School News

D155 High Schools Recognized Among Nation's Best High Schools
Andrea Martinez

All four District 155 high schools ranked among the top 14% of public high schools in the nation for a sixth consecutive year. The U.S. News Best High Schools rankings assess nearly 25,000 public high schools across the United States. 


All four schools also earned recognition among the best high schools in the state of Illinois.

Prairie Ridge High - 64

Cary-Grove - 69

Crystal Lake South - 86

Crystal Lake Central - 121


This recognition signifies a validation of our district's unwavering commitment to excellence in education. It's a testament to the dedication of our educators, the hard work of our students, and the support of our community,” said Dr. Neil Lesinski, Superintendent. “Being recognized among the top high schools in the nation highlights the collective effort invested in preparing our students to find their purpose.


These rankings offer a comprehensive view of educational performance, providing valuable insights into the success of high school education nationwide. Approximately 18,000 schools are evaluated based on criteria such as state assessments and their effectiveness in preparing students for college.

German Students Visit D155 with GAPP Exchange
Jeff Yoder

District 155 welcomed 24 students from Holzgerlingen, Germany from October 18 to November 1 as part of the German American Partnership Program (GAPP). The German students were hosted by nine students from Crystal Lake Central and 15 from Crystal Lake South, who will be making a trip to Germany in June. 

“It allowed me to make more connections with people I hadn't really talked to, but also helped me work on my German a bit,” said CLS senior Hannah Lee. “It was exciting experiencing these things I've had my entire life, for the first time again, with them. There was a lot of culture shock which helped me learn about the culture in Germany, there is so much about the culture that I had only learned because of this opportunity.”

Highlights of the trip included a visit to downtown Chicago, a home football game, and attending classes in American high school. 

“The vibe is completely different,” explained Romy Weinheimer, who was hosted by Lee.  “With the teachers… they don't have an interpersonal connection in Germany. We don't have one with our teachers, but they do have one here. They talk to their students a lot more. They interact more, and they have more group work.”

Marcel Yassine, who attends school at the Schönbuch Gymnasium in Germany, visited CLC with host Owen Battaglia. 

“In Germany, we have much more stricter schools,” Yassine said. We don’t have these flexibilities you have here. We have longer schools, we don't have the same schedule every day. But it was a really nice experience.”

Visiting downtown Chicago was a highlight for Vanessa Graf.

“I would definitely say the trip to Chicago,” she said. “We were in the Willis Tower, and the view was great. Also, we made a boat tour and we saw the skyline. It was beautiful.”

Some of the students saw the Tiger football team clinch a playoff spot with a 27-24 overtime victory over Hampshire in the final game of the regular season. 

“The atmosphere at the high school football games, I liked it very much,” Yassine said.

Chiara Geisler said that she enjoyed her stay with CLC junior Ava Walter.  

“At the beginning, I was really nervous to get to know the family,” said Geisler. “But everything was so fine. And they were so nice to me, and I’m really happy to have her visit my house in Germany.”

The German students are excited about exchanging roles when their host students visit Holzgerlingen in June. 

“I'm really looking forward to showing Emily (Matula) the food culture in Germany,” Graf said. “It's healthier. And we love our German food. I feel like it's a highlight in Germany.

“We’ve also planned a trip to Strasbourg in France, just to take them over the border because it's so close and they don't have that possibility here to just move to another country. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”

D155 students usually visit a castle during the trip. Other options include a visit to the chocolate factory Ritter Sport or a trip to a local baker to learn how to bake Brezeln from scratch.

“In Germany, I'm really looking forward to the food,” said Lee. “I know even fast food is incredibly different and they have a diverse spread of dishes and beverages that I have never tried. I'm also very interested in their school. Many different countries have vastly differing education systems and I'm fascinated by how the German system is structured.”

The Crystal Lake South culinary class prepared a luncheon for a special sendoff on Wednesday, November 1. The German students enjoyed Italian seasoned chicken sandwiches with a basil and lemon zest spread, topped with arugula. 

