Forty Under 40 Winners
Jason Asaad, 36
TRIO program adviser, Danville Area Community College
Community involvement: Vice president of the Vermilion County Health Board; Scottish Rite Master Mason; vice president of the Vermilion County chapter of Thrivent Community Board; moderated a political debate for the Jaycees; active in community theater.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Becoming a collegiate administrator and serving on various committees at DACC, especially the Tobacco-Free Campus Task Force and facilitating the Employee Development Team.
Important professional lesson: Be professional in all facets of the position, work hard and never burn bridges. Treat everyone well -- you never know when you may need them.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Faithful to my friends and family. Eccentric and easygoing, but clever, witty and comedic -- the type that gets on party lists.
From the nominator: "Jason brings a light and energy to everything he touches. His warmth and laughter are well-known in our community. His hand is always outstretched to make a difference. I have had the occasion to work with Jason and he embodies a work ethic and commitment that is seldom seen." -- Jennifer Dixson, administrative director, Habitat for Humanity of Danville, and friend of the nominee
Katie Blakeman, 33
Champaign County circuit clerk
Community involvement: Junior League of Champaign-Urbana; served on the Urban League's board of directors; United Way of Champaign County's Emerging Community Leaders program; University YWCA's Race Against Racism planning committee.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Winning the 2012 election for Champaign County circuit clerk. I knew that it would take an enormous amount of hard work to gain the support I would need to win. I was able to put together an amazing team, and together we accomplished what seemed initially impossible.
Best advice: I recently received some great advice from a friend regarding "to do" lists. We are all so busy and so focused on "doing" that we forget the reasons we set these particular goals for ourselves in the first place. So instead of making more "to do" lists, concentrate on a "to be" list. What kind of person/mother/spouse/leader do you want to be?
Important professional lesson: Always strive to be the best at what you do, no matter the position.
From the nominator: "Katie gives her time and energy to serving people. She understands her talents and follows her passions. In the short amount of time she has held her public office, she has implemented smart and efficient policy changes that have saved taxpayers money." -- Jennifer White, constituent services director for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis
Jason Bletzinger, 39
Principal of North Ridge Middle School, Danville
Community involvement: Ridgerunner Roundtable Family Council and school-based programs. Participant in the Vermilion Advantage Leadership Tomorrow program. Member of Kennekuk Road Runners and has been a member of Danville Noon Rotary.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Everyday as a principal of a diverse middle school, witnessing students achieving personal success and engaging in professional conversations with faculty regarding student learning.
Best advice: Admitting when you have made a mistake. It provides you with an opportunity to learn and grow as a professional and an individual.
Interesting fact you may not know about me is: I received the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children Special Education Rookie Teacher of the Year award during my first year of teaching.
From the nominator: "He manages to balance a strong presence for staff and students with a friendly and open demeanor. He speaks to scared students with gentleness while dealing with ill-behaved students with firmness. His personal goals to improve the student attendance rate, decrease bullying, improve student perceptions/attitudes, and raise test scores are evident in the programs he creates and the data he pores over." -- Kara Bletzinger, speech-language pathologist with the Danville school district and spouse of the nominee.
Kathryn Blum, 35
Interim senior director, annual giving, and associate director, planning and policy analysis, for the University of Illinois Foundation
Community involvement: Secretary/treasurer, Illinois MBA Alumni Board; chair, web/social/marketing committee, Junior League of Champaign-Urbana; board, Greater Community AIDS Project; United Way Emerging Community Leaders (2008).
Interesting fact you may not know about me: I, or a member of my family, have either worked or studied at nearly every Big Ten institution.
Three people I'd want on my team: An entrepreneur, an information technology expert, and a well-connected person with a strong understanding of the team's goals, history and challenges.
Important professional lesson: Look ahead and ask around; there is always a bigger picture than what you can see alone. Find the strengths in every member of your team and let those strengths shine. Your whole team will be better for it.
From the nominator: "Katie is one of the most generous people I know. She gives her time and resources to all communities she has been a part of. She sets goals for herself and consistently achieves them. Above all she is a thoughtful and caring friend." -- Erin Kirby, associate director of advancement for the University of Illinois Physics Department, colleague and friend of the nominee (one of two nominators)
Jamie Boas, 31
4-H youth development educator for University of Illinois Extension
Community involvement: United Way Emerging Community Leaders; Philo Township Library board member; Philo 4-H Friends Cloverbud leader; Operation Santa volunteer.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Watching 4-H'ers grow and develop into caring and responsible young adults.
Best advice: Take every opportunity that you can to learn, grow and travel.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: I took five years of German in high school and college and won a three-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Germany from Mercedes-Benz when I was 16 years old.
Important professional lesson: The importance of networking. It's all about who you know.
