Margarita Alvarez  was born and raised in the inner city of Chicago’s Westside. She is a giver, problem solver, and detail oriented person. She is passionate about serving  the Hispanic community and providing kids with resources, opportunities, and a safe environment. She believes the Mahatma Gandhi quote: “Start today… a lot of little things can make a big difference! Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Family, integrity and being your true self become the strongest ties for a lasting friendship. She enjoys a variety of music from Spanish, jazz, pop, hip-hop, R&B, mixes and a little bit of country and thinks she can even dance to it. Don’t ask her to cook, because she can’t. (You really want to stay alive). Margarita loves to read, travel and spend time with family and friends. She loves to watch football, basketball, and boxing so don’t sit near her because she’ll scream, shout and jump up to cheer for her favorite teams/players.

Jamaal Crayton was born to Sarah & Jerry Crayton on a beautiful day in July in the year 1980. During those early years of his life he was and is today fascinated by sports but in particular American Football. When he entered high school he thought he was a “cool cat” and though his dream of being in the NFL had faded it was replaced by becoming a first round draft pick in the NBA. However, after high school, education became a priority for him when his father gave him an ultimatum: 2.5 G.P.A. or come home. It was at this time when Jamaal discovered a line from a poem that he took to heart: “I’m the Master of my Fate & the Captain of My Soul.” Jamaal proved to himself and others he could do anything he set his mind to, especially when placed in a supportive and inspiring environment of an HBCU campus. Jamaal is fortunate to have a beautiful and intelligent wife, Crystal, and Crayton Financial, a Financial Services company that fulfills the needs of Generation X & Y.

Carl Davis  has a passion for self improvement and development. He participated in athletics most of his life; excelling in high school and college. He continues to find time during his week to provide his body with an ample supply of exercise. Carl has a passion for learning, and being informed on what’s occurring in our community, state, country, and the world we all share. He enjoys reading a wide variety of books and magazines; mainly related to self development, finance, health, spiritual, and autobiographies. Carl enjoys spending quality time with his wife, two boys, and family.

Michael Donnelly was born in Bloomington, IL in November, 1976. Mr. Donnelly has been happily married for fifteen years and is blessed with three children. Currently Mr. Donnelly is employed by Project Oz which is a non-profit social service agency that works with at-risk teens. Mikes primary duties are to support the academics efforts of students at Normal West High School. Mike has been employed with Project Oz for three years. In his spare time, Mike enjoys basketball, family and volunteering. Mike has been a volunteer basketball coach for 12 years and has taken several youth from the community to national tournaments where his teams have had great success. Professionally, Mike has been involved in several national and community initiatives. He has served nationally on the YouthBuild USA National Young Leaders Program. From 2003-2006 Mr. Donnelly worked as a Gang Interventionist where he was successful in creating programs to help address the crime and gang issues within our community. Mike is driven, focused and compassionate about the serving youth and being a productive member of our community.

Marisanta Hidrogo  is passionate about life in general. As a teacher she needs to always be positive and have a natural interest for everything around her to motivate every child she encounters. She considers herself adventurous. Going to new places and talking to different people always teaches her something new and interesting. Being well organized helps her to complete all her daily tasks as a mother, wife, and an educator. She loves cooking, gardening, exercising, listening to music, especially live, films, and reading biographies. She is a dreamer, and she does not enjoy injustice. She values, and respects other people beliefs and cultures. She strongly supports education but also admires and respects people’s personal experiences. She is compassionate and sensitive to the beauty of our natural world. She is a happy and very energetic person.

Karen Kapela is a glass half full type of person. She has a sense of humor and a tendency to be sarcastic. She is a doer and an organizer but also not afraid to be the workhorse if the situation calls for it. Karen has always been self motivated to achieve and some might also call her slightly competitive. Her philosophy on life is: you can either change life or wait for it to change you. She loves reading, traveling, family and friends, chocolate and diet coke. Her favorite vacation is one that combines them all!