Five D155 Students Named National Merit® Semifinalists
Jeff Yoder

Five District 155 seniors have been named semifinalists in the National Merit® Scholarship Program, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors. The nationwide pool of semifinalists includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

Liesel Bakk-Hansen - Prairie Ridge

Natalie DuShane - Crystal Lake Central

Madeline Gray - Crystal Lake Central

Avnish Khandeshi - Crystal Lake Central

Sarah Lanza - Prairie Ridge

Liesel Bakk-Hansen is vice president of the German club at Prairie Ridge and is also a member of the German National Honor Society. She is also involved in the music department in both jazz band and the pit orchestra. She is considering studying environmental science or the astronomical sciences.

Natalie DuShane is captain of the science olympiad, where she earned two fourth-place medals at state last year. She is also section leader and center snare for the drumline at Crystal Lake Central. Her other activities include concert percussion, math team, computer club,  as well as choir and madrigals. DuShane participated in the Com-Ed EV Rally over the summer — a Com-Ed sponsored women in STEM competition to build electric cars and race them. It gave 45 girls in Illinois $2,000 in scholarships for college.

“My two interests are music and STEM,” DuShane said. “I plan to major in computer science in the future because I've really fallen in love with it through our school's program.” 

Madeline Gray is co-president of NHS, president of Model UN, a group leader for legacy club, a member of math team, one of the captains of varsity scholastic bowl, and a mentor in the mentor program. She was All-Academic and an All-FVC selection for the CLC varsity soccer team, which finished third in the 2A state tournament last year. Outside of school she enjoys cooking, baking, reading, listening to music, watching soccer, and spending time with friends, family, and her three dogs (Violet, Kevin, and Margot). She is considering a major in business or law.

Avnish Khandeshi is captain of the CLC math team and state champion in biology during the most recent academic challenge (ACES) competition. Khandeshi also placed fourth in math at state ACES and earned a third-place medal at state with the math team. He is also involved in science olympiad, NHS, robotics, and  tennis. Outside of school, he enjoys playing board games and spending time with friends and family. He has also achieved a black belt in karate. Khandeshi is considering a degree in math, computer science, or biophysics.

Sarah Lanza is involved in the environmental club, academic challenge team, and science olympiad at Prairie Ridge. Lanza is passionate about child advocacy. She is a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor and founded S.A.U.C.E, a student group that advocates for underserved youth and sells hot sauce to fundraise for local non-profits. She is an Illinois STEM Scholar and was recognized as a Coolidge senator by the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. After high school, she plans to study biomedical engineering.

A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record  throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT® or ACT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2024 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July.

D155 Students Receive Academic Honors from College Board National Recognition Programs
Jeff Yoder

Nine students from District 155 recently earned academic honors from the College Board National Recognition Programs. These programs celebrate students' hard work in high school and showcase their strong academic performance. The academic honors for rural area, Black, Indigenous, and/or Latino students are an opportunity for students to share their strong academic achievements with colleges and scholarship programs that are seeking to recruit diverse talent. 

Students recognized from District 155 include:

Melody Alonso - Crystal Lake Central

Joshua Carrasco - Cary Grove

Isaiah Herrera - Cary Grove

Josh Marineau - Prairie Ridge

Andrea Medina - Crystal Lake South

Christian Romero - Crystal Lake Central

Ryan Soli - Cary-Grove

Gwen Steeves - Cary-Grove

Vienna Tiria - Crystal Lake South

The criteria for eligible students include: a GPA of 3.5 or higher, PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 assessment scores that are within the top 10% of assessment takers in each state for each award program, or earned a score of 3 or higher on 2 or more AP Exams in 9th and 10th grade.

CLC senior Melody Alonso received a National Hispanic Recognition Award. Alonso is involved in band, choir, madrigal singers, and theatre. Outside of school, she is a member of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra. She plans to  pursue music performance in college.

“It's nice to have this recognition as something extra to put on my college resume,” she said.

CG senior Joshua Carrasco was also a National Hispanic Recognition Award winner. Carrasco is involved in concert band, marching band, and plays in the drum line. He is also active in Latino leadership and robotics club. Outside of school, he enjoys drawing and design,  playing piano and making music with friends. After graduation, he plans to study engineering.  

“Being recognized by the college board makes me feel very proud of my achievements,” Carrasco said. “I am happy knowing that the work I put in is seen and it drives me to work harder to accomplish my goals.”

CG senior Isaiah Herrera was the recipient of a  National Hispanic Recognition Award. Herrera is in the marching band and the tech crew, building sets and working behind the scenes for plays, musicals, and other performances. 

