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Ron Port

AJK Participates in the ISLMA Bluestem Award Book Program

AJK participated in the ISLMA (Illinois School Library Media Association) Bluestem Award book program with 4th and 5thgraders. The Bluestem Award is  designed for students in grades 3-5 who are ready for longer titles than found on the Monarch list, but not quite ready for the sophistication of some of the Rebecca Caudill titles. Named in honor of Big Bluestem which is the state prairie grass, the award includes classics and current titles, as well as books that have appeared on Monarch and Rebecca Caudill lists.

The Bluestem award program is a list of 20 books. Students who participate must read or have read to them at least 4 of the 20 nominated books. Student then vote for their favorite book. The title with the most votes becomes the Bluestem award for the year.

This year the winning book was EL Deafo by Cee Bell with 4704 votes. There were 342 schools in Illinois that participated in the program, casting 27885 votes. At AJKA 179 cadets participated and voted.

Lizbeth Garcia was the only cadet to read all 20 books. And take a AR quiz passing with a score of 90-100%.

National Girls and Women in Sports Day

February 19, 2017, marked the 31st Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), hosted at Lake Forest College (LFC). In celebration of NGWSD, the sports teams at LFC invite elementary and middle school students from around the area to campus to partake in a variety of athletic activities.  North Chicago Community Partners (NCCP) brought 25 3-5 grade young ladies from AJK and Yeager to engage in the fun! Participants were led by LFC students to practice skills related to soccer, volleyball, cross country, cheer, softball, basketball and tennis. North Chicago students also had the opportunity to receive guidance from current LFC student-athletes on how to perfect their athletic skillset and develop healthy habits outside of sports.


Lunch with the Principal

34 Cadets at AJKA had lunch with Principal Grenda. This was one of the incentives for growing 20 points or more on their reading or math MAP scores from fall to winter. Congrats Cadets! Keep up the great work.

Brigadier General Michael Fahey Visits AJKA!

Brigadier General Michael F. Fahey USMC visited A.J. Katzenmaier Academy last week! During his visit, the General was able to see how cadets start their day with Morning Meeting. He then met with the mentees at The Academy who are a part of a very special Marine Mentoring Program and spent the remainder of his time visiting classrooms and seeing teaching and learning in action.

“Morning Meeting was a sea of purple for the General’s visit,” said Michael Grenda, Principal of AJKA. “All of our cadets were required to wear their purple AJKA Knight shirts to show our academy pride and to represent support for all branches of the military.”

Brigadier General Fahey stated that he was impressed with the discipline of the cadets in morning meeting where he led a question and answer session, spoke to leadership qualities, and had an opportunity to hear The AJK Creed and Cadence. During Morning Meeting, seven cadets from the academy were provided a coin from Brigadier General Fahey as they were selected as the cadets who have most embraced the four core values of our academic institution, those values represented through R.R.C.C.

During his meeting with the mentees in the Marine Mentoring Program, his message was simple. Brigadier General Fahey let the cadets know that there was something that we all wanted to do better at, and even though we may have a weakness or a subject in school that we don’t do as well as others do, we never have the option of giving up. He let the mentees know that they have someone in their corner who can help them overcome the odds. He also spoke to Lieutenant Colonel Burkett’s comment on how impactful the mentoring program has been for both the cadets at AJKA and the Marines from 3rd CAG and MACG 48 out of Great Lakes. He impressed upon our cadets that it is important for them to continue to open up and have conversations with their Marine mentors regarding some of the issues they may be experiencing because it is then and only then that their mentors have an opportunity to provide them the additional support they may need.

The Academy was humbled and honored to have this great leader in our presence. Brigadier General Fahey is a great example of understanding that commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you. Semper Fi!

