.
I soon found out that I had been accepted into the Peace Corps Fellows Program at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. In May of 2004 I started attending classes at Teachers College, working toward my Masters Degree in Mathematics Education. As part of the fellowship agreement, I started teaching at a high school for disadvantaged youth in New York City. I have been working at Landmark High School for over ten years now as a math teacher. I am the math department head and have held many leadership and mentoring positions in the school. I was accepted and renewed as a Math for America Master Teacher, where I have been heavily involved in improving my own practice and the practice of others. I also started a program at my school, with the help of funding from other Notre Dame graduates, brining students to learn and apply actual scientific research in the tropical rainforest of Panama.
During my eleven years in New York City I also met my wife, Sarah Petersen (Class of 2000). We have a four-year-old boy, Liam, and a two-year-old girl, Amelia. They love cheering for the Irish, and I hope they can make their dreams come true the way I have been able to thanks to the Notre Dame Club of Chicago.
This will be my last school year in NYC. This summer my wife and I will be moving our family to the Dominican Republic to teach at the International School of Sosua. My wife and I have had the dream of living and teaching abroad since before we knew each other. Now we get to share this dream together, while working at the same school our children will attend, and hopefully working to better the lives of the members of the community in which we will live.
The Notre Dame Club of Chicago Scholarship changed my life and led me to be the man I am today. I like to think that, in turn, I have made the lives better for those around me. I am very grateful for the opportunity that I was given, and I hope to continue to create opportunities for those less fortunate than myself.
– Charles Roth