Allie Bujak, Libertyville High School
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Parents: Cynthia & Christopher Bujak
Sponsor: Nancy Stevens, counselor
Community service: President/member of Best Buddies, integrating special needs students with their peers; Integrated P.E., which mixes special-needs students with their peers; helped start Young Life Capemaum, a youth group dedicated to helping integrate friends with special needs into a church setting; member, Link Crew, which helps incoming freshmen.
Personal statement: "Being a part of this club really made me want to be an advocate for people with IDD. If we are breaking down the barriers in all sorts of settings, why not this one? That is why one of my main goals in life is to work with people who have IDD -- not only teach them, but hopefully to continue to learn from them and grow with them."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Her leadership skills, at first glance, are quiet and unassuming. Then when you watch her plan, organize, and work with others, you see her skills are confident, caring and thoughtful. It is a privilege to watch her grow, mature, flourish, and pursue of all of her endeavors."
Faith Gazdzicki, Round Lake High School
Hometown: Round Lake
Parents: David & Robin Gazdzicki
Sponsor: Amanda Smith, counselor
Community service: Sunday school teacher for children ages 1-9, including preparing the lesson; member of the NICASA Teen Court, listening to cases of minors who commit crimes; teen leader with Reality Anti-Tobacco group; president of the Peer Mediation group, which helps students resolve disputes with other students; worship assistant for AWANA.
Personal statement: "I spend a great deal of time participating in after-school activities and community service; I believe that, through these unique opportunities, I am gaining the tools necessary to become a stellar law enforcement official."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Faith continually gives her time and talents to mentor younger students, create videos for freshmen and speak to our sophomores about taking advantage of all of the opportunities for students at our high school. She was called on this week to be on a panel of students who met with state Sen. Melinda Bush about various educational topics."
Rachel Jacoby, Vernon Hills High School
Hometown: Vernon Hills
Parents: Kim & Jay Jacoby
Sponsor: Judy Stone, counselor
Community service: Board member of Interact Club, leading numerous public service projects; teaches Hebrew to children ages 7-13; volunteers at PADS shelter and with a group that donates sports equipment to underprivileged children; coaches young girls in sports.
Personal statement: "My Jewish grandfather and his family had the misfortune to live in Nazi Germany. After witnessing the horrors of Kristallnacht, they fled Germany to the relative safety of Shanghai. My grandfather survived the poverty-stricken ghetto and came to America in 1948. His experience has been an underlying motivation for my actions. I want the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Respectful, hardworking and humble, Rachel is a complete package of talent and ambition who has only begun to realize the full extent of her potential. What impresses me most is she possesses a reverence for life, learning, and service to humanity that is simply unparalleled among her peers."
Annie Kotlarz, Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart
Hometown: Lake Forest
Parents: Heather Kotlarz & Joe Kotlarz
Sponsor: Mary Gramins, theology
Community service: Volunteered at an orphanage in Nicaragua, including manual labor in the fields. Adopted one orphan as a goddaughter and helps support her financially. As a freshman, started a nonprofit tutoring agency; class president; volunteered at after-school center for young children; volunteers with Camp Hope for disabled children.
Personal statement: "I have made spreading the importance of education a future goal of mine, whether it is spreading the feeling of gratitude toward education to my future children or spreading the importance to society from a political standpoint. An education empowers a woman, makes life rich, and helps you discover passions."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Annie continually looks for ways to give of herself, comes away with lessons learned, and because of her cheerful, inclusive ways, leads others to do good as well. There are few students I have known who have as remarkable a 'sense of self' and as high a level of personal integrity."
Sam Panitch, Stevenson High School
Hometown: Buffalo Grove
Parents: Benjamin & Shari Panitch
Sponsor: Dave Eddy, student activities coordinator
Community service: President of Stevenson's Freshman Mentor Program; member of the Council of 100; a Jefferson Award Student Leader; volunteer coach, youth basketball camp; multiple projects as part of Temple Chai's Social Action Committee.
Personal statement: "Everything we do in life reflects upon something or someone else. My coaches taught me at a young age that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back. I try to keep this in mind as my character exemplifies something greater than just myself."
Sponsor's endorsement: "He looks toward the big picture while managing to have fun in the moment. He is a leader while managing to be a team player. Sam is ... trustworthy, reliable and patient, generous with his time and talents, and supports his peers. He is humble and respectful of other students and their beliefs and attitudes. All these characteristics combine to make a leader that peers are glad to follow."
