Alexandra Almanza, Grayslake North High School
Hometown: Round Lake Beach
Parents: Martha Hernandez and Julian Almanza
Sponsor: Renee Zoladz, associate superintendent
Community service: Among the organizers of the Lake County DACA Council, working with local immigrants; co-founder of WOKE Club at Grayslake North, building a culture of inclusivity, positivity and equity; student rep on District 127 school board; volunteer in the Protection and Legal Affairs Department for the Mexican Consulate General.
Personal statement: "By cultivating and exploring many types of volunteer opportunities and activities throughout my high school career, I have gained important insight into what I want my professional future to look like. I have discovered my passion for public service, specifically in the field of social justice, politics, and international relations."
Sponsor's endorsement: "An impressive young woman and a true advocate for others. She holds high expectations for herself and other students, and yet is approachable, genuine and humble."
Aaron Chen, Libertyville High School
Parents: Pauline and Gary Wang
Sponsor: Judi Neuberger, counselor
Community service: Co-founded a low-cost tutoring service, Owl Tutoring, for kids who need academic help but can't afford a full-priced tutoring service; organized a book drive to collect review books for the AP, SAT and ACT tests to benefit Waukegan High School students; a volunteer coach for special-needs swimmers; volunteers at Cook Memorial Library; as a WISH leader, oversaw a team of students raising funds to help families in need during the holidays.
Personal statement: "I was fortunate to be born with caring parents, live in a supportive town, and attend a community-oriented school; I have a plethora of opportunities available to me that many do not. By keeping my eyes open to the world around me, I hope to help those who have not had the same fortune as myself in their lives."
Sponsor's endorsement: "I don't know if Aaron ever turns his brain down long enough to get any rest. He is a born problem solver with an unmatched ability to synthesize data, focus on solutions and put his ideas into action."
Paula Diaz, Grant High School
Hometown: Round Lake
Parents: Patricia Gonzalez and Jose Diaz
Sponsor: Jill Schroeder, guidance counselor
Community service: Organized events for the Chamber of Commerce; has volunteered for four years at Home of the Sparrow thrift store; vice president and president of National Honor Society chapter, where she organized events; vice president and president of student council; a freshman mentor at RLHS.
Personal statement: "I have learned to be organized, on time, and how to create a friendly, welcoming environment. I have learned to collaborate. Being able to cooperate with different people has led toward the creation of unique and original ideas and events. If it was not for volunteering and these service organizations, I would not have developed these essential qualities."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Paula's character is above reproach, and the qualities she exhibits as a student, a leader, and a person in general are outstanding. She is an organizer, an encourager, and she strives to make the world a better place."
Emily Dunne, Grayslake North High School
Hometown: Lake Villa
Parents: Debby and Joe Dunne
Sponsor: Adam DeCaluwe, assistant athletic director
Community service: Started a Halloween food drive in first grade that now, 10 years later, collects truckloads of food each year; is a soccer buddy to a child with special needs; helps organize an annual homeless outreach in Chicago, collecting and distributing cold-weather gear, food and McDonald's gift cards; created a yarn drive for the Project Linus knitters.
Personal statement: "Throughout my years of volunteerism, I have not only changed the lives of hundreds of people, but I too have changed. I truly enjoy helping other people who have different life experiences than I do, which has given me a different perspective on my own life -- putting others' needs before my own."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Emily is responsible, trustworthy and determined in everything that she attempts to accomplish. Emily has successfully demonstrated her ability to lead students and student-athletes in every situation she faces."
Sabrina Lee, Mundelein High School
Parents: Marcus Lee and April Lee
Sponsor: Andrea Rusk, college counselor
Community service: As senior class president, led organization of the class service project, which raised more than $1,000 for hurricane relief; organized holiday gift drive; raises vegetables at Fremont Township Community Garden to donate to the food pantry; has volunteered with PADS, Bernie's Book Bank, the Mundelein Park District dance classes.
Personal statement: "I cannot live my life ignorant of others. I feel intrinsically responsible for those who are enduring hardships. As Senior Class president and National Honor Society secretary, it is important for me to lead by example, as actions speak louder than words."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Sabrina has accomplished everything in spite of moderate bilateral hearing loss; she understands firsthand what it is to persist in spite of challenges. Her optimism, high energy and innate leadership skills ... will have a positive impact on all she is involved with in her future."