From the nominator: "Jamie is very hardworking and always gets things done. Not only on time and efficiently, but always to her best ability. She is dedicated to herself and others and to making sure things are pleasant for everyone. She always includes everyone and greatly cares about what she does and the people around her." -- Bailey Wilson, front desk at Center for Your Health clinic and a friend of the nominee
January Boten, 36
Area coordinator for Residential Life-University Housing at the University of Illinois
Community involvement: Junior League of Champaign Urbana; served as project development chair. In the past, volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and WEFT radio.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Organizing and participating in a trip where I take 44 college students to the South for spring break to learn about the civil rights movement from the people who lived it.
I attribute my success to: My ability to receive feedback and make changes for the better.
Best advice: Listen more than you talk.
Important professional lesson: See the good in everyone.
From the nominator: "January is the most selfless person I have ever met. If a student needs her, she will take a call at any point in the day to help that student out. She is willing to use any means to encourage students. She never refuses to write recommendation letters to any student that needs them from her and takes her time to write genuine letters. We always hear that our youth is the future of America -- January takes that to heart. She will do anything to help a student grow to their full potential. I am one of hundreds that could not have made it through college without her help." -- Vishal Mehta, consultant at The Hartford and former employee of the nominee (one of eight nominators)
Justin Bouse, 34
Detective sergeant, Rantoul Police Department; co-owner, Designer Dog Salon
Community involvement: Team Law and Order, raised money for the Crisis Nursery through the Illinois Marathon; Cop on Top and Law Enforcement Torch Run, both to benefit Illinois Special Olympics; Cops of Coffee, benefits Mills Breast Cancer Institute; helped start a distracted-driving campaign at Rantoul Township High School.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Being selected as Police Officer of the Year in 2007.
Best advice: After getting in trouble in eighth grade, my teacher told me, "You're a leader. People see you as a leader. They watch everything you do. What kind of leader are you going to be?"
Important professional lesson: Do the best job you can, learn as much as you can while doing it and have fun.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Someone who always has a smile on his face.
From the nominator: "Justin deserves this award because he represents what I feel is the spirit of the award: the future. He keeps the department cutting edge by streamlining with technology but does not lose the human aspect and community involvement." -- Sean Arie, sergeant with the Rantoul Police Department
Cynthia Bruno, 26
Anchor of 'The Morning Show' at WCIA 3 News
Community involvement: United Way of Champaign County's Emerging Community Leaders program; participated in the Champaign to Peoria St. Jude Run; was a "St. Jude Hero" runner in the Illinois Half Marathon; participated in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics of Illinois; volunteer host for the Humane Society's Fur Ball, the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women Luncheon and the American Diabetes Association's Kiss a Pig Gala.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Being named Best News Reporter by the Illinois Broadcasters Association.
Best advice: Don't accept the status quo.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: I detasseled corn for my summer job for more than 10 years.
Important professional lesson: Every detail matters.
From the nominator: "While many know her from television, far fewer get to see her in her other roles -- sister, friend, community volunteer. Cynthia embodies the essence of a team player in the workplace. She is loved outside of work by her friends and family for her ability to always have a good time and for her generosity toward those around her." -- Anthony Bruno, attorney with Bruno Law Offices and husband of the nominee
Anne Bushman, 29
Tax manager, McGladrey
Community involvement: Champaign County Economic Development Corp., assistant treasurer; Community Foundation of East Central Illinois board member; Relay for Life, Macon County; graduate of the United Way of Champaign County's Emerging Community Leaders program.
Proudest professional accomplishment: I completed a one-year rotation with our national tax office, which included moving to D.C. for the year and working on projects to develop a specialization in partnership taxation. It was a lot of fun personally and an invaluable experience professionally.
I attribute my success to: An addiction to variety and being challenged -- both cause me to challenge the status quo, to take on new roles and to constantly push myself to improve; and coffee.
Best advice: Stand up, stand out, stand tall, just don't stand still.
From the nominator: "Anne has very strong client service skills. She does an excellent job of mentoring staff in our office and making sure the work environment is positive for everyone. Anne is willing to take on any challenge and assignment and views them as learning opportunities and gives herself fully both at work and at home and excels at whatever she does." -- Marty Verdick, partner at McGladrey and supervisor of the nominee
Cheryl Camacho, 33
Principal, Garden Hills Elementary School, Champaign
Community involvement: I mentor children, advocate for children, and empower children to make a better life for themselves.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Earning my national board certification and being distinguished as a master teacher before I turned 30.
I attribute my success to: God. He has a plan for me. Secondary is my passion for what I do. I love being an educator and I get genuine happiness from reading books, having discussions and connecting with others. I am also constantly thinking of how to make things better, including myself.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: I love to play computer games to relax and unwind. A good game of Civilization V, Tropico, or The Sims makes me happy!