One Year Anniversary at The Academy

One Year Anniversary at The Academy

This morning AJKA celebrated the one year anniversary of their name change. Cadet’s and staff all stepped outside into the bitter cold to hold part of their morning meeting and have a ribbon cutting ceremony. Similar to an annual Marine tradition, the smallest cadet at AJK, Sentinel Jair Zavala and the biggest Knight at AJK, Principal Michael Grenda exchanged the ceremonial blades as a right of passage to officially open the the doors to all cadets willing to follow R.R.C.C. and begin or continue their journey towards Knighthood.
Marine Mentors and Students

Cadets at The Academy Hold Awards Ceremony for Marine Mentors


Shadowboxs Created by the Cadets

On Monday December 19th Marine Mentors were invited to an awards ceremony at A.J. Kazenmaier to celebrate the roles they voluntarily take on as mentors here at The Academy. For the past three months, Marines from the USMC 3rd CAG and MACG 48 of Great Lakes have taken on this monumental task in an effort to support the building’s R.R.C.C. initiative that began three years ago. “Yesterday was all about the Marines and their service to our academy,” says Principal Grenda.

“Our cadets are so fortunate to have such great men and women who want to be a part of their lives.”
-Principal Grenda

The awards ceremony was just a little token of appreciation to our Marines. Each Marine was awarded a challenge coin (hand crafted by parent, Chrissy Nieves) from Mr. Grenda and a shadowbox created by the cadets here at AJK that signified the appreciation and importance of each Marine.

Some Quotes from our Cadets

“The best thing about my Marine is he makes me feel safe”
-AJK Cadet

“The best part of having a Marine is that he is the best thing that ever happened to me ”
-AJK Cadet

“The best part of having a mentor is you have someone to share your feelings with and to help you make better decisions. P.S. I feel awesome!”
-AJK Cadet


Empathy at The Academy

Cadets and staff at The Academy have spent the month of December learning about and working on empathy as part of our A Mindset for Learning book study.

The book, written by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz explores how we can teach the habits of mind needed for academic success. Drawing on the works of Carol Dweck, Art Costa, and others, the authors show us how to lead cadets to a growth mindset for academy, and life, by focusing on 5 crucial research-driven attitudes: Optimism, Persistence, Flexibility, Resilience, and Empathy.

Last week’s work around empathy resulted in a classroom door contest where teachers and cadets were asked to decorate their doors the best they could with the theme of empathy in mind. The judges were made up of cadets and staff from Our House and the results were amazing. Not only did we dress up The Academy but we all have a better understanding of what it means to be empathetic towards others.

Parent Luncheon

It Starts With Us – Parent Luncheon

The Academy hosted its second monthly, “It Starts With Us” luncheon on Tuesday December 6th. The turnout was amazing!

The purpose of the monthly luncheon is twofold; provide opportunities throughout the academic day for parents to be a part of their cadet’s day and for administration and staff to share some resources that parents can use at home with their cadets. Lunch is approximately a half hour, followed by 15 minutes of parent tips and resources to use at home and then the last 15 minutes, parents are allowed to see teaching in action.

“We’ve found that the more we open our doors to our parents, opportunities for clarification and understanding become more proactive versus reactive” says the Academy’s principal, Mike Grenda.

December’s parent count was 56 total. Our hopes are to increase that every month. Typically, “It Starts With Us” luncheons are the first Tuesday of every month, however January is a little tricky. Look for a flyer to come home with your cadet the week we return from Winter Break for our next January date.

The Academy Gives Thanks!

Cadets in the Ambassador Program at A. J. Katzenmaier Academy went on a fieldtrip to Feed My Starving Children located in Libertyville, Illinois. Feed My Starving Children was founded in 1987 and is a Christian non-profit that provides nutritionally complete meals specifically formulated for malnourished children. Their mission is simple: Feeding starving children hungry in body and spirit. The process is simple. Donations are given by people to fund the meal ingredients. Volunteers hand-pack the meals and then meals are donated to FMSC food partners around the world, where kids are fed and lives are saved!

Cadets and parents from AJKA joined in this partnership as a way of giving thanks and a Commitment to Community that we feel is essential for our cadets. Principal Grenda says, “What our cadets get out of this fieldtrip is tenfold. They begin to understand that we all have a way in which we can live a life of service. Once this objective is understood, we have done our due diligence in transforming our cadets from just children to responsible citizens in a global society.”  Overall, alongside a team of volunteers, The Academy helped to package 82 boxes, serving 49,200 meals to starving children in the Philippines and Haiti. As this was their first fieldtrip to Feed My Starving Children, The Academy will definitely be returning.

Animal Research Project

Mr. Truelove’s class show off their Animal Research Science Gallery.