Illinois Governor Rauner Visits Niles West

Governor Rauner being shown how Niles West uses virtual welding to prepare students for future career paths.

By Grace Geraghty, Editor in Chief

Illinois governor Bruce Rauner visited Niles West on Mon., Jan. 22 to tour the school’s NSERVE facilities. NSERVE (Northern Suburbs Educational Region Vocational Education), which services Niles Township, Evanston Township, New Trier High School, Maine Township, and Glenbrook High Schools, is a program that seeks to teach students real-world career skills in a classroom environment.

NSERVE has an expansive program at Niles West, which is in part why Rauner chose to visit.

“The program here is terrific. We want to raise the profile of it; this ability to make sure that every student has fantastic career opportunities is so important,” Rauner said. “No matter whether [students go to] college or not, every student deserves a great career, and the kind of programs and experiences that NSERVE offers allow students to learn early on what careers are available and what they enjoy and don’t enjoy. It gets them the experience, so they can pursue high-paying, high-potential careers.”

It is Rauner’s hope that the NSERVE program at Niles West can serve as a model for other districts.

“It’s all about sharing resources and learning from each other. What I want to do is have other schools learn from what you’re doing here and then see how we can get the resources so these types of classroom experiences can be offered at other schools,” he said.

Rauner entered the school through the Oakton lobby before greeting school administrators, including principal Jason Ness, assistant principal of operations Mark Rigby, and superintendent Steven Isoye. Following that, Rauner was taken to the principal’s conference room for a short presentation before commencing his tour of the school facilities that house NSERVE programs.

The first stop on the tour was to an Introduction to Engineering Course, where Rauner spoke to students, one of whom was freshman Angelina Boudouvas.

“I was excited about my interview with Gov. Rauner,” Boudouvas said. “We talked about what we were doing in engineering and the importance of women in the engineering field for our future.”

Rauner then stopped by a Computer Science class to meet members of the award-winning VEX Robotics Club and witness the team’s robots in action.

“I was impressed by Governor Rauner’s genuine interest in our school’s robotics club, going so far as to question specific design considerations and time constraints on our projects,” senior and VEX club member Robert Majcher said.

Tim Sullivan, computer science teacher and VEX sponsor, was also excited to have Rauner witness the hard work of the robotics students.

“It’s a great privilege and an opportunity. It speaks for the volume of what Niles Township has done for these students,” Sullivan said. “We all worked together to put together this program, and as a whole, [Rauner’s visit] stands for what we have established here as a community.”

District 219 superintendent Steven Isoye is proud of the opportunities offered by the school that were being demonstrated by Rauner’s visit.

“I think it’s important that we have our elected officials visit our schools to see what we do, and how we are able to prepare our students,” Isoye said. “I think we definitely should be part of the formula for any model that they’re looking at in terms of how we’re able to support students in the state of Illinois. There are great things that are happening here at Niles West and district 219 overall. We have wonderful teachers and students.”

As for his message to Niles West students, Rauner wants to make sure that everyone has the opportunities they are looking for within the state of Illinois.

“I want to say, you’re our future; you’re our future for Illinois, and I want to wish you the best in your education and for whatever you choose to do in life, I want to make sure we offer that opportunity for that career in Illinois,” Rauner said. “We’re trying to get our economy competitive and growing, so if a student wants to be an auto-technician or a welder, a mechanic or a doctor or a physician or lawyer; whatever they choose to do, they can do it in Illinois.”