2016 Forty Under 40 Winners
Photo by: Rick Danzl
Rebecca Bedinger, 38
Owner of Ippatsu Salon
Community involvement: I love my community. I try to be involved in as many ways as I can.
I attribute my success to: My family and growing up on a farm. I learned to problem solve on feet, treat others fairly, the importance of hospitality, and a strong work ethic.
Important professional lesson: Treat every guest with love. Getting their hair done is a choice and a luxury, and they choose who they trust and want to spend time with. The bond with your stylist is special.
Interesting fact: I was raised on a sheep farm. Growing up, my sisters and I spent summers showing sheep to earn money for college.
Pivotal career decision: I would say buying Ippatsu at 24 years old.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: I phoned my mom for this. She said," I will just give you words that come to mind: intelligent, hard worker, ethic, little pack of energy, artistic, and a great sense of humor." Whoa, I think she likes me!
From a nominator: "She's incredibly involved: Boneyard, Pygmalion sponsor, Champaign County Humane Society, Pride Fest supporter, and most importantly, Porkapalooza sustainer, creator, and bacon suit wearer." - David Barr, CEO, Barr Real Estate, Inc.
Scott Burge 36
Senior project architect, Farnsworth Group, Inc.
Community involvement: Champaign Rotary member, Champaign Rotary board, A/A Champaign-Urbana board, A/A Champaign-Urbana Lunch-n-Learn coordinator, Habitat for Humanity volunteer.
I attribute my success to: Hard work, dedication, discipline, and a strong support system from all of my family, but especially my parents, and my loving wife.
Proudest professional moment: Passing all of my professional licensure exams to become an architect the first time.
Important career lesson: Every project I work on is vital to the clients I serve. It doesn't matter if it is a multi-million dollar project or one that is a few hundred dollars. Each project is important for the success of my client and ultimately myself.
Pivotal career decision: One day while in college, I was feeling very stressed with my workload and not sure if I wanted to continue with my chosen career path of architecture. I decided to stick it out until the end of the semester and then re-evaluate. The semester ended and I gained enough confidence, and encouragement to continue on. That one day helped me determine my career path and large part of the rest of my life.
From the nominator: "Scott is as dedicated to his community, as he is to his work, "- Matt Davidson, Development manager for the Farnsworth Group.
Erica Cooper-Peyton 33
Community Program Coordinator for the Urbana Park District
Volunteer at Wiley, Leal, and Urbana Early Childhood School in Urbana. PBIS committee at UECS, Leal PTA vice president, Urbana Public Arts Commissioner, co-chair for Read Across America, Boneyard Arts Festival committee, coach kindergarten soccer team, spearheaded the efforts to have the Urbana Park District certified as a Breastfeeding Friendly Business and be inclusive for families who are LGBTQ.
Best advice I can give or have received is...
I have a favorite shirt that says "Everything will be amazing." It speaks directly to my outlook on life. My dad likes to say "it is what it is" but to me that translates to "I can't change it." Be optimistic. Be filled with ideas and love. Don't give up. Don't be afraid to make changes...or be afraid and do it anyway!
Interesting fact you may not know about me is...
I am all about helping others and working collaboratively unless I'm playing Speed or Super Mario Brothers...then I'm ruthless!
"Erica is all about giving back to the community!"- Janet Soesbe, Community program manager, Urbana Park District
Scott Daigle 29
Cofounder and CEO of IntelliWheels, Inc.
Community involvement: Coordinator for the GAMES camps for STEM fields for high-school age girls. As we all know, women are traditionally under-represented in Science and Engineering, and the work that the College of Engineering does to combat that is very worthwhile.
Professional accomplishment: Designing a product, perfecting it during the prototype phase, setting up manufacturing in Illinois, and selling it worldwide. Very few people get to see the entire product development cycle start to finish, and I've been lucky enough to make it through and come out alive on the other side.
I attribute my success to ... Hard work, a good team, and a healthy amount of luck.
Best advice I can give or have received is ... Never walk into a meeting without a prototype.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is ... My aunt and uncle have an alpaca and llama ranch in Sonoma County California. When I retire, I hope to move out west and help take care of it.
