Brian Packer grew up in Calumet Heights and attended St. Columbanus Elementary on Chicago’s south side. Gravely removed from the city’s highly competitive and selective preparatory high schools, “High Jump helped expose me to so many different high schools that I may never have heard of,” he said. Packer attended De Lasalle High School and went off to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta where he received a B.A. in Business Administration in 2005. Throughout his undergraduate career Packer juggled many roles, he was a student ambassador, member of the student government, resident assistant and member of a historic black fraternity. Packer’s youthful drive was not left behind on the Morehouse campus, in his eight years in the professional arena Packer has racked up a public relations and marketing repertoire with global companies such as Edelman and Weber Shandwick. Currently he is an Account Executive for consumer goods at Weber Shandwick, and in May he will complete his M.A. in Communications at DePaul University, all while working full-time. His work and education continue to bring him back to the core of his High Jump experience, “It was refreshing to be encircled with students and staff who supported my curiosity, quirkiness and creativity.”  As Packer expands his client base to educational institutions, he plans to recreate this environment through marketing communication initiatives that drive educational development.


Arthur F. Jones III still recalls the day he begged, pleaded and dragged his grandmother to High Jump’s information session at Ralph H. Metcalfe Community Academy, his elementary school in Chicago’s West Pullman neighborhood. His sixth grade excitement could hardly be contained at the prospect of what seemed more like an eclectic summer camp than a rigorous academic program. “I felt as though I was apart of this super cool gang of smart kids, who would one day rule the world and I was one of them,” he said. The responsibility, time management and support he gained at High Jump greatly attributed to his success at Robert Lindblom Math & Science Academy, where Jones attended high school. Today, Arthur is a freshman at Marquette University, where he majors in Journalism and International Affairs and minors in Arabic. He hopes his studies lead him to a life of world travel and diplomatic service. Jones career prospects may have catapulted since his High Jump days, but he seems to still be part of an exclusive A-team that seeks to shape and change the world.


From Chicago’s Logan Square to Ireland’s northern shores, Gissel Espinoza, cohort 18, has traversed miles since her High Jump graduation. Espinoza arrived at High Jump as if by chance, tucked in a bundle of mail her father had retrieved from their previous address was a High Jump postcard, the application deadline was less than a week away. Months later, Espinoza found herself discussing math and astronomy on summer afternoons “I remember lunch blocks the best. I had never experienced such fancy lunch facilities, or such motivated and intelligent students sitting around me,” she said. High Jump’s exposure to the boarding school circuit led Espinoza to Phillips Exeter Academy, the nation’s top preparatory school in Exeter, Massachusetts. She is currently a senior studying abroad in Ballytobin, Ireland. Her term abroad was fueled by a culmination of environmental preservation and teaching projects that she has previously pursued in Mexico, Costa Rica and South Africa. In Mexico she volunteered alongside the Experiment in International Living at the orphanage Casa Hogar, shortly after she set off for Costa Rica with Exeter’s Social Service Organization to clean beaches, plant trees and teach English. Last summer she spent time at a wildlife sanctuary in Limpopo, South Africa and led a few classes at a Tshega school. As she eagerly awaits her high school graduation in June, Espinoza already plans on an undergraduate career in public policy and law to continue to serve communities across the globe.


Jose Bautista, member of High Jump’s Cohort 12, grew up in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Although he was enrolled in the Whitney Young Academic Center, which directly led him to attend Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, he chose to supplement his education and spend his summers and Saturday’s at High Jump. “What I recall most were the amazing individuals I had the opportunity to meet. The program was very academically challenging, but after so many years of school the memories that truly stand out are those of the individuals that made up the program, both students and faculty.” After high school, Bautista continued his studies at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park, where he received a B.A. in Psychology in 2010. Like many undergraduates, Bautista uncovered a new passion in his final year of university and decided to pursue work in the legal field. He spent the first year and half after graduation working for a small law firm in Chicago while preparing the LSAT’s. This past September marked his first semester at The Ohio State Moritz College of Law, and he is currently seeking internships and fellowships across the Midwest. A Chicagoan at heart, he hopes to find a permanent position as an attorney in the city come his law school graduation in 2015.


“High Jump is such a part of who I am,” Cohort 10’s Heidi Ortolaza-Alvear says. “It showed me I deserved a good education.” Heidi’s drive and momentum carried her through from the now-closed Anderson Community Academy to the Stevenson School, a boarding school in Pebble Beach, California, and on to Carleton College where she graduated with a degree in psychology in 2008. Not one to rest, Heidi married Andres Avelar last summer and is pursuing her AM in Social Work at the University of Chicago while continuing her work in quality improvement for the Erie Family Health Center. Look for her in the future in non-profit or government leadership-level roles as she continues on her personal and professional mission to break families’ cycles of poverty.


Anna Johnson grew up on the near west side of Chicago attending Mary Mape Dobes Elementary School when she was recruited for High Jump. Though she didn’t attend private school, High Jump prepared her for a rigorous Honors curriculum at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Long train rides to the city’s old town neighborhood and lengthy literature classes fulfilled Johnson’s High Jump days. “I loved reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor and I will never forget getting a copy of my first Richard Wright and thinking….wow, that book is long!” she said. Johnson found another passion at Wellesley College where she majored and received her B.A. in Economics. She then continued on to Harvard Business School where she received her M.B.A. As many in the finance industry, Johnson began her career on the floors of Manhattan’s bustling banking industry. She worked as an analyst on the trading and sales department of Salmon Smith Barney, which is now CitiGroup. As the start-up movement began, Johnson decided to join the budding business and is currently the Director of Customer Insights at Rent the Runway, a New York based start up that allows people to affordably rent high-end designer clothing. After years in the business industry, she envisions and plans to pursue her own entrepreneural venture.


Susana Alvarez grew up in Chicago’s West Lawn neighborhood and is a proud member of High Jump’s Cohort 15. High Jump broadened learning beyond Alvarez’s elementary education at Octavio Paz Charter School. She recalls drama, poetry and a very real-time earthquake project. “ I was never more confident to learn and make new friends than that first summer at High Jump,” she said. Exposure to a liberal arts based education led Alvarez to attend The Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Having found a second home on the east coast, she then enrolled at Boston University’s College of Communication. In May she will graduate with two bachelors’ degrees- one in Journalism and one in International Relations. She has travelled to Greece on a cross-cultural reporting initiative with BU’s Crete Writing Program, she writes (and eats!) for TasteBUds, BU’s first food magazine, and works to improve early childhood education through her Americorps commitment to Jumpstart. “High Jump taught me the impact a community of motivated and dedicated individuals can make, I hope to fuel the same attitude in others to reshape education in our country.”


High Jump • 59 W. North Blvd. Chicago, IL 60610 • 312.582.7700 • • Si tiene alguna pregunta o desea hablar con alguien en español, favor de llamar al 312.582.7700.