Q & A with 2016 Homecoming Court


By George Panoutsos

The NWN sat down with the homecoming court nominees, seniors Jacqueline Bajric, Despina Baxevanakis, Allison Fair, Julianna Gil, Sokol Delisi, Osama Esmail, Matt Galanopoulos, Robbie MerkelNeil O’Shaughnessy and Alen Radeljic for a Q&A on why each candidate deserves your vote.

NWN: Why did you decide to run for court? Why should people vote for you?
Bajric: I decided to run for homecoming court because it’s just something I’ve always thought about doing. Also, my sister ran last year, and she said the whole experience was a bunch of fun, and I tend to follow her footsteps. People should vote for me because I believe that I can represent our awesome student body in a positive way!
Baxevanakis: I decided to run because I thought it would be cool to fulfill my sixth grade dream of becoming homecoming queen. I feel people should vote for me because I am a very nice person, at least I hope I am, and I feel like I’m an outgoing and nice person that people would like as homecoming queen.
Fair: I decided to run for court because I feel as if I’ve represented myself over the past four years at Niles West in a positive way. With extracurriculars, academics, and just spreading positivity and being kind to the students around me, I feel as if I would be a good fit for homecoming royalty.
Gil: I decided to run because I thought it would be a cool experience, and I’ve never done something like this. I also wanted to represent the Hispanics in this school as a minority. People should vote for me because I’m really nice to everyone, I’m fun, and I have a lot of school spirit.
Delisi: I decided to run for court because I felt it was my duty to represent Niles West in a way that I have never represented it before. I owe it to my classmates, colleagues, and Niles West staff members to show what they fight for. People should vote for me because I understand what it means to be a Wolf, whether its in athletics, in clubs, or in the classroom. There is a quote that hangs in the front of Niles West that demonstrates what our school stands for — “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack,” – Rudyard Kipling.
Esmail: I’ve dreamt of running for Homecoming Court since freshman year. I’ve never been a fan of the system and felt that I needed to make a change; however, I was told to wait until my senior year to bring about the revolution that was necessary for Niles West to truly understand equality. I’ve lived a tough life. I was born with glass bones and paper skin. Every morning I break my legs, and every afternoon I break my arms. At night, I lie awake in agony until my heart attacks put me to sleep.
I believe that all voters should cast their ballots with my name because of the tough life I’ve lived. It began in west Morton Grove, where I was born and raised. I spent most of my days on the playground, where I chilled out, maxed, and relaxed all cool, and played some basketball. One day, a couple of guys (who happened be up to no good) started making trouble in the neighborhood. I got in one little fight and my mom got scared, and that was that.
Galanopoulos: I decided to run for homecoming court because everyone in my family has done it, and because I thought it would make sense being that homecoming was created around football, and I am on the football team. People should vote for me because I am a kid that knows a lot of kids and always do what is right.
Merkel:  I decided to run for court because I thought it would be a fun opportunity. I think people should vote for me because I’m really respectful of others opinions and I am very goal-driven.
O’Shaughnessy: I was unaware that I was going to be nominated in the first place, but my friend Joey DiFillipo nominated me, which was a pleasant surprise. People should vote for me because I am a good representative of Niles West in a lot of different aspects. I am in sports, extracurricular activities (Relay for Life and theater), and an overall very nice and social guy.
Radeljic: I want to represent Niles West my senior year and hope to be someone students at this school can look up to. People should look to vote for me because I represent what it means to be a Niles West Wolf… hard working, positive, consistent, and involved within the community.
NWN: What is something you’re most proud of from your four years at Niles West?
Jacqueline Bajric: I am most proud of my ability of getting involved with a bunch of different extracurriculars. Before high school, all I’ve ever been involved in was sports-related, so I’m glad I got the chance to expand my horizons and join other activities and meet new people.
Despina Baxevanakis: I am most proud of becoming  a board member and president of Greek Club because I am really proud of my heritage and my culture. Also, Greek club allows me to know and become great friends with other people who are Greek, which I really enjoy.
Allison Fair: I am most proud of being in National Honors society because it shows not only my character, but has shown the determination and drive I have had during my four years of attending Niles West. I always push myself forward and try to achieve excellence in everything I do, no matter how big or small the task may be. I am also extremely proud of being on Orchesis because my passion is dance, and I work extremely hard to improve my abilities.
Julianna Gil:  I’m really proud that I volunteered all four years with the CEC kids, and I’ve been on the swim team since freshman year. I made a really big difference in the CEC program by getting them their own gym class, as well as other classes like chemistry.
Sokol Delisi: I am most proud of being elected Vice President of the Senior Class.
Osama Esmail: I’m proud of being exceptionally better than every other classmate of mine in nearly every aspect (I’m not perfect; I recognize that as I’m a very humble individual). There are many things I’m proud of: I haven’t missed a day of school yet, and I also made MULTIPLE shots while playing basketball during P.E. I believe that although I’m not the most chiseled man at Niles West (I’d say I’m third or fourth), I can do fairly well for myself when playing sports. I’ve done a couple other things that haven’t really mattered much (perfect ACT, math team, etc.) but I’m most proud of my athletic prowess.