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Resilient, tenacious, picky.
From the nominator: "(In her previous position) as the district magnet coordinator, she worked tirelessly in getting all three schools (Garden Hills, Booker T. Washington and Stratton) through the federal review process. She was instrumental in creating a strategic marketing plan that resulted in many parents selecting magnet schools as their first option." -- Asia Fuller-Hamilton, principal, Booker T. Washington STEM Academy, Champaign
Sally Carter, 37
Executive director/founder, Tap In Leadership Academy
Community involvement: Work with United Way of Champaign County; leadership Committee for Cradle to Career; McKinley Foundation board member; Family Education Advocate.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Founding Tap In. I'm the girl who was told by a seventh-grade teacher, "You will never be successful." I was told 11 years ago I could never start a youth program in Champaign. There is so much joy behind my smile and tears.
Best advice: Be yourself. I was gifted to do the work that I do, the way that I do it, just as I am.
Important professional lesson: Change is inevitable so be ready for it before it happens.
From the nominator: "With Miss Sally's vision and tireless work, hundreds of students receive high-quality, one-on-one tutoring and reteaching in a highly engaging environment. She is also a daring entrepreneur, bringing over $3.5 million worth of business and services into our community through astute grant writing. Her compassion and ability to engage students and adults alike are contagious, and this can be seen in the number of university departments she has been able to engage in this program." -- Shameem Rakha, assistant professor of education policy, organization and leadership at the University of Illinois and collaborator with the nominee (one of five nominators)
Whitney Fleming, 29
Business manager and marketing director, Rod Sickler Salon & Spa, Champaign; co-owner and manager, Rod Sickler Salon & Spa, Bloomington; Clutch Cuts marketing director
Community involvement: Numerous fundraisers and charity events through the salon. Organized many Cut-A-Thons to raise money for local charities. Vice president of Red Hot Productions, which produces the local charity events Red Hot Winter and Red Hot Summerfest.
I attribute my success to: A really strong work ethic, never settling and having a good mentor.
Best advice: If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. A quote from Lao Tzu that was discussed at a hair show and sticks with me to this day. To live in the present.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: I love to fish!
From the nominator: "Whitney is a model employee and manager who leads by example, inspires her staff to strive for their best, has a great attitude, and is encouraging and uplifting to those in her presence. She always puts her job first and sets a stellar example for her employees with her hard work ethic, attention to detail, devotion to staff and clientele, punctuality and availability, and contributions through our philanthropy projects in our own business and in the community." -- Rod Sickler, owner of Rod Sickler Salon & Spa
Clay Foley, 36
Humane educator and lead humane investigator, Champaign County Humane Society
Community involvement: Companion Animal Resource and Education Center board member; volunteer foster parent for the Champaign County Humane Society; developed a dog-bite prevention lesson plan used in the Champaign school district.
Proudest professional accomplishment: The creation of the Humane Society's CANOPY Program, which donates doghouses, bedding, heated water buckets and other comforts to dogs living outdoors.
I attribute my success to: Unwavering positive attitude, strong work ethic and being tall.
Best advice: Be the first to arrive and the last to leave.
Important professional lesson: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
From the nominator: "Clay is a major face of kindness and compassion towards animals in this community. Not only is he completely devoted to his work and to the people and animals that he serves, he also enables other people to treat animals better through education and leading by example. Clay is always available to serve, he is never judgmental and always kind to everyone he works with. He always looks for the best in everyone." -- Sarah Scott, administrative assistant at Prairie Rivers Network and former co-worker, fellow volunteer and friend of the nominee
Kurt Glosser, 35
Director of the curriculum and testing department, Illinois Fire Service Institute
Community involvement: Member of the Windsor Road Christian Church; lieutenant at the Savoy Fire Department.
Best advice: Approached with the right attitude, you can overcome any challenge.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: I am third-generation volunteer firefighter.
Important professional lesson: You are only as good as the team you surround yourself with, and the relationships you have established with those members are key.
From the nominator: "Kurt works consistently and innovatively to ensure that responders in Illinois are trained and certified to high standards at both state and national levels. Kurt has worked to create a framework for updating training programs without interrupting the delivery of said programs, basically 'changing the wheels on the bus while the bus is moving.' He has accomplished this by creating a team of curriculum experts to support and coordinate the work of IFSI's 600-plus subject matter experts. He has done this in a fast-paced emergency response environment, and has maintained balance between family, church, volunteering with the Savoy Fire Department, and constant delivery of high-quality training programs during this time." -- Brian Brauer, associate director, University of Illinois Fire Service Institute
Natalie Gross, 30
Marketing specialist, Fox Development Corp.