"Scott's hard work provides the foundation that IntelliWheels is based on," - Marissa Siebel Siero, Co-founder, IntelliWheels
Brook Didier Starks 38
Shareholder attorney with Meyer Capel
Community involvement: Chair of the Community Foundation of East-Central Illinois, advisory board member and volunteer Running Buddy for Girls on the Run of Champaign County, youth sports volunteer coach for Village of Mahomet, organizer of the Meyer Capel Veteran's Day coffee handout for military and law enforcement, book mentor for Champaign Unit 4 pre-k program, executive club of Champaign County, Operation Cool board, Unity Education Foundation board, Carle Women in Philanthropy board, volunteer at Urban League, EI Foodbank, Habitat for Humanity build site.
I attribute my success to family, work partners who are like family, and a whole lot of being in the right place at the right time.
Best advice: Shake hands like you mean it and look 'em in the eye.
Interesting fact: I hardly ever watch TV unless it's NFL football, I grow and can my own veggies, jams and pickles and make a mean pesto. Oh, and I've been hand fishing. I wouldn't recommend it.
"Probably the single most important quality is that she has the highest of moral and ethical standards." -Lorna Geiler, attorney, Mayer Capel. One of two nominations.
Matt Duco 35
Associate Attorney, Spiros Law, P.C.
Volunteer event organizer St. Baldrick's Foundation, executive board of the Champaign County NAACP, board of directors for the McKinley Foundation at the University of Illinois, president of the Champaign County Young Democrats
Professional accomplishment: Being accepted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was always my dream to attend the world's greatest university, but I had to first get serious with my schooling at community college to get accepted.
I attribute my success to ...
My mother. The only reason I was fortunate enough to have the opportunities that have allowed me to be successful is because of my mother's hard work, support, and love.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Smart, loyal, fun, and sometimes frustrating... probably in that order.
"Matt is very dedicated, precise and thorough. With the many activities that he undertakes, you would expect that he would be spread thin, but Matt is able to tackle each task with competence and effectiveness."- Kyle Patterson, mental health technician, The Pavilion-Behavior Health System
Carly Froomkin Burak 32
Engagement director, Illini Hillel at the Margie K and Louis N. Cohen Center for Jewish Life.
Community involvement: I am involved in the Illinois campus community in a couple of different ways. I work closely with the interfaith community and with the Office of Diversity and Social Justice Education, helping to plan the annual Illinois Interfaith Conference the past two years and interfaith dialogues on the first Tuesday of every month. I also serve as secretary on the executive board for the Religious Workers Association.
Best advice I can give or have received:
One piece of advice I would give is that the impact you can make on one person is bigger than you could ever know. Even the smallest things can have the largest impacts.
"Carly deserves this award since she works every day to make Champaign-Urbana a more welcoming place to people of all religions and backgrounds." Erez Cohen, executive director, Hillel at the University of Illinois
Victor Fuentes 36
Restaurateur with El Toro, Wedge, and V. Picasso
Community involvement: Foundation Board member for Champaign County Visitor's Bureau, the board for Presence Hospital Foundation, board member for Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, and through one of my stores, I have fed the homeless once a month for the last six years.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Having been able to work with my family to build a better life for ourselves here in the states.
I attribute my success to: hard work, building relationships, and staying true to myself.
Best advice: Is to set goals and plow through them, and to never settle.
An interesting fact you may not know about me is: I love green bean casserole and carrot cake!
The biggest career challenge: Is making sure I set time aside for my kids, which is difficult due to long hours at work.
"Victor is an amazing visionary and leader." - Jennifer Landheer, manager, El Toro Mexican Restaurant and spouse.
Justin Gensler 29
Vice president, mortgage lending, Illinois National Bank
Proudest professional accomplishment: That's a close one between being nominated for 2015 Affiliate of Year by the Champaign County Association of Realtors and this award. It's always nice to get that little bit of validation that what you doing is being appreciated. What makes both of these even more special is the fact they are both nomination based. Someone actually took time out of their busy schedule to nominate. That is part that makes it special.
Pivotal career decision: In February 2016, I decided to join Illinois National Bank. I took a leap to lead INB into a new market without even an office yet! I spent my time at coffee shops with a laptop and a cell phone. Most people, including my wife, thought I was nuts, but thanks to the support of my family, and trusted business partners I have my business has doubled.
My best friend would describe me as: Loyal, blunt, and lucky.
To relax I: golf although it's not always relaxing.
"Justin is a true friend, and he wants to help people no matter what." - Aaron Weaver, director of operations, Einstein Brothers Bagels (One of four nominators)
Erin Grace 32
YoungLives director at YoungLife of Champaign County
Community involvement: Junior League of CU, mentor, Big Give Volunteer, Option Hope volunteer.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Seeing one of my teen moms graduate from college
My success is attributed to: My Faith, Family and Community Support
Best advice: "Never place a period where God has placed a comma." "The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways."