The first opportunity I had to show off my natural athleticism was freshman baseball. I showed up on the first day of tryouts and ended up making the B team over the A team (B for best, obviously). I ended up breaking every record in Niles West baseball history in my first three games, and cruised for the rest of the season on the bench. Sophomore year, I played tennis and was a starter for the JV team. I ended up winning every match of doubles I played, but without a partner. During junior year I was unable to participate in tennis for undisclosed reasons, but I plan to make the return to tennis in the spring.
Matt Galanopoulos:  Something I am most proud of my four years here at West is that I have never gotten into trouble. I have tried to do what is right and stay away from the dean’s office because if I get in trouble others may think it’s okay to get in trouble.
Robbie Merkel: Something I’m most proud of from my four years at Niles West is getting involved in clubs and building new friendships from them.
Neil O’Shaughnessy:  One of the things I am most proud of in my four years of attending Niles West is that I have been wrestling on varsity since my freshmen year. I am also extremely proud of becoming captain of the wrestling team my junior year,a because it shows how hard work and dedication can go a long way.
Alen Radeljic:  I am most proud of helping our Niles West boys varsity Wolves beat New Trier, which hasn’t been done since 1997. Overall, I am proud to be a part of a strong soccer program here at West.
NWN: What are your future plans? (What colleges are you thinking about?)
Jacqueline Bajric: I have this fantasy of becoming a news reporter on E! News, but more realistically, in college, I want study medicine and see where that takes me. College-wise, I would love to join my sister down at the University of Miami.
Despina Baxevanakis: Right now, I am undecided on what I really want to do, but my top university is Tulane University in New Orleans because I would be a legacy there. I am also applying to University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Loyola University, and other local schools. I am just going with the flow for now.
Allison Fair: I would love to go to Lake Forest College, study psychology, and be in a dance club when I attend college, because even though I may not pursue my passion, I still want it in my life. I want to be get involved with extracurriculars in college and learn!
Julianna Gil:  I want to be a special ed teacher, and I’m applying to Boston University and U of I.
Sokol Delisi: I plan on attending a four-year university and double majoring in political science and economics.
Osama Esmail: I have plans to study computer science and maybe earn a doctorate if I want to continue my education. The reason I pick computer science as a major is that there are multiple paths one can go down that interest me for now: software engineering, in which I’d be developing applications and doing similar tasks for the company I’m employed by, and more back-end stuff. I’m applying early action to MIT, which is my number one school, among some other selective schools. I’ve also got the University of Illinois as a solid backup, since they also have a top computer science program that I can get into.
As for other careers, I’ve looked at other STEM fields such as mathematics and physics, and I might indeed end up doing a double major in one of them (depending on where I go and how things are in college). I’ve also looked at other specific engineering majors such as mechanical engineering, nuclear engineering, and manufacturing engineering. Since these programs are close enough to my first major (computer science), I don’t need to look at any other colleges for this.
Matt Galanopoulos: My plans for the future are to play college athletics. I also want to go to college in hopes to study business and finance.
Robbie Merkel: I want to go into law and major in political science, either at DePaul, Loyola, or U of I at Urbana-Champaign.
Neil O’Shaughnessy:  I plan on attending University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Loyola University, or Illinois State University, and majoring in clinical psychology. I want to major in clinical psychology because I am really interested in learning how the brain works, and I love helping people.
Alen Radeljic: Marquette University, where I want to do physical therapy and continue playing soccer in college.
NWN: What extracurricular activities are you involved in at Niles West?
Jacqueline Bajric: Well to start off, for sports, I did basketball and volleyball for one year only, but this is going to be my fourth year on varsity soccer. Throughout my years I’ve joined Wolfpack, Book Club, German Club, Snowboard and Ski Club, Go Green Club, and Dance Marathon. Also, this will be my third year as the president of Breakfast Club.
Despina Baxevanakis: I am involved in girls soccer, Greek club, Telenovela club, and Spanish Honors Society. I am also thinking of joining National Art Honors Society because I am really enjoy ceramics.
Allison Fair: The extracurricular I am involved with is that I am in National Honor Society, dance marathon, and Orchesis.
Julianna Gil:  I’m a part of the swim team and president of Breakfast Club.
Sokol Delisi: I was involved in track & field my freshman year, golf and S.O.A.R. (Students Organized Against Racism) my sophomore year. I was a part of junior cabinet and am also currently Vice President of senior cabinet.
Osama Esmail: Regarding school-sponsored events, the school has organized a list of all of my extracurriculars here. When discussing activities outside of school, besides coming up with a different cure for cancer once a month, I usually just lift for eight hours a day, then I get home and sleep for 10 minutes. I wake up, finish my breakfast and eat my homework, and then go to school. Once school is out, I go back to the gym and the cycle repeats. For those of you that want to look like me, I’d recommend just not trying. It’s impossible to look like me, no matter how hard you try. Regardless, I’d recommend KostiFitness (shout out to Kosti Kalaras) as a light warm-up to those of you who are new to lifting.