Community involvement: Mentor with the CU One-to-One Mentoring Program. Participate in Bowl for Kid's Sake with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Participated in athletic events such as Relay for Life and Race for the Cure, volunteered for Comcast Cares Day and served in the past as a board member for Junior Achievement.
Best advice I can give or have received: If you genuinely want something, don't wait for it -- go for it.
Important professional lesson: Always compete with yourself, not the competition. If you're constantly using other people to measure your success, you're not putting your energy and passion where it belongs. You're the only person who can determine how successful you will be.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Level-headed, sincere and strong-willed.
From the nominator: "Natalie is so focused and has an unmatched work ethic. She constantly goes the 'extra mile' and strives for perfectionism. Of utmost importance is her ability to be absolutely professional while maintaining her naturally pleasant personality." -- Jamie Propps, senior assistant public defender for Champaign County and friend of the nominee (one of two nominators)
Chris Harbourt, 38
Vice president and principal engineer at Waterborne Environmental Inc.; adjunct assistant professor, University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; co-owner of H&R Machine and Restoration Inc.
Community involvement: Coached youth soccer for many years; member of the external advisory board for the UI Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Growing the Champaign office of Waterborne from just myself to 25-30 people, as well as providing an opportunity for those folks to work in areas of science they love.
I attribute my success to: Being competent, honest and a little bit of a mad scientist so others don't take me too seriously.
Important professional lesson: Put yourself in your clients' shoes, listen to them and really try to understand what they are asking you to do. Their needs are probably not what you expect. Consulting is about relationships, not technical solutions.
From the nominator: "Chris has an open-door policy and honest approach with employees. This has created not only a positive learning environment for all employees but has built trust and strong relationships." -- Katie Betz, marketing coordinator at Waterborne Environmental Inc.
Ryan Heiser, 34
Senior vice president, Fisher National Bank
Community involvement: Board member for Mahomet Area Chamber of Commerce, Sangamon River Festival committee and chamber steering committee; volunteer coach for the Mahomet Parks & Recreation Department; member of the Mahomet Masonic Lodge 220; member of the Champaign County Association of Realtors and the Home Builders Association of East Central Illinois.
Proudest professional accomplishment: It was a team effort but being voted 2012 Mahomet Business of the Year.
Best advice: Vince Lombardi said it best: "The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand and determination."
Important professional lesson: "Be patient, listen and never give up on your dreams."
From the nominator: "Ryan has always given his best effort to be the best at what he does and uses his hard work and innovation to succeed. He is always striving to help the people around him succeed as well. Ryan has been able to do this yet still maintain a vital role in the community and be a great father to his sons and great husband to his wife. Ryan is the perfect example of making your own way and doing it the right way." -- Ryan Dallas, real estate broker with Keller Williams Realty and a friend of the nominee (one of two nominators)
Andrea Klingel, 37
Insurance agent, Illiana Insurance, Philo
Community involvement: Active with the Greater Champaign County AMBUCS. Mentor with CU One-to-One Mentoring. Speaker for the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and Relay for Life Survivor Dinner, and participant in the organization's Cancer Prevention Survey #3 Champions. Member of the Young Survival Coalition.
Best advice: "If you are not happy with something in your life, you are the only one who can change it," and "Make the most of what you have, and be happy with it when you get it." From a cancer standpoint, a friend told me to "take 10 minutes a day to feel sorry for yourself, and then be done with it." The key is not staying in that mind-set ... making the most of what time you have left. Do as much as you can for as long as you can.
Important professional lesson: Developing a "thick skin" is a must! Although I am a no-pressure saleswoman, I find myself paying for others' perceptions of who they think salespeople are.
From the nominator: "As a cancer survivor, Andrea has been through more than the average person will have to endure. She's had to fight more than any person I've ever met, and all the while continued to give back to others. She gives back and teaches others how to cope with their illness." -- Laura Huth, CEO of do good Consulting and friend of the nominee
Kelly Duitsman Loschen, 35
Audit manager at Martin, Hood, Friese & Associates LLC
Community Involvement: Past treasurer of Junior Achievement of Champaign County; Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation board member, CU Scholars volunteer and Adult Spelling Bee fundraiser chair; YMCA Strong Kids Committee; Executive Club of Champaign County; Windsor Road Christian Church volunteer; Robeson Elementary School volunteer and PTA member; University of Illinois Alumni Association
I attribute my success to: Learning the value of hard work. My parents pushed me to always put forth my best effort. They allowed me to dream big and also make my own mistakes.
Best advice: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. Colossians 3:23 (New International Version)
Important professional lesson: The power of developing and maintaining genuine relationships.
