What are our Suburban Standouts up to now?
Telling the stories of outstanding young people is a privilege and a pleasure that never fails to inspire in both big and small ways.
We have profiled scores of them since the Suburban Standouts column launched in 2011, and most have gone on to accomplish even more wonderful things. We've seen former Standouts make it to the NHL with their hometown Chicago Blackhawks, compete for gold medals in the Olympics, perform magic on national television, and much more.
Here's a look at what some more of our favorites have been up to since we last talked with them.
Seventeen-year-old Meliton Chaidez continues to make a mark with his gift for oratory and commitment to service.
The senior at West Aurora High School serves as student representative for the West Aurora School District 129 board of education, and as co-national president for the Aurora-based youth mentoring organization Boys II Men, which pushes young black and Latino men to achieve excellence.
"I have so much love for that organization," Meliton said. "I don't think I would be anywhere near where I stand today if it weren't for Boys II Men."
We met him as an eighth-grader who won a regional speech competition in 2012. He since has received major recognitions from the city of Aurora, which selected him for the Service Above Self award and the Ted Brattin civic youth award.
"Service has always been important in my life. From a young age I was taught the value of service," he said.
He's extremely proud of being selected for the school board.
"As a kid I attended a few board meetings," Meliton said, "and each time I would sit amazed by how organized and systematic the meetings ran. After years admiring board meetings from the outside, it is a surreal feeling to participate in them."
His goal is to study political science in college and become a leader who can make a difference.
"Whether it is as an elected official, public relations director or a community leader, I will work tirelessly to make a positive contribution to society."
We met Joey Massarelli, when, as a 16-year-old, he was accepted into the Royal Ballet School's international summer intensive program.
Fast forward three years, and Joey is living in Amsterdam and dancing for the Dutch National Ballet Company's junior company, which offered him a one-year contract starting in August.
"This year has been filled with so many experiences that have allowed me to grow into a more independent young adult, but also a more mature artist," the 19-year-old Elk Grove Village native said. "Aside from living alone, I have been learning a lot about myself and feel like I have improved as a dancer."
Maintaining mental strength is key, he said.
"Coming from school where you perform so little throughout the year, to doing a whole tour through Holland -- 35 shows to be exact -- and also 20 shows of 'The Nutcracker' while moving forward with another junior program can be extremely taxing," he said. "But in the end, it is all worth the sweat and stress."
His goal is to join the main Dutch ballet company, move through its ranks and eventually become principal dancer.
"I also hope to keep improving myself as a person and growing as an artist and dancer," he said. "Most importantly I want to keep myself grounded and really keep appreciating the opportunities I am given on and offstage."
Chase Dorn, 18, was selected this year as a featured baton twirler for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has been both incredibly challenging and rewarding, she said.
"I am so thankful for this opportunity, and my 375 family members in the band," Chase said.
When we met the Elk Grove Village teen last year, she was the twirler at James B. Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, and had been selected for a team of elite twirlers from across the country performing as U.S. ambassadors during a 10-day trip to Peru.
The Marching Illini had a busy schedule during Chase's first semester, what with performing at Soldier Field in Chicago for the Chicago Bears season opener and at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
And still, she managed to score straight As.
"One of my biggest challenges is time management," she said. "When there is daily practice, individual preparation time, a football game almost every weekend, sometimes with additional performances, during the week I am completely booked with that along with studying."
Chase is double-majoring in Asian studies and communication, and is working on further developing her fluency in Japanese. Her goal is to work as a corporate attorney for a Japanese company, or as a partner in a Japanese law firm.
Being a part of last summer's Special Olympics World Games was the highlight of Breanna Bogucki's career -- and not because she met pop superstar Justin Bieber, but because she performed at the opening ceremony in front of 65,000 people, the 18-year-old said.
Breanna was part of a group of singers including Cody Simpson invited by Coca-Cola to record "Reach Up," an anthem that encourages people of all abilities to never give up.
"All experiences were my favorite but I loved the Coca-Cola one," Breanna said. "We went to New York to promote the event and went on 'Good Morning America,' and in Los Angeles, we sung in the (Los Angeles Memorial) Coliseum."
Breanna, a senior at Cary-Grove High School, has autism, and is dedicated to spreading awareness about people with disabilities.
We met her three years ago, after she won the Special Talents America competition in 2012.
Over the years, she has continued to perform and hone her singing talent. She's also given numerous speeches at schools and colleges, where she never fails to thank those who plan a career in special education.
She hopes to attend Harper College next year, and plans to continue running cross-country and track. Her goal is to help others, she said, so she might pursue a career in social work or human services.
As for Justin Bieber, "I was a little star-struck when I saw him, but I kept my cool," she said. "I asked him about his tattoos. He was very nice to me."
Shortly after we met tap dancer Brianne Cannataro in November 2014, her grandmother passed away. As traumatic as that was, it also gave the now 12-year-old added motivation to perform at her best in the World Tap Dance Championship in Germany.
And much to her surprise, she took home the gold medal in her division.
"There were a lot of really good, competitive people against me from 33 countries," said Brianne, of Schaumburg.
"I got really nervous at first, and I kept getting more nervous getting through the rounds."
Brianne is a member of Jagged Edge, the competitive team out The Edge Dance Academy in Rolling Meadows, under the guidance of Lisa and Kimmy Pendzimaz.
She dances tap, jazz, ballet and pointe, and now she's working on contemporary and hip-hop while refining her pointe. "I'm working on getting my flexibility stronger," she said.
This year, she won several regional titles for her tap solo and took second place in her category in a national dance competition. She also was recognized by Schaumburg Township Elementary School District 54 as an "ambassador of excellence" for her accomplishments. Next fall she'll attend Robert Frost Junior High School in Schaumburg.
"My goal is to reach a new level in my dancing so I could go off and do more things, and get more scholarships," she said.