Alumni and Community: Bringing People Together

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Published on July 14, 2010 with No Comments

by Krystal Vivian
For Michael Dyrek, there isn’t much better than getting the community Chesterton High School Alumni together for a night of fun while, at the same time, raising money to give to a current CHS senior in the form of the CHS Alumni Scholarship Award.
Dyrek, a 1986 graduate of CHS, is currently preparing for a summer all-class reunion for CHS alumni who are 21 and over that will be held in July. This will be the second reunion, and all profits go toward a general scholarship award set up by Dyrek and the Alumni.
The scholarship last year was in the name of Michael Carrasco, a sophomore at CHS who passed away last year.
After seeing Carrasco’s picture on a donation box at the Chesterton YMCA, Dyrek called Leroy’s Hot Stuff to discuss setting the scholarship up in his name.
“I wanted to step up and say ‘You know what, we care’,” Dyrek said. “The alumni here, we care. The community cares.”
The theme of caring and giving back is what the Alumni group Dyrek is running is all about. He prides the organization on being selfless and kind, values he considers important, and he is hoping to inspire those feelings in all who participate in the organization and the reunions.
The CHS Alumni Group began on Facebook and started out with Dyrek and 1967 CHS graduate Charles Erikson. The two discussed bringing people together who had graduated from Chesterton High School. Now they have expanded to over 1600 members, including an additional five staff members.
Erikson is the founder and CEO, and Dyrek is the president and marketing director. Heather Weigand Baranko is the vice-president and the community event coordinator. Tammy Gil de Montes is the trustee and IT director of the group. Jamie L Nale – Copollo is the public relations director. Susan Alexander is the head of the volunteer committee, and Lisa Lawrence Turley works with the volunteer and decorating committees. All of these staff members are dedicated to the humanitarian goals of the Alumni group and are working hard to make this reunion possible.
For last year’s reunion, the Alumni wanted to focus on getting together and having fun in the midst of hard economic times. Instead of having a cover charge at the door, the reunion held on May 22, 2009 at Leroy’s was free. Over 300 people attended. Judge Jackson, a rock band out of California, provided entertainment for the evening. The drummer of Judge Jackson, JJ Garcia, is a1986 alumni of CHS.
Since there was no cover fee, to raise funds for the scholarship, Dyrek and his crew organized a car wash, as well as raised money from local businesses. An award of $755 went to Austin Keen, a Chesterton senior who is now a business major at Purdue North Central. He was chosen out of many applicants, all of whom wrote essays on how they have made a difference to someone else. Keen wrote about how he helped a friend recover from suicidal thoughts after her mother passed away, and even though she is thankful to him, he is thankful that she allowed him to help her.
The scholarship application and essay topic remains the same for this year, as Dyrek feels the topic is closely related to what the Alumni are all about – being selfless and kind.
“I thought about rekindling reunions, rekindling relationships, bringing [people] back together. I thought that this kind of virtue would happen, this selfless virtue,” Dyrek said. “It could grow just out of kindness. And it has.”
This year, the reunion is not only open to CHS alumni, but to the community of Chesterton, as well.
“I want the town to come in here and see who we are so we can build a relationship with the rest of the town,” Dyrek said.
The reunion will be held on July 10 at Leroy’s Hot Stuff in Porter from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and there is a $10 cover charge to help pay for any expenses. All profits will be given to the winner of the CHS Alumni Scholarship.
There will be six bands performing throughout the evening, including an acoustic performer. Music will be played both inside and outside of Leroy’s. Almost every band features at least one alumnus of CHS.
Jeff Ashby of the band Smokescreen is running sound and donating his time and the audio equipment for the event.
In addition to the taco bar and the bands, there will be games ranging from beer pong to bean bag toss, amongst other games. There will be door prizes and a 50/50 raffle, and some bands will be giving out free T-shirts. Carpooling is recommended, as the parking lot of Leroy’s is smaller.
To find the Alumni Group and the event on Facebook, search “Chesterton High School Alumni Community.” Anyone 21 and over can RSVP to the event.
For more information about the event or to find out how to volunteer time to the Alumni group, call Michael Dyrek at (219) 508-0624 or through the Alumni’s Facebook page or email

Band Schedule
For Amusement Only – Outside, 5 p.m.
High Noon – Outside, 6:30 p.m.
Takabite – Outside, 8 p.m.
Easystreet with Little Chris – Outside, 9:30 p.m.
Dotti’s Revenge (acoustic) – Inside, 6:30 p.m., outside 10:30 p.m.
Smokescreen – Inside, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

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