If there is one word to describe Senior Career & Staffing Specialist of Project Prepare James Zeckhauser, it’s proud. Proud in a paternal way — proud in wanting the best for his students, proud in making sure this celebration, at My Fair Lady Banquets, was pitch-perfect, proud in wanting all attendees to stay for the entire celebration to honor his students’ accomplishments. It’s endearing as “Zeck” (his nametag abbreviated) barely sits throughout the ceremony, making sure the buffet-style meal is served timely, the speakers correctly pronounce his students’ names, career path and majors, and that the particular plaques are given to their recipients. Awards with superlatives like “Cool Intensity” and “Quiet Confidence” were not only given careful, thoughtful consideration to their titles, but the particular student who embodied these traits with aplomb. Zeck fastidiously checks over the night’s itinerary like a theater hand prepared for something to go wrong — the possibility that the night could somehow be ruined is unfathomable, especially for these kids who have worked tirelessly on job preparation readiness, applications, and are entering or about to enter the workforce.
Director of Counseling & Clinical Practice Dave Simpson guest-starred as the Master of Ceremonies for the night, reading from Zeck’s detailed, 20-page program. Every speaker, student, and special guest has a bio – from Luis Klein, District Director for State Representative Will Guzzardi to Alyse Mauro, Paralegal for McDermott Will & Emery – written with nothing but effusive praise. Special guests like alumna Rashiek Bland are given the floor with bowing dignity. Bland, with an impressive resume of graduating from high school in only three years, getting her BS from Dominican, and earning her M.S. in Nursing from Rush University, all while raising her six-year-old son, speaks from the heart as a testament to hard work and Project Prepare’s nurturing.
The most prestigious award, The Rosie Davis Most Valuable Participant Award, is handled carefully with gloves. Engraved in glass, the trophy is given to the student who best embodies the qualities of its late Project Prepare grad namesake: bright, self-starting, care-giving, effective with others, dependable, and modest. Awarded to Stephanie Marroquin, Zeck chokes up despite his meticulously-prepared speech. With her incredible progress from student to lauded employee to high school graduate, it’s not hard to see why.
We graciously thank the support of Project Prepare’s two partners, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership and Kelvyn Park School in helping our students to a better future. With the love and care that the staff behind Project Prepare clearly demonstrate, our students can and will lead to great things.
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