Interesting fact you may not know about me is ... I delivered the News Gazette when I was in middle school in Urbana
Biggest career challenge: Realization that there are more needs than recourses in the community.
Important career advice: Change is inevitable and it's important to adapt and persevere.
Pivotal career decision: I had to learn to act and not react; realizing you can might plant a seed and never be around to be able to see it grow
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as ... persistent, generous, and transparent.
"Erin has impacted many lives...she often speaks with love into very tough situations." - Sheri Langendorf, teacher, retired
Kathy Harrell 33
Advancement Data Analyst at University of Illinois Foundation
Community involvement: Pecha Kucha Night Volunteer Organizer and City Contact 2012-2016, Emerging Community Leaders Program United Way of Champaign County 2015, Executive Club of Champaign County 2016, Association of Fundraising Professionals Central Illinois Chapter Member 2016, 40 North Board Member 2013-2015, Urbana Sweet Corn Festival Volunteer 2015, 2014, 2013, Independent Media Center 2010-2011, CU Folk and Roots Festival Volunteer
I attribute my success to: Curiosity, generous colleagues and teamwork. I believe the first step to being successful is having curiosity - a genuine desire to understand - whether that be a particular problem, an individual or group's perspective or the impact that one activity might have on other parts of an organization. I rely heavily on the generosity of my colleagues and am inspired by their generosity in sharing their knowledge and experiences with me. By working together, we are able to make a meaningful impact on our organization and the community.
"...Katie is a kind, generous, thoughtful, selfless, and highly motivated person, and you will not find a better team player anywhere."- Lauren Dodge, associate director of advancement, University of Illinois
Zachary Hillard 39
Senior vice president, chief investment officer at Busey Wealth Management
Community involvement: Monticello CUSD #25 board member, Monticello Area Education Foundation past board member/treasurer, Crisis Nursery board member, Champaign Chamber of Commerce board member, St. Philomena Church finance council member, YMCA volunteer coach, Monticello Recreation League volunteer coach
Proudest professional accomplishment: Passing the chartered financial analyst exam. It is one of the hardest exams in the financial industry that required many late nights and weekends studying at the office. Although a lot of time was sacrificed, in the end it felt great knowing that I did it on my own and that it would help take my career to the next level.
I attribute my success to: The strong work ethic that my parents and grandparents instilled in me.
Important career lesson: To embrace change - it's inevitable so you might as well make the best of it.
"Zach is truly a wonderful example to others and betters the place we call home." - Christa Dubson, communications manager, Busey
Mike Ingram 34
Director of operations for the Pygmalion Festival, local music director at WEFT 90.1FM, board member at 40 North, local music coordinator & booking at Exile On Main, founder of Amnesiac Booking Co., self-employed musician, and instructor at University of Illinois Summer Youth Music Program
Proudest professional accomplishment:
Helping launch a music festival in my early twenties that has become an integral part of the community that turns national eyes to C-U. Or I suppose alternately just being able to make a living as a self-employed artist.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
Trying to figure out how to make a living with a mish-mash of artistic endeavors. No benefits, no paid vacation, no safety net. There's an urge to take any and every thing that comes along, but there's an amount of soul crushing that comes from that, too. There's a delicate balance to work out.
"Whether it's a fellow musician, a struggling non-profit, or even an event that needs to get off the ground, Mike is there to tirelessly offer his support with an amazingly positive attitude." - Kelly White, executive director, 40 North 88 West
Josephine Kalipeni 35
Director of policy and partnerships for Caring Across Generations
Best advice: Mentors of mine have shared these quotes that guide my life and work.
"Do what you can, where you are, with what you have." "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."
Interesting fact: As a kid, I won trophies for being a Michael Jackson impersonator.
Biggest career challenge: Working in social justice advocacy and policy means tackling big, sticky, uncomfortable issues that are deeply engrained in our community identity, behaviors, and practices. These issues require us to face ourselves and confront uncomfortable realities. The work of transformative policy and advocacy can seem so daunting and impossible where the side opposed to justice and fairness seem like giants with lots of power, money, vested interest, and a detachment to other people's realities. Identifying these powers and then confronting these powers and their attitudes has been a great but worthy challenge.