Lauren Kim Carapella, among other details, is a wife, daughter, long lost sister/aunt and an educator. And if we must maintain a hierarchical order, the order is as listed above. Though an open mind is important, just as an open mouth is intended to close upon what is good and beneficial, Lauren also values the importance of seeking truth for it is to be found. Whether through good weather, a meaningful friendship, or a kind act from a stranger it seems clear that there is something more pressing than human acquisition of equity, Starbucks and fame. Though stimulating her palate is one of her favorite past times, Lauren’s passion lies in working with youth, equipping the voiceless while empowered by her sis-tahs and her church home.

Daniel Liu  retired about three years ago, and has since dedicated his time to serving as a Chinese ministry leader in a local community church. One of the main goals of the ministry is to serve the Chinese in our community, particularly those who have difficulties with English. In this ministry, he has been able teach God’s Word in Chinese. He has also had the opportunity to provide counseling and guidance to those facing challenges in their relationships with family and others. Through this ministry, he seeks to share God’s message and love through Jesus Christ with the Chinese-speaking community in Bloomington-Normal.

Macaria Lopez loves to jog, hike, travel and spend time with family and friends. She is flexible, fair, open-minded and focused. She takes great pride in her work and never a day goes by that she isn’t extremely appreciative of the opportunities that have been given to her. She is eager to become more involved in the community and can’t wait to get started!

Jhun Medina has a voracious appetite for information. Knowledge is power, indeed, and Jhun seeks it through the Web, magazines and books. Family, honesty, and long-lasting friendships all play a key role in Jhun’s life. His luck in learning golf is on a par with putting humans on Mars, but he believes perseverance is the second best policy. His relish for gourmet food (manifested in both cooking and consuming) is paired with an affinity for fine wines. While listening to music is routinely a part of Jhun’s day, he wishes he had more time to actually play musical instruments.

Thomas Moy is a passionate student of experience and privileged to have served in varying capacities working with diverse leaders across a wide spectrum of industries and endeavors. Although survival in overcoming obstacles may be a fitting testament, he prefers to be recognized for achieving personal success through fervently caring enough about the world and in people to make a positive change for the next generation, and growing as an individual by questioning why things are, as they are. Nothing is more intriguing, inspiring, or motivating to Tom, than to discover that it “cannot be done” and inventing a solution.

Bert Neptune grew up as a “Foreign Service Brat,” and has lived in 8 countries and in every hemisphere. He enjoys golfing, alpine skiing, cooking, reading, movies and spending time with friends. He has lived in Bloomington off and on for 15 years and is married to a native of Bloomington. He is concerned about the educational opportunities and choices available to the most at risk children in his community. He enjoys learning about the world and wants to figure out better ways of doing things.

Nina Olvera is a bright and cheerful young lady who was originally born in Mexico and moved to Bloomington, Illinois at the age of ten. Here she was challenged with being in a new country and learning a new language. It was quite an experience yet she doesn’t regret any of it. She couldn’t have it any better; she grew up learning about two different cultures. Nina has two children and raising them has been one of the most inspiring and purpose filled parts of her life. Besides raising her children Nina also enjoys being around friends and family, exercising and watching CNN news. Her children are what encourage her to be the best that she can be. She feels that she has an obligation to be their role model. Her philosophy of life is everyone has a purpose and searching for that purpose is very important in order to live life to the fullest. She believes that as long as a person works hard and takes pride in themselves and their accomplishments they are on the right path to being a happier healthier person.

Don Paul is a thinker, philosophizer, and problem solver. He loves the intellectual challenge associated with tackling complex business, community, or other problems and is very excited to help solve them. He does not like cross words though! Don strongly believes that life experiences shape the individual and seeks out opportunities to broaden his horizons. He believes that there are always multiple sides to an issue and seeks out different perspectives. As an immigrant, Don considers himself somewhat of a nomad, and he also has the dubious distinction of having always lived in  twin cities in the US.

Vani Prasad believes in effectiveness in all aspects of life. The opportunity to travel has given him ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds and to use language as a great integration tool. With his many travels across the globe, he prefers to gain insight into how things work that bring benefits to a majority. He loves technology, and is interested in the ways that effective implementation yields spectacular results. He has a special liking for the multi-faceted nature of everyday life, and in learning the ways to achieve balance of thought, word and action.