“Outside of school I do karate, which I have done since I was little, so now I help teach classes,” Herrera said. “We teach everyone from little kids to adults and people with physical and mental disabilities.”

Herrera also enjoys studying politics and history. In the future, he plans to study political science or journalism. 

“Being recognized by the College Board gives me some much needed confidence that my efforts here in high school have been worthwhile and not all in vain,” Herrara said. 

PR junior Josh Marineau received a Rural and Small Town Award from the College Board. Marineau participates in National Honor Society and the Fellowship of Christian Students. He is a member of the Prairie Ridge varsity soccer team and also participates in club soccer at a national level. Marineau also volunteers regularly at his church and in the community.

“I feel truly honored to be a part of a group of students that are known for their hard work and focus, dedicated to school,” he said. “Awards like these motivate me to keep going and pour my life into school and activities.” 

CLS junior Andrea Medina was a National Hispanic Recognition Award recipient. She is involved in Spanish club, women in STEM, speech team, model UN, ACES, and media club. 

“I love animals and spend lots of time with my dog,” Medina said. “I like to read, go hiking, and travel. I plan on hopefully attending Purdue and majoring in zoology in the future”

CLC senior Christian Romero earned a National Hispanic Recognition Award. Romero is a member of the Tigers soccer team. He plans to attend an in-state college to pursue a career in a STEM field.

“Outside of school, I like to talk with friends, watch my favorite sports teams, and be with my dog,” Romero said. “Being recognized for this achievement has motivated me to work even harder because I know that I am capable of achieving my goals.”

CG senior Ryan Soli was recognized with a National Indigenous Award. Soli is part of the math team and a member of the National Honor Society at Cary-Grove. He is also a member of the Trojan lacrosse team. 

“I really enjoy athletics and hanging out with people, but also love volunteering anytime I can,” he said. 

Soli has not made a college choice yet, but is considering studying law or mathematics. 

“It feels good to be recognized, but it feels better to just know all the hard work is paying off,” he said. “I'm always happy to just know I'm doing well, even if the whole world doesn't.

CG senior Gwen Steeves was a recipient of the Rural and Small Town Award. Steeves participates in musicals, plays, swing choir, Trojan Voices, A Capella Singers, CG buddies, and NHS. She is also involved with the Cary-Grove Performing Arts Center outside of school, teaching boys jazz, assisting four swing choir classes and a jazz class, working in the dancewear store, running various studio events, and taking jazz and ballet classes. 

Steeves has been accepted at Arizona State University and plans to double major in psychology and popular music, with a minor in dance.

CLS senior Vienna Tiria received a National Hispanic Recognition Award. Tiria is theatre president at Crystal Lake South and is a part of WiSTEM, Aevidum, and choir as well. Outside of school, she enjoys making art, playing piano, taking voice lessons, and creating music.

Tiria is still evaluating her options for college, but is currently thinking about studying graphic design and either minoring or double majoring in an area of music. 

“Being recognized for this achievement is such an incredible honor,” Tiria said. “I'm proud to be latina and to be able to earn an award that recognizes me for that huge part of my identity as well as my academic successes. Earning this achievement also made me realize how much the closest people around me have influenced my journey. I think of my mom and dad who have always been pushing me to put forth my best effort in school and in all other aspects of life. Their encouragement gave me a strong work ethic and sense of motivation each day and I can never thank them enough for it.”

All D155 Schools Rank Among Nation’s Best for Fifth Year
Jeff Yoder

U.S. News & World Report named all four D155 high schools in the top 14 percent nationally. The data includes nearly 25,000 public high schools which are ranked based on college readiness, college curriculum breadth, state assessment proficiency and performance, as well as graduation rate.

Prairie Ridge High school ranked No. 52 out of 723 public schools in Illinois. Cary-Grove is No. 71 in the state, Crystal Lake South is ranked No. 81, and Crystal Lake Central is ranked No. 133 in the state rankings. 

“This recognition is a reflection of a passionate staff that is committed to education, students that are dedicated to learning, and the support of families and our community.,” said Dr. Neil Lesinski, Superintendent. “The district’s consistent appearance at the top of county, state, and national rankings demonstrates the value we place on educating and preparing our students for future success.”

To view the full Best Public High Schools list, and further detailed results of D155 high schools, please click here.