Shannon Pedersen, Grant Community High School
Hometown: Round Lake
Parents: Douglas & Mary Pedersen
Sponsor: Beth Thomas, teacher
Community service: Mission trips to Baja, Dallas and Brooklyn, where she helped build a house, designed a VBS program, and worked with inner-city kids and homeless people. AWANA leader for young girls. Volunteers with Bulldog Buddies, a reading program for children; organizer of St. Baldrick's dodgeball tournament fundraiser; volunteers with Winter Wear Drive.
Personal statement: "Every project, club, or activity I participate in is intentional. I thoroughly enjoy working and leading my peers to success. Overall, I believe I have the best high school experience, because I know that I am preparing for and enjoying what I intend to do with the rest of my life."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Being involved with teams, clubs and her community, on top of maintaining a difficult course schedule, indicates Shannon's well-roundedness, time management and leadership skills. She has awed me with her hard work, intellect and character."
Emily Prey, Libertyville High School
Parents: Douglas & Patricia Prey
Sponsor: Jessica Noga, counselor
Community service: Mission trip to Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, followed up by service projects on their behalf; leader and member of Interact Club, organizing and participating in many service projects; packs food at the Northern Illinois Food Bank; classroom assistant at Cherish Children Preschool.
Personal statement: "My experience with the wonderful children of the Rosebud Indian Reservation has definitely put a face on the poverty that is prevalent in so many places. I know there are children leading similar lives all over the world, and that has made me consider joining the Peace Corps after college."
Sponsor's endorsement: "I find it impressive that she and a friend took the initiative to organize a book drive to develop a library in the (Rosebud) Reservation's community center. She was able to collect over 1,000 books. In all she does, she is a leader and a role model for others. She is passionate about life, service and learning."
Annalisa Roncone, Lakes Community High School
Parents: Ed & Rosie Roncone
Sponsor: Jori Bowen, assistant principal
Community service: Assistant coach, girls volleyball at Palombi Middle School; Student Ambassador to the District 117 school board; S.T.A.R.S. (Students Taking Action and Responsibility for Success) youth activity coordinator at Palombi; Illinois Leadership Seminar alumni adviser and junior coach; co-captain for Relay For Life team.
Personal statement: "Through the various leadership roles I have held, I have learned what it takes to be a good leader and have come to understand how important hard work is. I never finish anything until I am completely satisfied with the outcome."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Annalisa has a great positivity about her and a passion for getting involved. Her favorite quote is by Abraham Lincoln, 'I do the very best I know how, the very best I can; and I mean to do so until the end.' This embodies all that Annalisa represents, and Lakes is a better place because of what Annalisa has done while in our care."
Charlie Suhling, Warren Twp. High School
Parents: Doug & Lynne Suhling
Sponsor: Jayson Paulus, counselor
Community service: Student body president; organized "Pink Out" girls basketball game and fundraiser for breast cancer research; takes leadership roles in church youth group service projects; organizer for Red Ribbon Week activities promoting drug-free lifestyle; volunteer student leader for a group that bridges gap between students with special needs and those without.
Personal statement: "I keep a smile on my face, have a positive attitude, and make an effort to make everyone feel included. I have been the kid that is left out, so I hate when I see this happen to someone else. I hope to create bigger and better things, making a difference in someone's life. Even if a smile on a child's face is the only outcome, I will have done my job correctly."
Sponsor's endorsement: "The willingness of Charlie to take a support role to boost others' performances defines his 'others first' mentality. He knows that a true leader sometimes must help others to reach their successes before his own."
Paige Vaughn, Grayslake Central
Parents: Dennis & Tina Vaughn
Sponsor: Dustin Chierico, teacher; Public Service Practicum sponsor
Community service: Led 24 students to raise more than $6,000 in the fight against breast cancer; led team of students making meals to feed 150 people for four days at the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota; planned/executed a four-course meal for 125 senior citizens with dinner, dancing, comedy and a flash mob; volunteers at Advocate Condell; assists in school's food/backpack drive
Personal statement: "I plan on using my degree to ... pursue my passion of providing opportunities to those who would otherwise not have them. My goal is to create a business hybrid like TOMS shoes and Feed My Starving Children, where I can use my experiences to solve social problems."
Sponsor's endorsement: "What makes Paige a dynamic leader is her ability to fulfill whatever role is needed to benefit her group. Paige has learned at an early age that successful leaders set aside their own personal interests for the good of the group."