From the nominator: "Kelly is an exceptionally hard worker who is a success in her personal and business lives. She has strong abilities and desires to help the community continue to thrive as well. Her drive and creativity guarantee that she will succeed in this area as well." -- Bud Windelborn, firm administrator, Martin, Hood, Friese & Associates (one of two nominators)
Ryan Loschen, 30
Farmer, Loschen Farms, Royal
Community involvement: Member of the Royal Community Building board and Royal Golf Outing Committee; sound system volunteer at church.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Owning my first piece of farm equipment, a Rogator sprayer.
Best advice: If you are going to do something, do it right the first time and don't half-heart it.
Important professional lesson: Scout your fields!
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: A helpful person that always tries to lighten the mood with my humor.
From the nominator: "Ryan is a young man who not only returned to work in his small rural community to contribute after graduating from a world-class university, he is committed to the community health, robustness and growth. His contributions are direct, whether it is service on a board or committee or by helping a fellow community member when in need. He is steadfastly committed to the various communities in his life, be it his family community, the farming community, the Royal community or his church community." -- Carol Bosley, retired administrative assistant with the Illinois Leadership Center at the University of Illinois and friend of the nominee
Danielle Matthews, 38
Vice president and chief financial officer, Developmental Services Center
Community involvement: Board member of the Executive Club of Champaign County; United Way of Champaign County's Emerging Community Leaders program; South Side Elementary School PTA board treasurer; previously served as treasurer for the local Habitat for Humanity board.
Best advice: "We find in life exactly what we put into it." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Important professional lesson: Maintain balance in your life. Work as hard as you can but also take time to enjoy the people and activities you love.
My mentor is: My parents, who were both ambitious and determined to meet their goals.
From the nominator: "Danielle is a talented and dedicated professional. She has a quiet confidence about her that is unassuming; however, she is very definitive in her role and speaks her mind when necessary. She has the skills to see the global picture and the ability to break it apart into understandable pieces and articulate the plan to others. She is collaborative and willing to listen to ideas, making her an effective team player and leader." -- Dale Morrissey, CEO of Developmental Services Center
Christina McCLelland, 27
Public arts coordinator, city of Urbana
Community involvement: Social Media Club Chambana; Boneyard Arts Festival Urbana Planning Committee; former Champaign-Urbana Design Organization board member; emceed PechaKucha Night Champaign-Urbana; involved in state Local Arts Agency network.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Launching the Murals on Glass program, which features the work of Champaign County artists as adhesive vinyl decals on windows in historic downtown Urbana. It not only beautifies and adds interest to this area of Urbana but provides opportunities for local artists working in any media to realize a large-scale public art piece.
I attribute my success to: Hard work and always being open to new experiences.
Best advice: My mom once told me to play it cool. That's always good advice!
From the nominator: "(Christina's) creative and diverse artistic background has helped her emerge as a leader in the arts community. The city of Urbana has gained considerable recognition in the area of public arts because of Christina's dedication to furthering the city's public arts programs and expanding access to free art exhibits." -- Tom Carrino, economic development manager, city of Urbana
Kip McDaniel, 29
Branch manager, Central Illinois Bank
Community involvement: Board member of the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company; member of Champaign West Rotary Club; vice president of the Champaign-Urbana Area Illinois State University Alumni; participant in the United Way of Champaign County's Emerging Community Leaders program; volunteer at community events.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Hosting the fifth annual State Farm Shootout at the Hall. I was able to work with the great staff at the Assembly Hall to bring the best high school basketball teams to compete in a one-day tournament. Potential UI students were able to showcase their talent and have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of playing at the Assembly Hall. This great opportunity allowed me to connect with local businesses, collaborate with media, and build new relationships.
Best advice: Keep it positive!
Important professional lesson: When one door closes, there is always another door waiting to be opened.
From the nominator: "Kip is the kind of developing leader willing to learn, to participate cooperatively with others and to find enterprising solutions to needs others might not even recognize, let alone then do anything about." -- Sandra Jones, owner of All Things Illini and fellow board member with the nominee
Brian Moline, 37
On-air personality and marketing consultant for WDWS/WHMS/WKIO radio stations
Community involvement: Cover local high school sporting events and Little League baseball; interview area newsmakers daily from 4-5 p.m. on the WDWS News Hour; recently served as church council president at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in St. Joseph, currently serving as choir director; member of the Parkland College community jazz bands.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Winning a Silver Dome Award from the Illinois Broadcasters Association for play-by-play of Champaign Central vs. Centennial football in 2012.
Best advice: Set lofty, yet achievable goals, then do whatever it takes to achieve them.
Three people I'd want on my (broadcast) team: Play-by-play: Vin Scully. Analysis: Hubie Brown. Sideline: Doris Burke.
