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This Star in the Classroom and on Volleyball Court Also Cooks Mom Dinner

By Justin Breen | September 24, 2015 6:08am
 Molly Ellingsen and her mom Jeanne Warner.
Molly Ellingsen and her mom Jeanne Warner.
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Jeanne Warner

CHICAGO — At the start of each month, Molly Ellingsen spends 30 minutes filling out a calendar with her daily activities.

The Old Irving Park 18-year-old's schedule is packed. The senior at Schurz High School has her homework, plus two nights a week at Wright College for a psychology class. She also plays or practices volleyball for the Schurz varsity team at least four nights a week and participates in the school's student council.

Much of her free time is spent helping her mother, Jeanne Warner, who has spinal stenosis, fibromyalgia and sciatica of the spine — which have kept her from working since 2008.

"It's stressful, what I have to do with the time I have," Ellingsen said. "Writing everything down helps keep me on track."

 Molly Ellingsen (6) with her Schurz volleyball teammates.
Molly Ellingsen (6) with her Schurz volleyball teammates.
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Facebook/Molly Ellingsen

Justin Breen says Ellingsen's dream is to go to Illinois for college:

Ellingsen is on track to graduate with a 3.4 grade point average despite getting about four hours of sleep a night during the school week — from 2-6 a.m. She said she's gotten used to the grind.

Ellingsen said she's motivated by her mom's strength. Warner has trouble walking and can black out if she stays standing for too long, but still finds a way to attend most of her daughter's volleyball games.

"My mom's just a really strong woman overall," Ellingsen said. "She doesn't always show how much pain she's in. She always pushes through it, and she always tries to do the best for me. For her to get to a school to see my games is a lot for her. It really, really means a lot to me when I hear her up there cheering."

Warner, who has lived in Old Irving Park for 54 years and graduated from Schurz, lives with Ellingsen and Ellingsen's 20-year-old sister, Nellie. Warner has difficulty cooking and years ago taught her daughters the craft. Ellingsen's best dishes, Warner said, are tacos and a family concoction called "pizza pie," which is meat loaf that smells like pizza.

"I feel bad that I need to depend on her so much, and she means everything to me," Warner said.

Ellingsen means a great deal to the volleyball program as well, said head coach Andrea Gamache. Ellingsen, an outside hitter who averages a team-best seven kills, five digs and two aces a game for Schurz (6-5-1), is one of the squad's two captains.

"She's just an incredible young woman who a lot of kids look up to, whether they want to admit it or not," said Gamache, of Portage Park, whose club hosts Senn at 4:30 Thursday. "I think it's her own personal motivation to be her best self."

Ellingsen has started applying for colleges; her dream school since sixth grade is the University of Illinois and said being accepted into the Urbana-Champaign institution would be "the biggest moment in my life."

Whichever school she attends, Ellingsen will study to become either a guidance counselor or junior high teacher. Those professions match her life philosophy: "When you meet someone, you should always be kind to them because everyone is going through something you don't know about."

"That's what made me the person I am today," Ellingsen said.

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