CLASS OF 2015
Neil Alcorn is motivated. He strives to learn new things in order to do new things and learn more new things in the process. He believes the more you know, the greater impact you can have helping others. He loves technology because you can do things faster when you understand how it works and how to leverage it. He studies religion and is a born again Christian. He also knows more than he should about the Marvel universe, reads philosophy, is a student of leadership, loves history and space. Here’s a surprise, he likes watching TED Talks. As an operations supervisor for a brokerage department, he never has two days alike. He supports systems and hardware, runs projects, provides direction, streamlines processes and fills in for the kitchen sink. Basically, he solves problems. He loves big complex issues that have many layers and multiple stakeholders. He sees the world as one big Rubik’s Cube; unfortunately it’s one you can’t simply take the stickers off and move around … Or can you?
Olemuel Ashford has lived in Bloomington for the past 20 years; however, because of his southern roots, he still considers himself a Southerner. His philosophy on life is: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” As a result, he enjoys learning new things and teaching what he has learned. This includes his work and personal life. At work, Olemuel has served as a mentor to many people in his area and has even taught classes in his field of expertise. In his personal life, he enjoys cooking new things (or old things in new ways), researching and performing various home projects, playing tennis, racquetball and sand volleyball. He also enjoys reading and finds that non-fiction stirs up his mental energy the most.
Rickielee Benecke is originally from Minnesota, but has lived in the Bloomington-Normal area for the majority of her life and graduated from Illinois State University. With a constant zeal for knowledge, she has discovered many of life’s most important lessons from observing her grandchildren. One of her favorites is: “don’t be afraid to jump from high places, or you may never know what you are capable of doing.” Rickielee is a “work-in-progress.” She always welcomes a new challenge, finds ways to improve herself and help others and continually looks for the positive in every situation. A compassionate and industrious mom of three and “mah-maw” to four, she does not like to sit still for very long! When she’s not outside walking, running, swimming, or playing at the park with her grandkids, she loves to cook, read, listen to music, and cheer on her favorite team – the Indianapolis Colts!
Kyle Buchanan is a passionate, goal-oriented individual from small town Illinois. He has worked in the insurance industry for five years, and in sales for three. Kyle loves life, is overly optimistic and will try to put a positive spin on anything. He is all about having fun and making the best of every situation. He is very outgoing, so he loves meeting new people and talking to them. He is interested in nearly everything and loves learning about new things. His faith, his family, hunting, fishing, and sports are just a few of the things that he loves the most. Kyle is motivated by his faith, and desires to make the world a better place whether it’s in a big or a small way. Kyle believes that everything happens for a reason and is a firm believer in “you reap what you sow.” If you put in the work, you’ll get a good return on your investment. It may not be right away, but it will pay off and will be well worth it in the end. Kyle likes to volunteer and has most recently been involved in VITA, volunteer tax preparation, as well as Habitat for Humanity.
Javier Centeno is a positive, energetic, determined and goal-achieving individual. He enjoys interacting with people and learning about different cultures. Originally from El Salvador, he has been living in Bloomington-Normal for nearly two years. He has been working for the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority after having graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), with a Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management. Javier is always seeking self-improvement and actualization. He believes that true success comes from the friends you make and the people you help along the way. In his personal time, he likes to watch soccer, play soccer, swim and have good conversations with friends. He also enjoys traveling, reading, cooking, listening to music and spending time with his family.
Angela Click lives life to the fullest, thinks that your smile should be your best accessory and lives by the motto, “go be great!!” Angela was born and raised in Bloomington-Normal, and has enjoyed watching the town continue to grow and prosper. She is happiest when she is surrounded by her friends and family, and truly believes that laughter is the best medicine. Angela has been the Patient Access Manager at OSF for a little over a year and truly embraces the Sisters’ Mission of “serving with the greatest care and love.” Angela has also been an active fundraiser for the Susan G Komen foundation, and is proud to help raise money in support of her Mother who is a breast cancer survivor. Angela loves anything to do with music, especially live music, so you can usually find her in the front row supporting her favorite local bands. She is excited to be a part of the class of 2015, not only to see what experiences she can gain, but to see how she can repay this exceptional community of caregivers! GO BE GREAT!!
