Freshmen Look to Make Their Marks

New Beginnings

Every year, eager freshmen pour onto the Hilltop to begin the Bradley Experience. Along with their backpacks and dorm refrigerators, they bring a variety of backgrounds, goals, and plans for the future. The five members of the Class of 2017 profiled here exhibit the passion for learning, experience, and service that is a University tradition. Whether musician, missionary, technician, angler, or entrepreneur, they will Go Far, Go Bradley.

Breakdancing Entrepreneur

After witnessing a boy spinning on his head at a party, Jack Cohen ’17 became “addicted to learning more dance moves and becoming involved in the hip-hop scene.”

The then-12-year-old’s passion for dance grew, and when he entered Lafayette High School, the St. Louis native had a vision of creating breakdancing clubs that would compete against each other like football teams compete. He started his first club at Lafayette. One year later, under his guidance, six high schools established official clubs. During his junior year, he formed the High School Breakin’ League (HBL), an organization that offered competitive events.

“We had four awesome events that gave breakdancing a lot of great attention, but HBL couldn’t survive because there simply weren’t enough boys interested to keep it going” Cohen said. “That realization led to my next entrepreneurial adventure, Cardboard and Vinyl, a website I created for sharing my mission of growing a breakdancing community. My site acts as a portal into the hip-hop community. Online membership is free, and members have access to video tutorials, hip-hop music that isn’t played on the radio, raw footage of breakdancing battles, and open invitations to hip-hop events taking place in various communities.”

Earlier this year, Cohen was named a recipient of one of the 11th annual Young Entrepreneur awards, a national competition sponsored by the Young Entrepreneurs Foundation. 

The finance major is always interested in teaching others how to dance and plans on practicing in the Markin Center. He is giving some thought to starting a club on campus. “Attending Bradley opens up many boundaries for me,” added Cohen. “I am looking forward to having the freedom I need to succeed as well as the risk that comes along with it.”

Rock Star Flutist

Declaring a major in flute performance was an easy decision for Chessie Ruester ’17. The Crystal Lake, Ill., native explained why her choice was so simple: “If there’s one thing I could live with forever, playing the flute would be it.”

Ruester, a flutist since a very young age, became interested in the instrument for an unusual reason. “My dad used to listen to Jethro Tull, and it was the coolest thing,” she admitted. “I thought I was going to be a rock star playing the flute when I grew up!”

In addition to her flute skills, Ruester also will bring to Bradley an excitement about learning and a finely honed work ethic. As someone who has always loved school, she was a natural fit for the University’s Honors Program. “I heard so many great things about it from Dr. Kyle Dzapo [Caterpillar Professor of Music and director of the Honors Program] and other students that I have to do it,” she said. In fact, the course she is most looking forward to is Dzapo’s honors seminar, “Mozart: Portrait of a Genius,” because “when you’re playing music, it’s important to know about the composer and where he’s coming from.”

Ruester hopes to one day join a pit orchestra, preferably on Broadway or a similar venue producing musicals. To get there, she knows she needs her Bradley education and the confidence it will give her personally and professionally: “I really want to be able to own the stage.”

Mission Work Inspires Major

Most high school seniors devote a great deal of their time to researching, visiting, and choosing the best colleges possible. However, the process for Kalah Anderson ’17 was significantly easier. “My dad surprised me by saying we were going on a college visit; it was a forced trip to Bradley,” she explained. “But, the second I stepped on campus, I knew it was the one. It was a perfect fit — the people, the community, and the size of the school.”

Anderson is accustomed to diving into new experiences. For three summers during high school, she traveled to Managua, Nicaragua, on mission trips with her church’s youth group. “I’ve given my personal testimony a few times and helped spread God’s word to the people there, mostly at children’s camps,” she noted. The Batavia, Ill., native also said she built great relationships with the people she encountered.

A former dancer on her school’s poms team, Anderson anticipates leaving that activity behind for some of the new opportunities she’ll find on campus: “I’m going to join a sorority, so I think that’s going to take up most of my time.” In addition, she hopes to study abroad during her time on the Hilltop, preferably in Costa Rica “because of its atmosphere and climate.”

With a major in early childhood/elementary education, Anderson is really looking forward to her children’s literature class. She also wants to acquire a well-rounded education and great new friends, which should come naturally to a student who describes herself as having a “bubbly personality and outgoing spirit.”

Female Angler Knows Bass

With a best catch of a 5-pound largemouth bass and two Illinois High School Association sectional appearances, Kristine Schmeling ’17 (front row, left) plans to bring her talent to Bradley’s bass fishing club, which was started by her brother Peter Schmeling ’16 in the fall of 2012.

Schmeling was on the bass fishing team for four years at Boylan Catholic High School in Rockford, Ill. “A lot of people say fishing is luck, but it’s more than luck. You have to use the right bait and cast. It’s not just sitting there and watching the bobber; it’s more strategic,” she explained.

Her favorite bass fishing memories are from sectionals: “Normally, fishing is seen as a leisure sport, but it was exciting to see the weigh-in and everybody gathered for the tournament.” Her sophomore and junior years, Schmeling was one of eight from more than 20 team members who fished at sectionals. 

Schmeling looks forward to majoring in psychology and wants to attend medical school after Bradley. She said Bradley is a good fit for her “because of the size, and everyone was so welcoming and friendly when I visited. It seems like a place where I could live for the next four years.”

Schmeling also was a member of Boylan’s tennis team and competed in doubles at the state tournament her sophomore, junior and senior years. A member of the National Honor Society, she finished in the top 10 percent of her class.

Technology on Stage

Not many high school seniors come to a spring college visit with a theatre portfolio and receive an invitation to join the theatre department’s May interim class in Las Vegas, but Michael Castelluccio ’17 did. With plans to double major in mechanical engineering and theatre production, he turned 18 in April and flew to Nevada from his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on May 20 for his first taste of Bradley — all before graduating from John F. Kennedy Senior High.

“Although the logistics were challenging, once the theatre department helped me register for the class, I was on my way to stay at the Excalibur,” Castelluccio said. “We watched one Cirque du Soleil performance each night, and I had the opportunity to participate in stage technology workshops with a theatre company, Stage Technologies.”

He noted that Gemma Guy, the company’s vice president who manages its Las Vegas branch, personally showed the class the steppingstones of how to make it in the business. “The company’s expertise is creating trap doors, and we were shown the thought and effort that goes into Vegas productions,” Castelluccio added. “Most of the technology is created with winches, and performers are attached to them. It takes years of planning and precise movements. I have always been interested in technology, and incorporating technology into theatre production is relatively new, considering the long history of theatre.”

With his goal of working in the entertainment industry, Castelluccio said that meeting with several Bradley professors last spring helped him realize he could easily shape his own curriculum with the double major. A member of his high school’s national award-winning show choir, Castelluccio looks forward to playing ultimate Frisbee on campus.   


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