Rachel Moves on to College
On Saturday, June 12th, Wauwatosa West High School graduated the Class of 2010. The student who gave the commencement address was none other than our very own Rachel Lococo. Rachels speech encouraged her classmates to reflect on the people who made their high school experiences worthwhile and to not forget about the family, friends, and teachers who impacted their lives. Rachel was proud of her presentation, and was glad she managed not to cry while at the mic.
The commencement address was not Rachels first time in front of a microphone this year. Rachel presented an original spoken word piece at Tosa Wests talent show in February, and also performed two songs with her (ex) boyfriend at Westock, the schools annual student-band showcase, in May. Rachel was one of the events key organizers, and she was very proud of the impressive night of music this years Westock turned out to be. Rachel continues to perform songs and poems at open mic nights hosted on her college campus.
Yes, thats right, Rachel is now in college! On Tuesday, June 15th, Rachel registered for fall classes at UW-Green Bay. She took residence in the UWGB dormitories in late August and quickly made friends with the people in her building, the name of which is affectionately shortened to Ted. Rachel is planning to major in environmental science.
Before leaving for college, Rachel took part in her last Appalachia Service Project trip. Rachel has participated in ASP all four years of high school, and it is something she will sincerely miss. Her final project was re-roofing a house in Knott County, Kentucky. When she is old enough, Rachel hopes to return to the trip as an adult leader with her parish.
Jessica the Phenomenal Woman
Whoever said youth is wasted on the young clearly never met Jessica Lococo. As Jessica continues her studies at St. Norbert College, she consistently takes advantage of the best of what her college experience has to offer.
In addition to studying to become certified as a high school English teacher, Jessica is involved in many other activities around campus. In January, Jessica had a leadership role in taking a group of students to Mississippi on a service trip. She also organized and led a service trip to the Menominee Indian Reservation in October.
As a freshman, Jessica started volunteering at the Womens Center at SNC; now, as a junior, Jessica is the student director of the Center. In April, Jessica coordinated the Phenomenal Woman Conference (PWC) on the SNC campus. As conference coordinator, Jessica organized the workshops and entertainment for the day. She was also in charge of choosing the keynote speaker for the year: Justice Janine Geske. The conference was well received by students, faculty, and community members alike. One week after the PWC, Helen, Dan, and Rachel were back at the college to see Jessica receive the Norbertine Leadership and Service Award and the Henke Scholarship (for peace and justice). These were both prestigious awards, and Jessica was very honored to receive them. Regardless of Jessicas accomplishments, her parents are suspicious of her recent activities. Jessica has informed them she will be leaving the country for five months, starting December 30th. She says she will be spending her second semester studying at University College Cork in Ireland, but Mom and Dad are not so sure. They are planning to travel to Ireland to visit Jessica in the spring, just to make sure.
Alone at Last!
Helen and Dan have had to make some adjustments in their lives this year! Rachel took a big step by graduating high school, and Jessica continues to grow both personally and professionally as a junior at St. Norbert College; the biggest adjustment for Helen and Dan has been living in a house with no kids.
The couple learned they were going to have Jessica soon after returning from their honeymoon, so having an empty nest is a totally new experience for them. Fortunately for the couple they renew their wedding vows every morning, so they are able to start each day with a fresh perspective, and they are enjoying the adventure its turning out to be. The biggest change has been in how quiet the house is with the girls gone. The couple is finding that things are just a whole lot simpler with fewer moving parts. One of the first things Dan noticed is how easy it is to take out the garbage; You just pick up the bag and walk it to the can. Id gotten the impression it was a traumatic experience!
Outside of the now-quiet household, Helen continues to work for the Department of Social Services. The area Helen works in was taken over by the State of Wisconsin after it was determined Milwaukee County was unable to effectively manage the responsibility it had been given. Helen welcomed the changes and saw many improvements in the way things were being done, though with the old County Executive becoming the new State Governor, there is no telling how things will be in the future.
On the Track with Rachel and Dan
Once again this year, Dan had a chance to drive as part of the Lions Great Race. The highlights of the year were Dan and Rachel competing at Slinger Speedway and Dan being a part of a film feature produced by Lions Clubs International.
On June 16th a film crew from Lions International came to Jefferson Speedway to make a video about how the Lions Clubs support blind drivers through their race program. Dan and a sighted navigator were wired for sound and their car was equipped with two on-board cameras. When the film is released it should provide some great insight into what goes on between a blind driver and sighted navigator, as well as making for great entertainment. The film will eventually be posted on the Lions International website.
On September 12th the Lions Great Race was at Slinger Speedway, the fastest ¼ mile asphalt oval in the world, and so were Dan and Rachel. One of the blind drivers cancelled out at the last minute leaving a vacant seat for the race. Rachel volunteered to put on a blindfold and take the vacant seat. Since Dan organizes the blind drivers and was in a bind over the cancellation, he accepted Rachels offerwithout knowing how good a driver she was.
Both Dan and Rachel were very fortunate to have excellent navigators for the race. Rachels experience was captured in a digital recording, and she handled it amazingly well for someone who had very little driving experience and no experience driving blindfolded.
After a couple of practice laps the cars were stopped at the start/finish line. The crowd counted down to let the drivers know when to go, and they did. It quickly became clear this was a father/daughter match race. Dan took off in the lead with Rachel in hot pursuit. It didnt take Rachel long to get comfortable enough to challenge her dad for the top spot.
Rachel passed Dan but wasnt able to make it stick. When Dan approached Rachel to regain the lead, his car suddenly got wide and the two cars came together. The hit was just hard enough to break Rachels concentration and she slowed enough to let him pass. It was great fun to hear the audio of Rachels reaction to being hit: Rachel wanted to know what happened, and her navigator just told her not to worry about it and to get back on the gas. All-in-all it was a great race and a memory that will last long for both of them.
Mainstreaming on Main Street
In Dans spare time, hes been developing a project called Mainstreaming on Main Street (MoMS), which is focused on helping organizations overcome the perceptual challenges of including disabled professionals in their work environments. This year marked some tangible progress in bringing the project from the good idea stage into reality. Dan has been regularly conducting Community Conversations, which bring people together to talk about issues facing disabled professionals. The conversations are open to the public and only have the requirement that people talk from their own experiences.
On November 16th, Dan facilitated a workshop at UW-Whitewater in collaboration with the offices of Career Development and Disability Services. The workshop allowed corporate recruiters to explore the challenges of including professionally qualified disabled job candidates in the recruiting/hiring process. The workshop was well received and the participants walked away with new insights.
If you would like to know more about Mainstreaming on Main Street just click on the links below or give Dan a call.
No More Land Line
The Lococos are now a cell phone only family! If you want to get a hold of them you can call Helen at 414.380.5846 or Dan at 414.333.5846. All four members of the family are also active on Facebook.