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Seek challenge in your work

Thinking about where I was in my life both personally and professionally two years ago brings back fond memories.  


Two years ago I remember being nervous as hell having to speak in a room full of business professionals at to why I would possibly be chosen as a “Woman of the Year” for anything. At the time, I was the principal at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign, likely the best job I’ll ever have. I remember being really concerned about what shoes I would wear to walk on the stage because I didn’t feel comfortable in heels and a dress due to my weight. I remember fearing I would be out of breath by the time I walked from my seat to the podium to speak and how that would be so humiliating. I had to get over my personal fears because I chose to use the time as a platform for recruiting more adults in our community to serve and give back to the children in our schools. I challenged every Forty Under 40 winner to become a mentor at the school of their choice. I even contacted all the employers to make sure they had permission to miss work once a week to do it! I still wonder out of the 40 how many did it. Did the words of the kids who spoke that day matter? I also made a choice to get healthier that day because I was quite miserable.


Fast forward two years: I’m no longer under 40 and I’m good with that. I have faced lot of criticism over the years for transitioning jobs/positions frequently. While I’m not really sure why job change inspires public and private criticism, every career change has led me down a path that has been fulfilling to me professionally and personally. I’ve met wonderful kids, families and colleagues in every position I’ve had. Furthermore, I constantly feel the excitement of work. I never felt that I’ve conquered a job or rocked it so well that I was bored. I think everyone in this room embraces challenge. It’s why we are here and how we are all made. Of course challenge doesn’t always mean changing jobs. Some people stay in one job their entire lives and find challenge in many other ways as they strive to be better than the day before. We, as a community, are at our best when we support each other to find the work, to choose the career, to make the changes that help us to be our very best.


Two years ago, I was not living the best life I could. However, I still dug deep, choosing to focus on what I knew would keep me strong -- a loving family, a career I love, colleagues and friends I absolutely can count on. Two years ago I also made the decision, with the help of my family and friends, to focus on my health. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. And as I began to feel more physically healthy and strong, I made another decision: To change my career path again. This transition was hard as I loved being a part of the Jefferson family. But it was the right decision for me, and it has given opportunities to others that would not have been there otherwise. 


Today I stand here, stronger, a little more confident, definitely aware that there are many journeys ahead of me. But I am here because of those who have come before me and surround me -- my community. It is this community I join today as I stand with the people who will support all of you. I will be one of the voices cheering you on. And I challenge you to continually see challenge in the work that you do -- whether in the long-term positions or, if you’re like me, on the winding career path.  


Congratulations, 2018 Forty Under 40! Well deserved!


  • Angelica (Angi) Franklin


Angi Franklin was named the Forty Under 40 Woman of the Year in 2016. She assumed the role of Director of Teaching, Learning and Student Engagement for Champaign Unit 4 Schools in July, having served as Jefferson Middle School principal since July 2013. Prior to that, she was assistant principal at Bottenfield Elementary School for the 2012-13 school year and was choir teacher at Central High School from 2002 to 2005. Franklin was a dean of students at Urbana High School from 2010 to 2012 and a choir teacher at Urbana Middle School from 2000 to 2002. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Illinois and is scheduled to complete her coursework in December. Franklin has volunteered with Crisis Nursery, the One to One Mentoring Program and Parkland College’s Migrant Education Program.