"Josephine is a tireless worker for social justice who approaches everyone with grace and respect." - Carol Timms, president, Educational Dividends
Natalie Kenny Marquez 33
Marketing coordinator and director of Urbana's Market on the Square, City of Urbana
Community involvement: Director of Urbana's Market on the Square, president, Illinois Farmers Market Association, board of directors, Visit Champaign County
I tribute my success to: Having a strong support network. It's not easy to work full-time, be a mother of two young children, and the spouse of a police officer. They say it takes a village to raise a family! My network of friends, neighbors and colleagues all provide me with the support I need to keep pushing forward in my career as both a dedicated employee and a mother.
Biggest career challenge: Navigating the work/life balance. I'm still have not found the right balance as it's a never-ending challenge that fluctuates due to the nature of my role at the City of Urbana, as my children grow older and become more active in sports and programs, and as my husband advances his career in law enforcement.
"Natalie is simply inspirational and a positive role model to all who work with her." Elizabeth Tyler, supervisor, City of Urbana
Chris Kloeppel 34
United Association Journeyman Plumber - Local 149 with Facilities & Services at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Community involvement: Board president for Champaign Community Unit 4 School District, board of directors for United Way Champaign County, delegate for UA Local 149 to the Champaign County AFL-CIO, Central Labor Council
Proudest professional accomplishment: Completing the med gas system at the then new Carle Heart and Vascular Institute.
I attribute my success to: A lot of people giving me a chance, never giving up on me, and instilling in me the confidence that I can do anything if I'm willing to work at it.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is: I grew up in foster care until I was adopted at age five and a half.
Biggest career challenge: I would say my age combined with my juggling of outside pursuits have not always aligned with what some have felt I should be focused on at the time.
"Chris is a well-balanced young leader that will continue to impact Champaign for many years." - Amy Armstrong, business manager, Chambana Moms
Jeremy Larson 29
Superintendent- Paris Union School District NO. 95
Proudest professional accomplishment: Building a school culture that is positive and productive.
I attribute my success to: The fact that I have never given nor taken any excuses.
Biggest career challenge: As a school administrator, it is important to me that I can spend time with each of my student's families. With the number of families we serve, it becomes a very challenging task, but I make an effort to attend all school functions and spend time with the families that I serve.
Important career lesson: Building relationships is the key. It is my goal to work with the community and serve the community.
Pivotal career decision: To become a principal at 25 years old. There were many people who thought I was too young, but I felt passionate about learning!
"Jeremy is young and ambitious. He is now 29 years old, and he is the youngest superintendent in the state." - Carol Jones, curriculum director, Paris Union School District No. 95
Josh Laskowski 32
Director of promotions and marketing with Stevie Jay Broadcasting and owner/operator of Eye C-U Photo Booths
Community involvement: Recipient of 2015 Tourism Impact Award, Urbana Business Association board member, producer and chair of C-U Pride Festival, 40 North Area Arts Council board member, recipient Special Olympics of Outstanding Media award, Eastern Illinois Foodbank prom candidate, American Diabetes Kiss A Pig candidate, UP Center board member,
Champaign County Freedom Celebration publicity chair
Proudest professional accomplishment:
Staying in the radio business as long as I have would be one. Out of my broadcasting class of around 25, there are only two of us still actively working in the radio broadcasting industry. I getting to start my day with people I care about, a community I love and co-hosts who make morning radio seem not like a job. The other accomplishment would be being a part of creating and producing the only LGBTQ Pride Parade in down state Illinois.
"He does not STOP. He loves this community and just wants it to be a better place." Marlene Mahon, catering manager, University of Illinois (One of three nominators)
Charlee Lin 36
Vice president and senior retirement plan services advisor at Busey Wealth Management
Community involvement: I am a United Way of Champaign County Pillar and have been for several years. I am also on the advisory committee of United Way of Champaign County's Emerging Community Leaders program. The program encourages participants to give, advocate and volunteer. I graduated from the ECL program in 2012. I've also volunteered the last two rounds of program funding review for the United Way. As a volunteer reviewer, I evaluated applications for funding from local agencies and made recommendations to UWCC to grant funding or not. For the past five years, I have volunteered as a ticket booth manager for the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. I'm also treasurer of Executive Club of Champaign County.
I attribute my success to: my parents that taught me to work hard and try to be the best.
My best friend would describe me as: loyal and trustworthy.