Michael Coleman is a native of Chicago, Illinois. He has been in the IT field over 25 years. He is passionate about self-development and sharing knowledge with the youth. He loves playing golf and basketball, as well as coaching youth basketball and football. His time outside of work is spent with his children, their sports and their extra-curricular activities. He has served as a technical coordinator and team lead for the past twelve years. He loves meeting people and building relationships. He is looking to improve is leadership skills as a result of MCLP.
Elias Corpas III is a dedicated family man who believes in living his life with intention. His primary drivers in life are his wife Aubrey and his daughters, Bryani and Riley. Next, it is his belief in the ability to make an impact in his work. A few years ago, as he was watching a video made to encourage people in his industry, a speaker inspired him to act. He asked the question “Because you woke up today, who is better?” These words spoke to Elias as he realized his passion in life is to motivate and inspire others. If he can encourage one person every day to move closer to their dreams, vision and potential, he will know he has made a difference in the world. He has a crazy level of energy, and will sweep people up with him as he spreads a positive message of living a great life, conquering fears and becoming the person you were meant to be. Elias and his family moved to Bloomington in 2013, after having lived in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Ohio and Wisconsin. They are now excited to travel, hike, boat and see how Illinois will nourish their passion for the outdoors.
People’s first impression of Katherine Evans is that she is quiet, but once they get to know her they discover she can be welcoming, has a unique sense of humor, possesses a tremendous amount of inner strength, and is not afraid to share her opinion or defend the underdog. She is empathetic and views situations from a neutral and non-judgmental perspective. Katherine is able to relate to people from various socio-economic backgrounds. Katherine holds a bachelor’s degree in Health Administration and currently works for Advocate BroMenn Medical Center as the Coordinator for Quality and Education. She has a passion to help people achieve success and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Instructional Design. Katherine is active in her local church. She is a third year breast cancer survivor, and considers it a blessing to be able to show people that there is life after cancer.
Eileen Galvez is a passionate woman who has roots in Los Angeles. She later moved to Texas, where she discovered magic behind the growing process in a college environment. She received her bachelors and masters degrees from Texas State University, Go Bobcats! She now lives in the Midwest fulfilling her dreams of helping college students. Eileen has particular interests in social justice, diversity and education. Additionally, Eileen is blessed as a sister to five brothers who live across the country. Aside from providing different vacation spots for her, they inspire her, motivate her, and bring much joy in her life. In her free time, she likes to cook for others, workout and have a good laugh! She enjoys meeting new people, learning from new perspectives and traveling. Eileen wears her heart on her sleeve; she loves hard, laughs big and dreams things into reality!
Nikki Gibson is an honest, loving and fun individual. She loves learning, new experiences and forming true friendships. A graduate of Illinois State University and the University of Illinois at Springfield, she enjoys volunteering at and supporting local events and organizations. Nikki’s biggest passions are childhood education and development. She has an awesome husband and three very energetic children that make sure she never has a dull moment. In her spare time, Nikki enjoys listening to music, cooking for her family and friends, camping and fishing.
Jeremy Haley is a very hard working, passionate individual who wants to make the future better for his children. Jeremy desires to instill his legacy into his children so they can portray it in their lives, to their friends and eventually to their own children. Jeremy is a driven individual who has the patience to see things through, and has a motor that never sleeps. Jeremy attempts to always smile and greet everyone he meets. He believes that everyone crosses paths for a reason, and that each person you meet will play a role in the future to come. Day in and day out, Jeremy works hard at everything and he never accepts no for an answer. Jeremy is someone who is in constant pursuit of the next best thing that will help everyone around him. Leading by example is what drives him to be his best and blaze a path for others to follow. Jeremy is someone who does not need the spotlight on him — he would prefer for the spotlight to be on others he’s made successful. That would gratification enough. Surrounding himself with individuals who are unsure of how to be successful, leading them in the right direction, and mentoring them to be better than they could ever imagine is a very important aspect for Jeremy. Being able to promote a positive environment at all times, no matter where he goes or who he’s with, makes Jeremy unique.
Ryan Huette is driven by the desire to influence others’ lives positively. Through experiences in various sized organizations, he has found that the greatest way to create impact is by a hands on approach. This philosophy allows him to build trust through leading by example, and developing genuine relationships. He believes relationships are vital to create trust, which then allows influence to occur. He enjoys a full schedule but always takes time to keep his priorities aligned; love God, love one woman and work hard.