Important professional lesson: You can never have too much prep material for a live broadcast.
From the nominator: "Brian is a calmly assertive, quick-thinking and humorous person who knows how to put people he works with at ease both on the air and off the air. He is a fantastic listener who uses his ability to listen to others to create interesting radio content." -- Karinsa Moline, music teacher in the Champaign school district and wife of the nominee
Tracy Parish, 34
Program coordinator, University of Illinois Office of Public Engagement
Community involvement: Involved in a number of education-based collaborations between the University of Illinois and local schools and nonprofit organizations, including co-founding the Make More Music program, an after-school music enrichment program for Urbana students; established the School of Music Mentoring program at the UI; work closely with local nonprofits such as Land of Lincoln Legal and Prosperity Gardens Inc. to promote social justice and health and wellness initiatives.
I attribute my success to: A sense of social responsibility, respect for others, thoughtful planning and the understanding that hard work and perseverance pay off.
Important professional lesson: Do not jump to conclusions about individuals or initiatives until you stand back and get the entire picture.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Hardworking, imaginative and a little eccentric.
From the nominator: "Tracy is a problem solver. I am struck by his knack for developing creative solutions to challenges the campus and community face in education, social equity and economic development. Rather than simply study the problem or hypothesize about what might help, he acts to actually makes change happen." -- Shelley Mix, program coordinator at the University of Illinois
Tristan Pisarczyk, 33
Director of operations for St. John's Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois
Community involvement: Cub Scout den leader; member of Knights of Columbus Council 2782; active parishioner at St. Matthew Parish.
I attribute my success to: Perseverance.
Best advice: I have learned the importance of balance from my dad, the value of flexibility from my father-in-law, the necessity of hard work and faith from my grandpa and to believe in myself from my wife.
Important professional lesson: Never stop learning and improving.
My mentors are: The authors of the books and blogs I read. While I haven't met them all personally, I've learned a great deal from the wisdom they share.
From the nominator: "Tristan is a very organized, level-headed leader within the St. John's Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois organization. He is not only professional and articulate but has a strong desire to see students and employees excel and is encouraging in the successful development of people." -- Gregory Ketcham, director and head chaplain, St. John's Catholic Newman Center
Andy Quarnstrom, 38
Lieutenant at the Champaign Fire Department and City of Champaign Township Supervisor
Community Involvement: Board member of the United Way of Champaign County and the city of Champaign Neighborhood Services Advisory Board; has been involved in Big Brothers and Big Sisters program Bigs in Blue; served on committees at St. Matthew's Catholic Church; coached youth baseball.
I attribute my success to: Having a strong work ethic with a little OCD tied in as well. If I decide to challenge something, I give 100 percent towards that challenge.
Best advice: If you go through life doing the right thing, you won't do wrong. When I go to bed at night, I know that I did the best I could and have no regrets.
Three people I'd want on my team: My wife, Erin Quarnstrom, is like the little voice in my head that always steers me in the right direction. My brother-in-law and fellow firefighter has taught me more than he will ever know. Another firefighter, Chuck Sullivan, has been a friend and confidant. He gives opinions even when they may not be easy to hear.
From the nominator: "Andy is always willing to volunteer his time, and makes a meaningful contribution to so many causes. He has boundless energy and has devoted his abilities to protecting and serving our community, his church and his family." -- Scott Bennett, assistant state's attorney with the Champaign County state's attorney's office and friend of the nominee
Derek Sanders, 38
Carmack Car Capitol sales associate
Community involvement: Board member for Keep Vermilion County Beautiful; served on various committees for Downtown Danville Inc.; steering committee member for The Festival of Trees; volunteer for CASA of Vermilion County; member of Danville Jaycees and Danville Lions Club; avid Polar Plunger.
Best advice: If you don't believe in what you are doing, why would anyone else.
Important professional lesson: Don't wait until tomorrow to do something that you can do today.
My mentor is: This one is easy: my mother. I look up to her in so many ways. I couldn't adore her more!
To relax, I: Nothing relaxes me more than going to see a live performance.
From the nominator: "As a nonprofit organization, DDI depends on its volunteers to make things happen. Derek is a key volunteer for my group as well as other groups in the community. He is instrumental with planning, setup, running events and tear-down. When he starts a project or offers to help, he sees his commitment from beginning through to the end." -- Dana Schaumburg, executive director of Downtown Danville Inc.
Brian Sauder, 29
Policy director, Faith in Place
Community involvement: Board member of Sola Gratia Farm in Urbana; member of First Mennonite Church in Urbana, and founder and chair of the congregation's Green Team; board member of Illinois Environmental Council.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Starting the Faith in Place office in central Illinois. We launched the office here in Champaign in January 2010. This office has grown to three staff persons who work with over 90 congregations in central Illinois, inspiring them to care for the Earth through our connection, education and advocacy programs.