"She is a joy to know and work with. I am proud to be associated with Charlee!" - Donna Greene, EVP, Busey Wealth Management
Callie Jo MacFarland 36
Director of community development, City of Monticello and CEO, Hedge to Edge, Inc. & McFarland Farms
Community involvement: Other than my job-related responsibilities, which focus on community promotion and development, I love to volunteer for any city, chamber and Main Street events, and facilitate the Monticello city-wide food drive. I am also a 4H leader and choir director.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Receiving a professional community and economic developer certification was pretty big for me, but the proudest is probably being a part of the brain trust that created the Monticello Bootcamp program.
I attribute my success to: A hard-working and supportive (and forgiving) husband and family, and a rock star community of co-workers, businesses and residents that I get the privilege to work with.
My partner would describe me as: My husband would describe me (and does) as strong-willed and stubborn.
"Callie is a very hardworking and honest person who does what she does because she cares about her community." - Kerry Redshaw, director, Monticello Main Street (One of two nominators)
Kevin Monahan 38
President, Monahan Partners, Inc.
Community involvement: Arcola Food Pantry board, KFM Cancer Classic, founder, St. Matthews, men's group leader, Arcola Purple raiders, fan.
Best advice: stay humble; stay hungry.
Interesting fact about me: I'm the eighth of nine children, and a proud member of the world famous Lawn Rangers.
Important career lesson: It's always about the people.
Pivotal career decision: Over three years ago, I moved back to Central Illinois to work in my hometown of Arcola, The opportunity to work with my hero (my dad, Pat), provide for our employees, and to serve Arcola was too great to pass up.
My wife would describe me as: Trustworthy, honest, and needing to mow the lawn.
"Despite (his) long list of accolades, one could spend years with Kevin and not know the least of it, because of his characteristic humility that is perhaps his most distinguishable trait." - Mariana Monahan, senior user experience architect, Walgreens and family
Ashley Morgan 29
Donor Relations Consultant at Community Blood Services of Illinois
Community involvement: Junior League of Champaign-Urbana, vice president of communications; American Heart Association's Go Red For Women, silent auction chair; Champaign County Humane Society, former live auction chair, current committee member; Girls Go For It, board member, director of school panels.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment? Honestly, it's winning this award, and being recognized as one of Parkland College's 50 Most Notable Alumni. I'm so thankful that people I know thought I was deserving of these award. I'm so appreciative!
I attribute my success to ... My parents! My dad has volunteered for the same board position for 11 years, and I grew up watching my mother volunteer for various organizations, including Junior League. Their passion for volunteering made me want to follow in their footsteps.
Best advice I can give or have received is ...
"If you don't try or ask for it, you'll never get it." - My Dad, Avon Morgan
"Don't let adversity change who you; always maintain your perspective and professionalism" - My Mother, Debbie Morgan
"Ashley faces every day with enthusiasm, focus, and drive." -Jill Guth, owner/broker, Guth & Associates
Ben Newell 37
President, Build Equinox
Community involvement: Second Wind Running Club, board member; Allerton Park Trail Run, race director; CU 1 to 1, mentor; Habitat for Humanity, volunteer and committee member
Proudest professional accomplishment: Developing a product that is leading edge in a growing market that will have a direct impact on helping people live healthier lives
I attribute my success to: Working with highly intelligent and motivated people who see no obstacle as too great
Best advice: Lead by example
Interesting fact: Eight time marathoner
Biggest career challenge: Building everything from the ground up using limited resources to bootstrap a high tech startup
Important career lesson: Under promise and over deliver.
Pivotal career decision: Shifting from a consulting based to a product based business. It was where my heart was and ready for the challenge after years of proof of concept
"Ben has the entrepreneurial spirit for taking risk and making the sacrifice to work hard to develop new products that require persistence and perseverance to become successful." - Ty Newell, VP, Newell Instruments and father
Thomas Nichol 29
Software Engineer and Senior Consultant at PowerWorld Corp
Community involvement: CU Film Society board, manage the local filmmakers' networking group Champaign Movie Makers. Through CUFS, I coordinate the film side of the annual Pens to Lens student screenwriting competition, where short scripts written by K-12 students in the area are actually produced by local filmmakers from CMM, and have posters created by local designers through the Champaign-Urbana Design Organization. Through CMM, I organize monthly meetings for the local film and screenwriting communities, as well as manage online spaces for local screenplay development, filmmaker networking, and casting.
Proudest professional accomplishment: My contributions to Pens to Lens, hands down. Since kicking off in 2013, Pens to Lens filmmakers have brought nearly 70 student-written scripts to life, and it's been so exciting not only to see how the kids take to screenwriting, but how the entire community comes together to make their films happen.
To relax I: Watch movies and build things. Often with Legos.