Teena Rajan is a second generation immigrant. She is fascinated by her parent’s stories of independence and pursuit of the American dream. She and her husband are part of a large family, which includes 71 first cousins! She loves to entertain and travel. She is a trusted advisor. She has lived by the saying, “If you are always waiting for the best time to do something, it’ll never come, so move forward!” What has driven her in the past is her appreciation of her family’s sacrifices. What drives her now is her two children and what inspires her is her faith.

Roshaunda Ross–known as ‘Ro’ to most–has lived a very serendipitous life. This has turned her into a true believer of the phrase “que sera, sera.” “She loves interacting with all types of people and has been known to be an ‘ultra-extrovert.’ Ro loves performing arts, and she misses her olden days of acting in school and community theatre. She also enjoys reading and working with young people through her volunteer endeavors. Ro loves her family and friends dearly, and she hopes that she lets them know that often enough.

Ken Starks  is absolutely energized by opportunities to help others. Ken is originally from Gary, Indiana and has lived in different places including Indianapolis, IN; Columbus, OH; Lincoln, NE and Fort Collins, CO. Ken enjoys spending time with his wife, Pam, and children. Ken is a member of 100 Black Men of America and through this wonderful organization he is able to mentor our communities’ youth. Ken enjoys preparing different meals for his family and when free time is available playing golf and exercising are at the top of the list.

Mandava Venkateswara Rao  is a people’s person and is popularly known as “Mandava” in Bloomington-Normal. He is passionate in serving the community that he lives in. He is energetic and enthusiastic in organizing culture, sports and recreation activities. He is serving in Normal Human Relations commission, Minority and Police Partnership (MAPP), President of McLean County India Association (2003) and also leading different community programs. He has over 25 years of management experience in diversified industry globally. He brought with him a wealth of experience in service, marketing and industrial management areas. He possesses effective leadership, facilitation, coordination and communication skills. He believes in hard work and dedication.

Mark Walcott  is a Canadian immigrant with a Caribbean heritage who enjoys utilizing technology to help empower communities. He views every event as a thread in his life’s tapestry; win or lose, altering that experience may unravel all that he has earned. His goal in life is to experience much and regret less. He enjoys outdoor activities, world cuisine, and gadgets. While he has been described as a nerd/geek he prefers the term “technological enthusiast.” He speaks French, ice skates, and he spells colour the way it was intended. Any other stereotypes about his Canadian heritage are exaggerated. YOLO.

Gary D. Williams is an energetic and enthusiastic individual who loves the sound of a rhythmic bass line and the ping of a well struck 8-iron into a green surrounded by bunkers. He defines fun not by the type of event or activity being enjoyed, but by the individuals with whom he shares those special moments of laughter and intense insanity. To this point, Gary views life through lenses of optimism and possibilities. In fact, the glass may only be half full, but to someone in desperate need of a drink of water, that glass could be seen as being immensely full.

Monica Moton Williams  is an extremely passionate individual who is energetic and enthusiastic about life and helping others. She is incredibly focused, dedicated and possesses a self-motivating attitude, which some have commented on how these attributes contribute to her extraordinary servant leadership style with people she leads. Over the years, Monica has learned to adapt a mobile spirit as she has had to endure six moves within 14 years. However, these moves make up the mere fabric of Monica’s survival of the fittest mentality. Many who meet Monica for the first time or have known her for a long span of time quickly figure out her zeal comes from her competitive temperament for everything that she sets out to turn into a masterpiece of perfection.

Joe Zacharias was born in India, came to America when he was 3 with his parents who were looking for a better life, and truly believed in the American dream. He believes in hard work, education, and building lasting experiences. Learning something new, anything new, everyday is something he strives to do as he goes through life. He works to live, and spends every possible moment with his three kids and wife. Joe realizes that there are many variables in life, but he can’t control time. But he can make the most of his time here by teaching, laughing, and learning.