Besides getting gainz and power napping, I usually eat my homework in the mornings. However, to burn off the calories, I eat my homework while doing my morning sprints of 10 km, and then I jog to school. I take pride in eating my homework since my doctor says that humans aren’t designed to eat paper, but I’m not a weakling so I’ve worked for 20 years to prove her wrong. I started eating paper the day I was born and slowly worked my way up from little snippets of homework to entire novels that I have to read for English. I may have to balance the constant paper digestion out with a few pounds of laxatives every night, but it all works out in the end because I’m right and my doctor’s wrong, so suck it science.

Matt Galanopoulos:  I have been involved in three sports all four years of high school, and I am also involved in some clubs. I played football, basketball, track, and baseball throughout high school. I also am in the bass fishing club.

Robbie Merkel: I’m in Model U.N., Feminist Club, Telenovela Club, and Choir.

Neil O’Shaughnessy:  I am involved in a bunch of extracurricular activities.  I am in wrestling, theater, and Relay for Life, and I want to join Dance Marathon this year.

Alen Radeljic: I am involved in DECA, varsity soccer, and the Trainers Club.

NWN: How do you want to make your last year in high school memorable?

Jacqueline Bajric: It’s all going by so quick, so I just want to take in every moment I have left at Niles West with little to no stress. Also, I want to do big things in soccer this year and finish off my high school career with an awesome season.

Despina Baxevanakis: I want to make my last year in high school memorable by just having fun and live it up before I go off to college. I want to spend quality time with the friends I have had during these four years of high school.

Allison Fair: I want to finish off my four years strong regarding academics, and socially with different extracurriculars. I want to show my school spirit in as many ways as possible before I leave this school, where I have made wonderful memories.

Julianna Gil: I want to make the best out of it. I want to be more involved and have more fun, because high school goes by really fast! I remember my first day of freshman year like it was yesterday.

Sokol Delisi: I want to continue to bring unity to our school. I believe that we are stronger as a unit, and firmly stand by people working together. This builds a more positive high school experience for everyone. “One for all – all for one.”

Osama Esmail: I plan to win Homecoming Royalty #VoteOsama

Matt Galanopoulos:  I want to make it memorable by having a grade everyone wanted to be a part of. Showing a lot of support in sports and other events is an easy way that can make his year fun. And also trying to have a good time and get others involved while also having fun for myself.

Robbie Merkel: I want to make it a fun year and leave a positive impact on Niles West.

Neil O’Shaughnessy: I want to make my last year in high school memorable by going to state for wrestling, since I have been working so hard for the past three years. It would truly be bittersweet to end my high school wrestling career by going to state.

Alen Radeljic:  First, I would want all our sports to dust North and take home every trophy we can to prove that West is the best. Personally, I want to help my boys take back that trophy from North in soccer and leave it at home where it belongs. But overall get 2017 known as the most lit grade Niles West has ever had.

Cast your vote for homecoming royalty here. Remember, voting closes on Thursday!
Contributions made by Jacqueline Bajric, Isabella Gil, and Divitya Vakil.