Daughter of George and Jolanta Jonak Tolczyk
My name is Sylvia Adriana Tolczyk, and I’m a junior at Maine South High School in Park Ridge and this year’s graduate of Maria Sklodowska Curie Polish School. On March 4, 2017, I will have the honor of being presented as a debutante at the Legion of Young Polish Women’s 78th Annual White and Red Ball. As a daughter of a Polish immigrant and first-generation Polish American, I experience the deeply rooted cultural and ethnic ties that influence my identity and values. To learn about my cultural heritage, shape my identity, and to help me develop into a kind and respectful person, I strive for multifaceted experiences in several domains in and outside of school.
Family, traditions, and faith are my foundations. My family is very close-knit. I often take for granted my sibling bond in which we intuitively understand each other despite a 4-year age gap between us. Not only my nuclear family is close, my grandparents and my parents’ siblings and cousins and their families are also close, which creates a loving environment. This is one of the reasons that I always look forward to the holidays and other family celebrations. As corny as it may sound, my family is always there for me.
I believe this loving environment originated by my grandparents and continued by my parents is responsible for my flourishing faith. To practice my faith, I not only say my daily prayers and attend church weekly; but I also participate in the yearly walking pilgrimage to Merrillville since I was 9 years old, and I visited all major European shrines. This summer I experienced my first World Youth Day led by Pope Francis in my parents’ homeland of Poland, fusing together my cultural and spiritual aspects of my life.
Traveling is my passion and I was fortunate to visit over 20 states and 20 different countries. Yet visiting Poland is extra special and feels like discovering a new layer of myself. I traveled to Poland five times to visit distant family and many historically iconic sites ranging from calm rural locations to beautiful cities and monuments. I toured from the north to south starting at Hel Peninsula on the Baltic Sea to Zakopane at Tatry Mountains; and east to west from Bialystok to Wrocław. Visiting those places provided me with a greater appreciation of my culture, language, history, and geography that I have studied for many years.
I have been actively learning about Polish language and culture not only through family traditions, but also by attending Polish school every Saturday since first grade. In Polish school, I am an active student where in addition to learning I participate in and lead school assemblies and ceremonies. I have aided in items donations to orphanages in Poland. Each year I take part in the annual Polish May 3rd Parade. I am serious when it comes to my academics and always have maintained straight As. I am proud to say that I am fluent in speaking, reading, and writing in Polish. In January, I attended “Studniowka” and this spring, I will be taking competency exam “Matura” to culminate my 11 years of Polish school.
I try to maintain a balance between being studious and active at my high school. I take several rigorous AP courses to challenge myself and genuinely obtain the knowledge the curriculum has to offer. I am in the Junior Leaders Program, in which I am a gym teacher’s Teacher’s Assistant. I currently serve as the president of Model United Nations attending every debate conference since my Freshman year, winning the Honorable Delegate Award. I am an officer of Polish Club and a member of Junior Council. I initiated and organized a dress drive fundraiser collecting dresses, jackets, and shoes that were donated to students in an underprivileged community helping them attend their homecoming celebration in style. I was recognized for my dedication to this this dress drive fundraising effort by being presented as Hawk Pride Student of the Quarter at an exclusive ceremony that recognizes students for giving back to the community. I had been involved with Mock Trial, Speech Team, Investment Club, and Girl’s Golf Team.
I am involved in activities outside of school as well. Last year, I assisted with Variety Show fundraising for my brother’s elementary school. I played piano for eight years, and among several earned trophies I am the most proud of winning the Young Talent Award in 2011. My love for the art of writing was recognized when I won the Regional Essay Competition in 5th grade. I was in Indian Princess Scouts where for several years my dad and I participated in community service events. I also take part in culturally-inspired events like Polish Heritage Month celebration, Taste of Polonia, events of Council of Educators of Polonia, and I was featured as a model for the 2016 Legion of Young Polish Women’s Fashion Show.
As I look into my future, I plan on studying and obtaining a degree in psychology, which will allow me to continue humanitarian support to our society and those in need. To prepare myself for this role, as a freshman, I attended Model UN summer program at UCLA not only earning college credits but also gaining leadership and debate skills; last summer I visited several universities in Poland to learn about what European universities can offer; and this summer I will be taking part in a Psychology summer program at Harvard University.
With my parent’s encouragement, from my youngest years I have developed a hard-working character. I put my uppermost effort in each task and goal that lies before me. This mentality has led me to opportunities that attribute to my successes. I know that as a debutante I will continue to proudly represent Polish American heritage.