"He is always trying to make the area a better place for filmmakers, and has begun a Champaign Screenwriters group, as well." Anne Lukeman, coordinator of video production, University of Illinois
Ryan Pine 39
Ophthalmologist- Advanced Ophthalmology
Community involvement: supporter of Eastern Illinois University and the EIU Panther Club, member of the Sarah Bush Lincoln Foundation board, expert panel for a community invited diabetic awareness question and answer session, lecturer at Sarah Bush Lincoln, including diabetic education classes, nurses and staff, contributor to WEIU TV's televised health program, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, CASA, local PTA, Relay for Life, SBLHC Golf Outing, Grand Soiree, coach both of my sons' T-Ball teams
Proudest professional accomplishment: Being awarded the Resident of the Year in 2011 and again in 2012, along with Chief Resident in 2012 at the University Of Kansas Medical Center Department of Ophthalmology. No previous resident had been awarded these honors in consecutive years.
Important career lesson: The ability to effectively communicate and educate my patients. Patient understanding and compliance is drastically improved when physicians take the time explain the situations in terms everyone can understand.
"Ryan is a caring and compassionate doctor, who has a huge heart, and loves his community." - Avery Drake-Adams, lead designer, Drake Homes (One of nine nominators)
Denise Poindexter 37
Coordinator of operations, Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations at the University of Illinois
Community involvement: Girls Go For It, board member; Junior League of Champaign-Urbana; VP for Community Impact: an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers; CU 1:1 Mentoring, school-based mentoring program of the Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana District #116 schools; University of Illinois YWCA, board member, dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
Proudest professional accomplishment: My proudest professional accomplishment was being selected to serve as a team member on a group student exchange program for young professionals to Northeast England for 4 weeks through the Rotary Foundation which pairs 2 Rotary Districts in different countries. It was beginning of my career and the moment I realized the importance of giving back to the local community.
"She has a way of making everyone feel valued and important." - January Boten, assistant dean of students, University of Illinois (One of three nominators)
Jamie Ritter 39
Executive director for FASS
Community involvement: PTA, committee work for Unit #4, First Christian Church, advisor at AdvoCare, member YMCA, American Society of Association Executives
Proudest professional accomplishment: Our FASS team is exceptional, and I am proud of the work we do every day for the animal science community. It's a pleasure to work alongside such talented individuals.
I attribute my success to: My family and friends. I was raised in a home where honesty and hard work were emphasized. In my adulthood, my family and friends have continued to be a source of encouragement. I also strive to be a positive role model for two young children.
Best career advice: My dad always told us: "Mind in gear, mouth in neutral." Being a good listener makes for a great leader.
"Jamie has achieved success in an industry dominated by academic professionals twice her age. She is a decisive, results-oriented leader." - Jill Sauer, curriculum support, Illinois Fire Service Institute and sister
Caty Roland 33
Business manager at Urbana Park District
Community involvement: I have worked in the public sector and community service for over a decade. I have worked multiple positions in local government and parks. I was elected to the South Side Elementary PTA board, serving as vice president. I continue to remain involved with the PTA through school programs, fundraising efforts, the school garden club, and collecting Box Tops for Education. I was a dedicated book mentor, reading to children through the WILL Public Media program for six years. Additionally, I served for seven years as membership chair for the Environmental Education Association of Illinois - an organization dedicated to promoting environmental education in the state of Illinois.
Proudest professional accomplishment:
I went back to school to gain more knowledge in the fields of finance and business, while simultaneously maintaining a household, raising two small children, and working full time. I successfully completed an accounting certificate from Parkland College in December 2014. I am working towards obtaining my CPA certification and I am continuing to take classes to reach that goal.
"Caty is a dedicated public servant who rigorously manages community tax dollars for the public good." -Allison Jones, Urbana Park District
Sherri Rudicil 36
Director of Prevention and Education services at Prairie Center
Community involvement: Our prevention team, including myself, provide life skills and drug prevention education to students enrolled in grades 4-12 in Champaign, Ford, and Vermilion counties. We served approximately 5,000 students. In addition to classroom presentations, I also serve on various community coalitions.
I attribute my success to: My parents for instilling their work ethic in me. To all of my previous supervisors for shaping me as an entry level employee. My husband for his support during the completion of my Masters and my team. I am nothing without my team of Prevention Specialists and our Administrative team at Prairie Center.