Damian Lewis is an ambitious and passionate individual who believes hard work and integrity are the keys to success. A double major graduate of Aurora University in 2011, Damian is now a supervisor at Afni Inc where he is in charge of getting the best out of his people daily. He is passionate about working with people and building relationships while leaving a positive effect on everyone he encounters. “You manage things…you lead people,” is a quote that he focuses on while making decisions. A former college/pro athlete, Damian’s determination and competitiveness have transitioned well into the business world. Faith, family and being a father to his daughter are his top priorities — no matter how successful he is or will be, he understands where his foundation starts.
Lacey MacLeod is an energetic, spunky and passionate person. She loves the human spirit and potential impact we can make in this world. Lacey loves to learn, and any format works — reading, listening, or experiencing. She also has an itch to be adventurous. It’s a good thing her husband loves this about her! Lacey likes to be fit and active, enjoys science fiction and fantasy way more than she likes to admit, and travels as often as life permits. She also has a kitty named Dharma that melts her heart; thus, Lacey spoils her as much as possible. Lacey strives for a career that interacts with her life and interests in a positive and challenging way. She is currently the VP of Support Services at Four Seasons Health Club. Her favorite quote right now is, “We are what we dare!”
Dexter O’Neal’s humble beginnings are the tale of two states: Louisiana and Illinois. This combination of the bayou and rural Illinois has shaped everything from his aspirations to his vernacular. Dexter has been in the IT industry for about 25 years. He has many experiences in everything from networking, to hardware and software. Dexter is working as an Application Architect Lead in Customer Care Network Area with a responsibility for Work Force Optimization. His other passions and hobbies include just about anything musical: playing guitar in a band, recording, and writing music. Additionally, he loves to play basketball. Dexter’s foundational principles lie in helping others. His ultimate goal is to be able to make positive changes in the lives of the people around him, to help them live better lives and live their dreams.
Those who know Jesse Paul Padilla by name may describe him as a corporate attorney, an active volunteer, a published writer and a loving father. Not long ago, those who knew Jesse, such as his parents or handful of friends and mentors, helped him grow beyond the expectation set forth for him. This expectation, set forth for other inner-city people of color like him, was that he was destined to fulfill a prediction — that Jesse wouldn’t and couldn’t amount to anything. Jesse was fortunate. His parents, friends and mentors who taught him to be resilient, to believe in himself and to dream. To honor them and further his responsibility to social equality, Jesse has committed himself to doing what they did for him. Jesse is happy and honored to be a participant in the Multicultural Leadership Program.
Catherine Poffenbarger, early in life learned that she had a love of diversity, and has found that the best way for her to explore new cultures is by using her passport and her cookbooks. There is no place she is not interested in traveling to, and no recipe she will not try. One of Catherine’s favorite ventures is bringing about restoration and renovation. Her best creations have been found at thrift stores, garage sales and on local curbs. In the little things like clothing and furniture, Catherine holds onto a hope that restoration can occur through her patience and creativity. In that same light, Catherine holds onto a hope that restoration can occur in significant things, like people’s lives, through God’s patience and creativity.
Saket Raizada is an ambitious and passionate individual, and a firm believer in Gary Player’s quote “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” For him, excitement can be found in new experiences, like a new dish, a new sport or a new place. This goal-driven guy also enjoys a good game of tennis or ping pong, and can be often caught dreaming about catching “the” big fish while trying to untangle his lines. Saket works in the IT industry. He is keen to change his focus at work and in the community from individual achievements, to delivering powerful results as a team. He sees tremendous opportunities for improvement everywhere, and is eager to take the first step towards that by starting with himself.
Elizabeth Robinson finds fulfillment in using her skills, energy and talents to serve her community both locally and globally. You will often find her surrounded by quotes, affirmations and reminders which help her maintain a positive mindset. As she works to create her best life, she is inspired by her favorite quote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”As a career advisor, she helps students explore careers, make career decisions and prepare for employment. Elizabeth has a knack for resourcefulness and what she doesn’t know, she will find out. A little creativity, a little yoga, lots of dancing and new adventures keep her going.