I attribute my success to: My parents. They have provided me with the upbringing and tools to find my own autonomy, supporting me with unconditional love and a willingness to let me experience the result of my ideas and projects regardless of their scariness, merit and potential for success.
Important professional lesson: Don't stereotype.
From the nominator: "Brian is highly motivated and active, acts with the highest integrity and is driven by his deeply rooted Christian faith to improve his community locally and throughout the state of Illinois. Brian has repeatedly demonstrated a selfless commitment to educating and improving environmental stewardship throughout Illinois." -- Sam Cox, transportation planner at LMS Logistics and friend of the nominee
Amber Seip, 35
Personal trainer and co-owner of Alpha & Omega PowerTraining LLC
Community involvement: Vice president of Tuscola Chamber of Commerce; partners to host the annual High Heel Dash (fundraiser for the school district); volunteers at the junior high school; volunteer coach for Girls on the Run; financially supports local projects and causes through the business.
Proudest professional accomplishment: When my sister and I became an LLC and the day we purchased our building.
Best advice: "I can't give you the world, but I can give you the best of mine!" My husband said that to me on our first date and it has always stayed with me. We don't expect our kids to be first at everything as long as they give their best. We don't expect our groups to lose pound after pound as long as they give their best. Our company may not be a Fortune 500 company yet, but we give our best.
Important professional lesson: Helping others grow in confidence by giving them encouragement and affirmation and to watch them reach goals they never thought possible is worth more than money.
From the nominator: "She consistently and regularly provides an inspiration to those she knows, both in the physical fitness sense and also as a giving community member. She is always willing to help, no matter the cause, and always speaks well of others, regardless of the situations." -- Lorna Geiler, attorney at Meyer Capel
Julia Megan Sullivan, 33
Creative director for Trigard
Community involvement: Volunteers for many organizations, including Red Mask and the Danville Public Library Foundation; graduate of Vermilion Advantage's Leadership Tomorrow program; speaks to students about career choices; works with kids in theater; has designed marketing materials for library fundraising events; Relay for Life; been involved in animal rescue transports; shared local history stories during a cemetery walk event.
I attribute my success to: Never being afraid to try, committing to lifelong learning and refusing to accept the lowest common denominator as good enough.
Best advice: My best advice is a blend of wisdom from my mom and Mr. Fred Rogers, neighbor and PBS legend. Never be afraid to be yourself. You're enough just the way you are.
Important professional lesson: Taking care of people and taking care of business are never mutually exclusive.
From the nominator: "Julia spends more time than anyone I know doing community service. She is thought very highly of by anyone who comes into contact with her. Julia is very humble. While she is very accomplished and successful, you will often hear her attribute her successes to those around her." -- Alicia Pettigrew, self-employed and friend of the nominee
Shandra Summerville, 38
Cultural and linguistic competence coordinator for ACCESS Initiative of Champaign County at Prairie Center Health Systems, Urbana
Community involvement: Urbana schools TALKS mentor; Canaan's Women's Safe House steering committee; Champaign County NAACP executive committee; participant in United Way of Champaign County's Emerging Community Leaders program; 2010 eBlack CU Difference Maker; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.; National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health; Walk as ONE Community Coalition; active member of Canaan Baptist Church.
Proudest professional accomplishment: I was accepted into the Georgetown University Leadership Academy to Address Disparities in Mental Health Care.
I attribute my success to: My faith, my family and my friends, and the ability to work with different personalities with big ideas on a limited budget.
Important professional lesson: Never burn bridges. You may have to cross them again.
A word from the nominator: "She is an outstanding leader. She also is committed to community service. She strives to give back in all that she does and always with a smile." -- Christopher Hamb, owner of Chrisp Media LLC and friend of the nominee
Marla Todd, 33
Associate director of advancement, University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Community involvement: Member and chapter treasurer of PEO (education philanthropy); member and Sunday school teacher at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church; 4-H leader; communications committee for the Fisher Stadium Renovation project.
Proudest professional accomplishment: My best days at work are the ones where I observe donors seeing the impact of their gifts, such as meeting a student recipient or seeing the transformation of a building they made possible.
Best advice: It is a song lyric, but I refer to it often. "Life's a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow! Don't worry about what you don't know!"
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Someone who is determined and hardworking but wears her heart on her sleeve.
