Irena Petryk: Rhodes Scholar


Irena Petryk, West alumna.

By Rabia Chatriwala, Staff Writer

Irena Petryk is not a name known to all, but many Niles West alumni know that Petryk has made a large impact on the Niles West community. Not only has Petryk made her mark at West, but she also has made a huge impact in her college community as well. Currently a senior at Northwestern University, double majoring in economics and international studies, Petryk graduated from Niles West in 2020.

In her time at West, Petryk was part of DECA, Mock Trial, and orchestra. Petryk was also heavily involved in Expanding Lives, a non-profit organization that helps women in West Africa get an education. Petryk taught entrepreneurship workshops to girls from Benin and Niger at a leadership conference. “The experience sparked my passion for international economic development, shaping the majors I picked (economics and international studies) and the internships and work experiences I pursued,” Petryk said. Petryk has gone on to work with the Global Poverty Research Lab, the US Agency for International Development, the US Department of State, and the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House. 

Irena and I have kept in contact since she graduated high school and I continue to be impressed with her work ethic and her dedication to make the world around her a better place,” social studies teacher Jason Stanford said. Stanford was Petryk’s Mock Trial coach and saw her progress as a student but also as a person. “Irena Petryk is a natural born leader who has not only influenced my life as her mock trial coach but her peers lives as well. Irena raised the expectation of team members when she was on the team. Irena encouraged her teammates to practice more, to collaborate more and to give 100 percent effort during every practice. As a coach, it’s really nice when your most talented team member is also one of the hardest working students on the team,” Stanford said. During her senior year at Niles West, Petryk’s Mock Trial team won every competition and was the best Mock Trial team in the state. 

At Northwestern, Petryk co-founded Northwestern for Ukraine, a charity organization dedicated to raising awareness and donating to Ukraine and its citizens. Her involvement in her community and her dedication to her studies has allowed Petryk to win the Rhodes Scholarship, a prestigious scholarship awarded to the top students in the country. This year, 32 students were awarded the scholarship to get graduate degrees from Oxford University. Petryk plans to get a Masters of Science in Economics for Development. 

“Irena has always been, and will always be an inspiration. She never failed to make me feel empowered,” said senior Miruna Coic. With this said, Petryk is an inspiration and has made several communities proud.