Dave Shields grew up in a small, Illinois farm town at a time when grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were always a few minutes away, and doors were left unlocked. It’s not surprising that his sense of family and community interconnect; each is the other, and each takes care of the other. A middle child, Dave developed a natural inclination toward peace-keeping, fairness and working to build up others. Whether it be by listening, commiserating, advising or just being present, he’s often tries to make people happy. He was taught by example that if someone needs help, you help them. You just do. As an adult, Dave’s tried to apply this through being a founding member of a couple of human rights organizations, serving on the boards of local arts organizations, performing in dozens of various productions and being ready for a drink and conversation — anytime and anywhere!
Jen Swearingen is a Bloomington native who returned to Central Illinois, after having lived in Chicago and on the East Coast, to be near friends and family. Family is one of her most important priorities, because Jen is passionate about spending time with her loved ones. She is not only loyal, responsible and hard-working, but is also spontaneous, goofy and action-oriented. When she is not outdoors running or swimming, Jen loves to read, listen to music, and enjoy art. She values education highly, but believes some of the greatest lessons in life are also things we experience every day. She strives to learn and experience everything she can to live fully, and use her knowledge and experiences to improve the world. Her goal is to leave every interaction having made a positive impact on those she encounters. Jen has spent the last ten years working in Banking and is analytical by nature. Because she believes that leaders have a tremendous impact, she constantly strives to be the best she can be.
Soujanya Tokala is an IT professional working for a large insurance client. She has a passion for technology and is placed as a team lead, a role that demands interpersonal skills in addition to technical abilities. She is always looking for challenges in her assignments and thrives under pressure. She challenges the status quo when appropriate, and finds creative solutions to solve problems. She has a passion for Indian dance art – namely Kuchipudi (a dance that hails from the southern states of India). She has performed at several venues and choreographed many dance routines for events around Bloomington-Normal. She likes to spend her free time working out at the gymnasium, cooking and being with her family.
Born and raised on a coastal land of South East India, Jay Tummala moved to United States fourteen years ago. He is energetic, inquisitive, always smiles and leaves a positive vibe wherever he goes. He was brought up in a family oriented, supporting and loving atmosphere and knows the power of giving back. He moved to Illinois eleven years ago, and has been playing a Solution Architect role at a Major Insurance and Financial Service based in Central Illinois. He plays a major role in local Indian community organizations, and strongly believes in preserving and passing on the roots and values from his culture to the younger generations while embracing the American culture. He currently coordinates a Telugu language teaching school to cater the needs of hundreds of kids from Telugu-speaking families in Central Illinois. Jay strongly believes that there is no short cut to success, works hard to excel at work and does his best to balance the work and life. In his free time, Jay enjoys spending time with family, listening to music and traveling to new places. He is also an amateur singer and an avid photographer. Jay is pretty excited to be part of MCLP 2015 class, and hopes this journey makes him a better leader and inspires others to give back to the community.
Heather Wagner is a hardworking, motivated individual who loves life. She embraces every challenge with a smile and believes that “going the extra mile” in all areas is the norm. A Bloomington-Normal native, Heather spent eight years in Corporate Marketing and Communications in Chicago before making the transition from the private to the public sector. As the Communications Manager for the Town of Normal, she thrives on the ever-changing environment that brings new responsibilities and challenges. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her friends, family and two bichon-poos, Buttercup and Sienna. She can be found running or bicycling on the Constitution Trail, or playing sports around town. Heather and her husband are foodies who love to try new restaurants, and sample unique craft beers. She believes it is important to surround yourself with amazing people and simply enjoy the adventures of life!
Alex Williams is a practical, down to earth, analytical and compassionate individual. Inquisitive by nature, his natural curiosity fuels his desire to be a lifelong learner, consistently seeking to understand the internal workings of things. Although a native of the Chicagoland area, he has called Bloomington-Normal his home since landing on the campus of his alma mater, Illinois State University, in the fall of 1996 to pursue a degree in Communication. Alex has invested seventeen years in the insurance and financial services industry. In his personal time, he enjoys having fun with his wife of eleven years and three kids; he also serves his community through his church and fraternity. As an avid Chicago sports fan, he enjoys cheering on the Bears, Bulls, Cubs and Blackhawks. His family describes him as quirky, fun-loving, caring, strong and God-fearing.