Although she was born in the U.S., Marta Kenar’s first language was Polish. Her parents left Poland, lived in Sweden for eight years, then came to the U.S. After graduating from Parker, she earned a psychology degree from DePaul University, interning at Children’s Memorial. She opened A Vision, a boutique floral and wine shop in Chicago’s East Village, with two friends, “which ended up being a 12-year rodeo, rom-com and Chicago version of Cheers,” she said. In 2016, she opened MCP Rescue & Outreach, a nonprofit dog rescue and humanitarian organization that has saved more than 515 dogs to date.

What were your early school experiences like prior to Parker?
Before coming to Parker my school experiences were fairly empty. I was a sickly child and missed a lot of school. When present, I didn’t identify with my surroundings— or more, they didn’t with me. I attended Catholic school till 5th grade, when an art teacher gave me a C, and my mother dragged me out halfway through the school year. I come from a family of artists—go figure, that wasn’t acceptable. Feisty women in this family! It was truly only the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Moving on, I was placed at Oscar Mayer Elementary. I pretty much had no friends and was the laughing stock of each classroom’s jokes. Thankfully my Mama knew I was different and from the age of five introduced me to a new world to identify with. I rode horses and essentially lived at the stables. In school I was daydreaming of the smells of hay and calming exhales of the magical mammals. I became best friends with a horse named Strawberry who went barn sour and was to be sent to the glue factory. We lived our best life for the next eight years, showing and traveling. She was retired to live out her seniority on a grassy farm. Barn life and animals saved me from becoming too weird and shut down. I graduated from there in 1994 and moved on to Parker for high school. Waiting list or no waiting list, Mama Bear was an immigrant fighting for the proper education of her child. I was going to Parker and that was that. Parker remains extremely dear to my heart. It’s a sense of Home, forever.

How did you first develop your love of animals?
My love of animals was from birth. Sounds cliché but it’s true. Their presence connects me to the world whereas things like Starbucks shut me down. Instead of dressing dolls for tea parties, I was outside or staring out the window pretending to be sorceress of the wind and birds. Can you imagine? Hilarious, and completely true. From toddler age through adolescence to current day, animals have been and will always be my best friends. I understand their language. I feel their pain. I’m grateful for the frequency on which they communicate and connect. I understand animals better than humans. They annoy me less. Their hearts are gold. Their intentions are pure. If an animal cannot be rehabbed, it’s human fault, not the animal’s conscious intention to fail. I trust them. I see them. I feel them. There’s lots of incredible language between us and them or just among themselves. It’s fascinating to me. They possess more truth, beauty and unconditional love that goes without saying. They complete and deplete me in the same breath.

Why did you decide to create MCP Rescue & Outreach? What are you most proud of accomplishing with MCP?
MCP stands for Mission Compassion Paw. Our branding was inspired by old school hip hop, our love for animals and an urban feel—less cutesy was our goal. We are working on integrating programs with urban youth. We partner with organizations that are three times our senior and size. We put on spay/neuter/ vaccination clinics for communities in all corners of the city. We take on many hospice dogs, trauma dogs and special needs dogs that are overlooked at the kill shelters. Each of our creatures is saturated in storybook character. Outside of making a difference in so many animals’ lives, building this incredible Pack that is MCP is mind blowing. I’m so beyond grateful for the time, tears, dedication, poo, pain and full heart our humans give. They inspire me. Those who believe in what and how we do inspire me. We know our animals well, and we look for organic connections and humans willing to put in the work to create a successful and thriving forever relationship. We stand behind our magical friends 100 percent.

At MCP we are extremely hands-on and personal. We know our dogs well. We are extremely picky about the humans we bring in as our dogs come first, always. We look at it as bringing people in as adopters and new additions to our Pack as opposed to adopting our dogs out. We look for organic connections and humans willing to put in the work it takes to create and maintain successful relationships with their new love. We are small but mighty. I’m extremely grateful for the teamwork that keeps the engines of MCP gaining strength on a daily basis.

Were there people or activities at Parker that made a particular impact on you?
I struggled acclimating to Parker at first, but now many aspects of my four years there will forever be a form of home. I have a solid handful of friends that I consider my family. My role models were, ironically, both the Dean of Students: Ms. Lowry and Mr. Nesbitt. I spent much time with both for multiple reasons. Hanging out in their offices talking life and exploring the world without ever leaving the room was always a welcomed brainstorm.

What are some of your favorite Parker memories?
How to choose? My worldly adventures in Prexy’s [Nesbitt] office were magical. Family, differences, Africa, human rights, things bigger than us, love, Mandela— that office transcended time. Senior year homeroom and math class with Mr. Heiam also rents a solid portion of these years. One can compare it to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, except the updated version: The Chronicles of Marta’s Adventures in Parkerland. What a great man, great storyteller and innovative teacher. We were special kids, to put it politely. He’s deserving of a medal for surviving us. Ms. Wagner also had fire. Her cloak took you away from the classroom. Her passion and pizazz carried me through her lessons and vigor.

Though your business is clearly your passion, what do you enjoy doing outside of work?
MCP will be three years old in March 2019. I work more hours a day than not. My free time is spent outdoors, whether hiking, watching the sun rise or jogging—usually with dogs. I love food. Food is Earth. Food is art. I love to create in the kitchen. I love going out to try new concoctions. My household eats organic and views water as a gift. Dogs and human food are the same, essentially. Let’s be real, wine has a room as well—for humans, not dogs. My days consist of some combo of the above. I admit to being heavy from the world and her tears; however, I’m grateful for all that I love and all to do with my colorful, potent and wild, wild life.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.