Best advice: It came from my Dad. He simply would say "To always remain humble in any situation, never forget where you came from, and always remain grateful". I take that with me in my leadership role at Prairie Center. I strive to be a leader that leads, that is still on the front line doing the hard work, and will say "we" instead of "you".
"She's laser-focused on changing young lives, families, and communities across East Central Illinois." -Laura Huth, director of development and communications, Prairie Center (One of two nomnators)
Adam Siero 29
Head athletic trainer for the University of Illinois Wheelchair Athletics Program
Community involvement: The main source of my community involvement is through my volunteer work with the Savoy Fire Department.
Proudest professional accomplishment: I was able to do multiple internships with the Baltimore Ravens, one of those being a season long internship in 2012, the year the team won the Super Bowl.
Pivotal career decision: Pursuing an internship in the NFL meant sacrificing a job I enjoyed and felt secure in to move away from friends and family, not knowing how often I'd have time to see them. Though in hindsight it seems like an easy decision, it was stressful at the time, however, I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"On a daily basis, Adam is working with 40 to 50 elite wheelchair athletes. After work, Adam can be found at the Savoy Firehouse training or volunteering his time. All of the work Adam does is to serve, protect and support the athletes and the community." -Marissa Siebel Siero, cofounder Intelliwheels, and spouse
Holly Smith 35
Owner/operator of Holly Birch Photography
Community involvement: I volunteer my time and photography for organizations like the Illinois FFA, 4-H, the Mason City to Peoria St. Jude Run, the Dream Foundation, and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and am on the tech team at First Christian Church in Champaign.
Proudest professional accomplishment: In March, I taught a class on off-camera flash at the Reset Conference in Champaign to photographers from all over the country.
I attribute my success to: Hard work, commitment, kindness, and integrity.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: Is that I was a co-owner of the 2000 National Champion Polled Hereford Heifer named Reba.
Important career lesson: Is to make friends with your competition. We're all in this together and can learn so much from each other! Some of my best friends are my direct competitors.
My best friends would describe me as: Loyal and always on time!
To relax I tailgate at Illini football games!
"She uses her vision and expertise to provide high quality, beautiful images to each and every one of her clients." - Aaron Smith, office support specialist, University of Illinois
Brian Stark 38
Regional sales manager, grain group, The Andersons, Inc.
Community involvement: Champaign County farm Bureau Foundation board and president, Andersons golf benefit that supports Crisis Nursery, CCFB- Earth Partners that raises $20,000 annually.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Being promoted to my current managerial position at only 30 years old, which was rare for someone at that age to be a manager in our grain business.
I attribute my success to: My family and being raised on a farm and working there at a young age. It instilled a hard work ethic and learning that anything is possible when you are determined and passionate about it!
Biggest career challenge: In January of 2016 when we had a grain bin collapse. Managing through the challenge of that unfortunate situation, while still providing our customers with "extraordinary" service was a huge accomplishment for me.
"Brian's desire to serve others before himself is what I admire about him the most." -Chad Stroble, area manager, The Andersons, Inc.
Jamie Stevens 37
Account executive - Adams Outdoor Advertising, and vice president Association of People Supporting Employment First Illinois
Proudest professional accomplishment: My proudest professional accomplishment would be creating the most successful customized employment program in the state of Illinois. Customized employment is a vocational rehabilitation program for adults with disabilities. It sets itself apart from other vocational rehab programs by offering strength based assessment and creating customized jobs that are beneficial to both the employee and employer. I helped start the movement here in Champaign, Illinois and now customized employment is becoming commonplace throughout the state. I did this by creating a strong program here and developing a curriculum and implementing that curriculum through training's throughout the state.
I attribute my success to: I attribute my success to being blessed with my son Isaac. He was diagnosed with autism at age three. This gave me a drive to create a better world for him to live in.
"Jamie is very passionate about her work and will speak out boldly for those in those in the disabled community." -Barbara Unzicker, retired (One of two nominators)
Joshua Stone 39
Senior acquisitions editor; higher education and professional division, Human Kinetics and owner of Stone Athletic Medicine
I attribute my success to:
My parents. My dad is the hardest working person I've ever known. He worked 12-16 hours per day for nearly 20 years. Despite this, he always knew how to have fun and make us laugh. My mom has an entrepreneurial spirit. She has always been a risk taker, stood up for what she believed, and taken charge. Her ability to start from scratch and become a leader is inspiring. I do not have my father's hard-working spirit, nor my mom's entrepreneurialism, but I do have a little bit of both, which is great. Most importantly, they taught me to be respectful and to live life with happiness. My dream is that I do the same for my son. So far, I think I am doing this and that makes me proud.