From the nominator: "Marla has been successful in helping the department attract several million in support of facilities renovations, scholarships for students and funding supporting our faculty research. Marla has developed strong relationships with our alumni, donors and affiliated companies and organizations." -- Greg Knott, assistant department head, University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Christine Walsh, 39
Editor, The County Star
Community involvement: Board member for Rotary Club of Savoy and Tolono Fun Day Festival Committee; treasurer of Birthright of Champaign-Piatt Counties, Savoy Orchard Days Festival planning committee member; vice president of Tolono's BEST (Businesses Encouraging and Supporting Tolono)
Proudest professional accomplishment: An award I won from the American Water Works Association for a series of stories I wrote exposing an Indiana school superintendent who had covered up potentially cancer-causing contamination in an elementary school's water.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: I am the fourth generation of my family to live on our farm in rural Thomasboro.
Important professional lesson: You can't please everyone; you can only do your best.
From the nominator: "She can be found working early in the morning and late at night. She has both daily and weekly deadlines but never appears stressed or overwhelmed. She is always friendly, always smiling. She is also willing to use what little time off she gets to help in the community." -- Several co-workers, The News-Gazette
April Warren-Grice, 35
Assistant director for student life at University Laboratory High School
Community involvement: Community service activities through Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., helping to coordinate the re-enactment of the Women's Suffrage March in Urbana.
Proudest professional accomplishment: I, along with four other chaperones, took 20 students from the Partners in Achievement Program, a program that I started, at Ritenour High School in St. Louis, Mo., to the inaugural address in 2009; and receiving the High School National Council of Teachers of English Teacher of Excellence Award in 2007.
I attribute my success to: God's Grace, an awesome support group of people that believe in me, the Ronald E. McNair's Scholar's Program and students that inspire me to be better for myself and them.
Important professional lesson: Be yourself. Include others in decision-making processes.
From the nominator: "April is wise and accomplished beyond the expectations of someone her age. We are very fortunate to have her involvement in public education." -- Marianne Downey, director of advancement, University of Illinois Laboratory High School
Jennifer White, 36
Constituent services director for Congressman Rodney Davis
Community Involvement: Regional board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Illinois, mentor at Garden Hills Elementary School; participant in the United Way of Champaign County's Emerging Community Leaders program; Republican precinct committeeman; preschool teacher at Harvest Church in Urbana.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Working alongside my friends State Sen. Jason Barickman and Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman in their successful runs for their respective offices.
Best advice: We only get one opportunity to live our lives, enjoy the journey.
Interesting fact you may not know about me: I traveled the Amazon for three weeks, sleeping in a hammock on a riverboat.
From the nominator: "Jennifer exemplifies service to one's community. We often think of leaders as those who are outspoken and those who ask others to follow them. Jennifer is another kind of leader -- the kind of leader who inspires others to follow not because of her words, but because of her example. I like to think of Jennifer as Champaign County's best-kept secret, or the most impactful leader you've never heard of." -- Katie Blakeman, Champaign County Circuit Clerk
Sean Widener, 36
Department manager, Clark Dietz Inc.
Community involvement: Mahomet village trustee; volunteer coach for the Mahomet Recreation Department; active member in a variety of citizen-driven committees; member of American Public Works Association, Illinois City/County Management Association, Institute of Transportation Engineers and American Council of Engineering Companies; veteran of the Illinois Army National Guard.
Proudest professional accomplishment: Obtaining my license as a professional engineer and sealing my first set of construction documents.
Three people I'd want on my team: A fortune teller that is always right, a comedian that never tells a bad joke and a good attorney to keep me out of trouble.
My partner/best friend/mom would describe me as: Someone who loves a challenge, easygoing, level-headed, creative and a pushover when it comes to my kids.
A word from the nominator: "While a technical leader in his field, Sean remains approachable and interested in the ideas of others. He is able to bring together the strengths and talents of others, creating a collaborative team environment, and ultimately facilitating comprehensive, cohesive results." -- Melody Garland, senior administrative assistant, Clark Dietz Inc.
Nick Zazal, 30
Assistant director for events, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Community involvement: Representative of the University of Illinois on the Visit Champaign County board of directors; member of the Illinois Marathon planning committee; volunteer at Sleepycreek Vineyard.
Proudest professional accomplishment: I love watching the community of C-U rally around an event that I had some part in planning or executing. Some of the highlights have come out of these successes: Ellnora: The Guitar Festival, Outside at the Research Park summer concert series and the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon.
I attribute my success to: Being comfortable meeting new people, staying organized, seeking out growth opportunities if they don't present themselves.
Best advice: You have to take responsibility for creating your own opportunities. Nothing is handed to you. If the opportunities you want aren't presenting themselves, go find them and do it for free. Eventually someone will notice.
From the nominator: "Nick Zazal is passionate and energetic about his community, focused on his career and committed to his growing family. He brings a high level of expertise to local tourism, arts and sports events." -- Marjorie Williams, broker with Prudential Landmark Real Estate and friend, business associate and fellow volunteer of the nominee