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Meet the College Readiness Staff

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Maria Sostre

College Readiness Program Coordinator

As a College Readiness program coordinator, Maria Sostre juggles many duties. These include explaining college preparation to middle- and high-school students and their parents and coordinating CLC’s Summer Bridge program. The latter assists developmental students in the summer between high-school graduation and their first semester the college.

Amid the daily juggling, Maria sees her work as more than a career: It’s her way of giving back to a community that has helped her so much.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t know the culture of higher education or what is expected,” said Maria, a first-generation college student who was born in Mexico and moved to Waukegan at age six. “At Waukegan High School, I had phenomenal teachers who mentored and guided me, from completely hating math in my freshman year to wanting to take calculus before graduating,” she said. “WHS also had a college advisor who helped me pick colleges. I didn’t know a thing about private versus public colleges or majors, so the advisor helped me understand. Later, I realized helping high-school students was my dream job.”

To realize her dream, Maria graduated from WHS in 2009 and from Wisconsin’s St. Norbert College in 2013, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology and joining CLC the same year. “I enjoy supporting parents and families of students, many of whom have the language barrier, and encouraging them to pursue their dreams,” she said. “It’s rewarding to see how humble and grateful they are.”

Maria is now pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration from Northeastern Illinois University. She plans to continue working in higher education as an advisor or director of a program that mentors students.

“If it were not for my mentors and teachers, I would not be where I am today,” she said. “College has completely changed my life. I went from not thinking about attending college until almost my senior year to now being in graduate school. It is still surreal to have made it this far.”


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Carolyn Brugioni

Dual Credit/College Readiness Program Coordinator

When Carolyn Brugioni meets with area high-school students to discuss college life, she finds that many are grateful to her for demystifying an unfamiliar world.

“At one high school, three seniors stayed after my presentation and asked great questions, such as the meaning of credit hours or the difference between an associate and a bachelor’s degree,” said Carolyn, a program coordinator for the Dual Credit and College Readiness programs. “They said they did not know who to ask because their parents and family did not go to college and it all seemed so overwhelming. Speaking with students makes me realize there is such need in our community for all of us to partner alongside these young men and women to help them prepare, plan and to mentor them from start to finish.”

In addition to speaking at area high schools about the College Readiness and Dual Credit programs, Carolyn also is involved with Taste of College and Jump Start. The programs give junior-high and high-school students a chance to sample college life and coursework. Indeed, the chance to help young people see college as a bridge to a better future is what Carolyn likes the most about her job. After all, she crossed that bridge herself.

A graduate of Highland Park High School, Carolyn became the first female in her family to graduate from college when she earned a degree in English from the University of Illinois-Chicago. She worked in sales and training for a pharmaceutical company for several years and then became a stay-at-home mom. Years later, she re-entered the job market and found that every position of interest to her required at least a bachelor’s degree. “The job hunting reaffirmed to me how important it is to have a college degree,” recalled Carolyn, adding that her daughter attended CLC before transferring to a four-year college, a path Carolyn’s high-school age son plans to follow.

Carolyn said she’s proud of first-generation students who can’t wait to start college. “I know their path even getting to high school graduation may have been difficult, and I hope I can help make their transition to college easier,” she said.


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Sarah Stashkiw

Manager – College Readiness, Dual Credit and Jump Start

As manager of CLC’s College Readiness, Dual Credit and Jump Start programs, Sarah Stashkiw oversees a team that helps inspire area youth to turn the dream of college into an achievable goal.

The College Readiness program provides information to help families and students – from elementary through high school age – attain success at CLC or any college. The Dual Credit and Jump Start programs, respectively, enable students to enroll in college-level courses in high school or take college developmental courses in the summer following high-school graduation. In all of the programs, students learn critical time-management and study skills needed for success in high school, college and beyond.

Helping others, and promoting the value of a college education, both come natural for Sarah. Her father has been a philosophy professor at a local four-year college, and her mother is a retired social worker. “Giving back has always been part of my life,” said Sarah. “I’ve really been fortunate to come from a family that stressed the importance of a college education. My parents led by example and stressed how it’s really important to share our talents.”

At Libertyville High School, Sarah served on teen court, which is an alternative to formal juvenile court that assigns counseling or humane treatment of peers charged for the first time with non-violent offenses such as retail theft or drug possession. Diagnosed at age 13 with diabetes, Sarah also volunteered in her high school years as a counselor for a camp designed for children diagnosed with diabetes. “I helped them understand that you can have a normal camp experience and that diabetes doesn’t have to be focus of your life,” she said.

Following high school, Sarah’s spirit of serving others continued at Iowa’s Cornell College, where her volunteer activities included a countywide teen court program. She later graduated from Cornell with a B.A. in psychology with minors in philosophy and Spanish. Later, she earned a Master of Education degree in teaching and learning from DePaul University. “Being in classes and exposed to people from all backgrounds, doing group projects, was impactful for me,” Sarah recalled.

In her current position, Sarah said she finds it “incredibly rewarding” to build relationships with area high school students and watch them succeed. “What really strikes me, especially in working with first-generation students, is that so many of them want information, and will do whatever it takes to be successful,” she said. “They don’t necessarily know the steps at first, but we show them the way, and they are so grateful.”