"What makes Josh stand out is that he never rests on his laurels and is always evaluating new research and new methods to make sure he is giving the best possible advice and information." - Bridget Melton, marketing director, Human Kinetics, Inc.
Marcus Truss 38
Child protection specialist with the Department of Children and Family Services
Community involvement: CIYFL football coach for 7th and 8th grade levels, coach AAU track and basketball, lead mentor for Kappa Leaguers, member Kappa Alpha Psi, and mentor
Proudest professional accomplishment: As a placement worker with DCFS, I maintained a high rate of successful reunifications with my families. In addition, I have had speaking engagements with teaching law students at the UI on DCFS policies and procedures.
I attribute my success to: Hard work, education, and having a good personality.
Best career advice: stay hungry, humble and altruistic.
Interesting fact: I transported one of my youth clients to his senior prom and acted as his chauffeur.
Important career lesson: To not judge a book by its cover.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: family oriented, charming, a good sense of humor, and someone with a good heart.
"I admire Marcus' ability to shift form an extremely serious job of being an investigator- and having to make determinations about whether to take someone's children from the home- to the fun-loving coach and mentor that every parent wishes they had for their children." - Tori Exum-Johnson, human resource manager, University of Illinois
Angela Urban 36
Community planner at the U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory
Community involvement: I am an active volunteer for Orpheum Children's Science Museum as President and CEO. I volunteer with several committees for the museum, including education, building preservation and event fundraising. Other current volunteer activities include teaching middle school aged children at the Unitarian Universality Church of Urbana-Champaign and volunteering to assist with Urbana Middle School Cross Country team activities. In previous years, I have also volunteered as an advisor for Alpha Phi Omega fraternity on campus, different projects for Community Center for the Arts and as a volunteer librarian with Books to Prisoners.
I attribute my success to: My father. He taught me to have a strong work ethic and to find something I am passionate about.
To relax I: Bake bread. Since January 2015, I have made close to 300 loaves of bread. I keep a bread log to capture my thoughts at the time for each loaf, what ingredients I chose to use, and whether it was given to someone as a gift.
"A tireless leader, Angela's aim is to build and reimagine our cities to work better for all by developing more sustainable, creative, and equitable communities." -Julia Loofbourrow Guth, grant writer, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Zach Wetherell 34
Owner services director/commercial real estate broker, Coldwell Banker Commercial Devonshire Realty
Community involvement: Member of Champaign Rotary; Developmental Services Center, board member; Carle Foundation member; Carle Core, steering committee
Proudest professional accomplishment: Completing a real estate transaction that took four and a half years to assemble and close.
I attribute my success to: Hard work, honesty, integrity, allowing the Lord to guide my life and putting Him first, surrounding myself with good positive people, having good mentors in my live, employer providing a positive work environment for me to grow and thrive in.
Best advice I can give or have received is: Always be honest, trust your gut, never stop learning, treat the negative things in life as a way to learn and grow.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is: I grew up in a very small rural community and graduated high school with twenty-four people in my graduating class. I have yet to meet anyone who can top that! I also served one tour of duty in Iraq.
"Zach always has a positive attitude and is a team-oriented leader." -Tim Harrington, commercial services director, Coldwell Banker Commercial Devonshire Realty
Mark Whitsitt 34
Residential Supervisory Appraiser, Whitsitt & Associates, Inc.
Community involvement: Director, Homebuilder's Association of East Central Illinois; director, Chicago Chapter of the Appraisal Institute; inaugural chairman for the Dare to Dream, Dream to Build Fundraiser (Habitat for Humanity & HBAECI); Showcase of Homes Planning Committee, chairman; coach and player for Flatland United Football Club; volunteer Habitat for Humanity Build Days; United Way Emerging Community Leaders Program, 2011 Graduate
Proudest professional accomplishment: Earning my SRA designation from the Appraisal Institute, presented to me by my dad, and being chosen by the Champaign County Board to serve as interim supervisor of assessments early in 2016.
Pivotal career decision: Applying for the Champaign County Board of Review position in 2012. It was a life-changing decision in many ways for both my family and my professional career. I had countless conversations with family over the months leading up to it, and agonized over the decision trying to make sure it was the right one for my family and me.
"He exemplifies professionalism in his vocation as an appraiser as well as his time on the board of review and as an interim assessor." -Steve Whitsitt, president, Whitsitt & Associates and father