Winnetka, News

Ta-da! New Trier’s Winter Carnival will include magician, games, rides and a local beneficiary

New Trier’s upcoming Winter Carnival — scheduled from 5-8:30 p.m. on Feb. 23 — is a longstanding, community tradition with a charitable twist.

Hosted by the high school’s senior class, this year, the event will benefit Embarc Chicago, an organization that provides experiential learning opportunities for Chicago Public School students on the south and west sides of the city.

Senior adviser chairs Cindy Fialka and Ted Koulentes oversee the details of the carnival. They explained that Embarc was selected because of past experiences that left a lasting impression.

“Pre-COVID a select group of seniors shared experiential learning opportunities with Embarc students,” Koulentes explained. “What I saw was a breakdown of barriers. Kids from New Trier collaborated with kids from other, less-fortunate communities, finding commonalities.”

As thoughts for the 2024 Winter Carnival began to percolate, Fialka and Koulentes reimagined a new partnership with Embarc. This time, one that could utilize the skills of all 1,000 New Trier seniors.

With that goal in mind, the 40 New Trier senior adviseries were asked to create an experiential learning opportunity for Embarc students, as part of their senior projects. Examples ranged from creating opportunities to see theater productions, working alongside local fire departments, engaging in cooking classes and visiting museums, just to name a few.

The proceeds from the carnival will then be used to see that these opportunities come to fruition.

“Our hope is to fund 40 experiential learning opportunities for Embarc students, offsetting costs for transportation, materials or any fees associated with the learning opportunity, “ Koulentes said.

Embarc’s Amy Besida couldn’t be more grateful for New Trier’s generosity and support.

“The root of Embarc is relationships and connections,” she said. “This partnership with New Trier creates the opportunity for our students to have access to new people, places, spaces and connections that can lead to new interests and future aspirations.

“Most importantly this allows our students to create connections and relationships with people that are invested in their development and success of all young people.”

Currently, the adviseries are busy making the Winter Carnival a memorable, fun and community-engaging experience.

Fialka described the event as “an awesome way to give back to the community.” She added that a new feature, a 5 p.m. magic show hosted by Lake Forest High School student Liam Sheridan will add a new flair to the event. Following the show, guests will travel from one carnival-themed activity after another, all designed by the senior class.

Riley Fitzsimmons, a member of the senior leadership board, said that various components go into making the Winter Carnival a success. She has designed the 2024 Winter Carnival T-shirts and has collaborated with others to place posters all around New Trier Township.

Likewise, she has enlisted the help of her fellow seniors to decorate the school. During the process, Fitzsimmons and fellow leadership board members have participated in team-building and experiential learning activities, learning so much along the way.

“The experience has helped us learn more about one another and become more understanding and comfortable with each other. It has given us an opportunity to connect with our peers in a new way,” Fitzsimmons said.

The New Trier Winter Carnival will be held at the Winnetka campus, 385 Winnetka Ave., from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Feb. 23. Tickets for the Magic show can be purchased ahead of time or at the event beginning at 4:45 p.m. Carnival games are between one and three tickets per person and each ticket is $1.

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Alexa Burnell

Alexa Burnell is a Wilmette resident who has been covering the North Shore for the past seven years, previously for The Wilmette Beacon and its sister newspapers.

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