Jordan Lenz, Grayslake Central High School
Parents: Tiffany Kobeck and Jason Lenz
Sponsor: Dustin Chierico, teacher
Community service: As marketing intern for 12 Oaks Foundation, helped attract 260 racers and $20,000 to annual 5K; convinced school to replace the winter dance with a fundraiser, raising $3,000; started a pediatric cancer awareness campaign; leadership role with community food drive; hosted school's annual Senior Citizen Dance.
Personal statement: "My peers, teachers and mentors ... have allowed me to overcome the obstacles I face as a first-generation college student. With exposure to new resources, connections and perspectives, I hope to expand my knowledge of what it means to be a leader and transform my passion into a career."
Sponsor's endorsement: "I have worked with more than 700 student-leaders ... Jordan is one of the 10 greatest leaders I have taught. He has led nine service projects, and each time he has been a difference-maker. Each time he has been one of the critical leaders who willed the project to success."
Nikhil Mangtani, Vernon Hills High School
Hometown: Vernon Hills
Parents: Suresh and Bindu Mangtani
Sponsor: Tiffany Heinlein, counselor
Community service: A technology tutor volunteer at Cook Memorial Library, doing one-on-one sessions and seminars; organized and managed the logistics for multiple fundraising events for Relay For Life; at Advocate Condell Medical Center, volunteers at guest services desk and in Medical Records; teaching assistant and event planner for Chinmaya Mission of Chicago; volunteered for Robert Dold campaign.
Personal statement: "Through volunteering, I have truly come to understand the power of connection. Although my 'students' are several decades older than me, we are all connected by the human experience. Through capitalizing on our strengths, we can both help and learn from those around us."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Nikhil is a wonderful, driven, conscientious student who has been very active and involved in and out of school. He not only displays exceptional leadership inside and outside the classroom, but is influential in encouraging cooperation, teamwork, and the value of life and helping others."
Thomas O'Brien, Wauconda High School
Parents: Kevin and Susan O'Brien
Sponsor: Wendy Mills, business education teacher
Community service: Oversaw organization of a March of Dimes fundraiser; helps organize community service projects, including Meal for All, a monthly community dinner, and the Giving Garden, a booth at the Wauconda Farmers Market; volunteer tutor in math, science, social studies and English; youth basketball coach.
Personal statement: "Community service has shown me the value of serving others and has fostered in me a desire to pursue meaningful work that will have a positive impact on the lives of others. It has given me some of the most valuable and rewarding experiences of my high school career."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Thomas recognizes the importance of a strong work ethic, persistence and intellectual integrity. In the last four years, I witnessed his tremendous growth and development -- not only in the area of business achievement and FBLA Leadership, but in maturity and character as well."
Eleni Papastratakos, Lake Zurich High School
Hometown: Lake Zurich
Parents: Nick and Kathy Papastratakos
Sponsor: Natasha Rosenak, counselor
Community service: Among organizers of school's Charity Bash, which raises money for a different charity each year; lobbied school successfully for more recognition of student endeavors beyond football and boys basketball; co-organizer of Special Olympics basketball tournament and track and field event.
Personal statement: "With my respect for others, my confidence, my strong faith and voice, I can, and will, make a difference. Whether it is helping someone get through an emotional event or proactively working toward a common goal for many, I can do it. I will continue to make a difference in the future for myself and others."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Eleni is not only extremely motivated to succeed academically, she is one of the most kind and warmhearted individuals I have come across. Her ambition, sensitive nature, and genuine love for learning are inspiring. I am confident that Eleni has an extremely bright future ahead of her."
Alexis (Lexi) Remshak, Grayslake Central High School
Hometown: Round Lake
Parents: Mark and Sue Remshak
Sponsor: Dustin Chierico, teacher
Community service: Organized the Santa Drive, a winter necessity gift drive for a PADS shelter in Grayslake, recruiting help from classmates and teachers; involved in logistics planning for the Veterans Day breakfast at Grayslake Central; trained to be a young adult counselor for Operation Snowball.
Personal statement: "Because of my love for community service projects, I knew I wanted my job to be focused around helping others. I decided nothing would be more rewarding than a career in speech and language pathology, because I want to work with those who struggle, and participate in research to better understand, diagnose, and prevent communication disabilities."
Sponsor's endorsement: "Students listen to Alexis because they respect her opinion and they realize nobody outworks her. Business leaders repeatedly comment on her professionalism. Alexis has the skills to be successful in the classroom, and the skills necessary to make a contribution to her community."