Class of 2019
Karthikeyan “Karthik” Baluswamy is a highly energetic, friendly and fun-loving person who remains positive, calm, and composed in any adverse situation. He was born and raised in India by multicultural parents. He is lucky enough to work in the field of sales and marketing, which he is passionate about. He has travelled to five continents and enjoys spending time outdoors, especially playing cricket and trekking. Karthik is blessed with a wonderful family that includes his extremely caring wife and his son, who keeps him really busy. He strongly believes in giving back to this land and this community that provided him with the opportunity to strive and thrive.
Beth Bradford has been in the Bloomington-Normal area for many decades. She is family-oriented and very close to her three adult children and one grandson (AJ). Yes, she is that grandparent who always has a new picture or story to tell. Passionate about teaching financial literacy to adolescents, she’ll complete her degree in 2019 and continue to work with this population. She is enthusiastic about working with young people, noted by her 20+ year career at Illinois State University. When she’s not working or attending class, Beth can be found outside gardening, hiking, playing with AJ, and watching NFL during the season – Go Packers! Beth is always positive, looks for the silver lining, and truly believes that even a step back gives you a new perspective. She is excited about the opportunity with MCLP to give back to the community where she raised her family.
Marianela “Nela” Diaz Hidalgo used to introduce herself as Nela because Marianela is so long and difficult for English speakers to say. Isabel is her middle name, which is significant because it is her great-grandmother’s name, and her history has meaning to her. Diaz Hidalgo, her two last names, are so important to her because they represent the two families from which she came. Both sides influenced who she is today. She loves her full name MIDH, but she can be NELA without forgetting where she came from. She is a Venezuelan woman who is part of the Hispanic community in Bloomington-Normal. She is married to Jose Antonio Patino, and they have been together for more than 20 years. She is mother of two boys, 12 and 10 years old. She the youngest of nine siblings — four brothers and four sisters — all of whom live in Venezuela and all of whom she loves with all her heart. Family is everything for her.
Tura Dover was born in Guyana and has called Bloomington her home since 1998. She is ambitious, resourceful and hardworking. She considers herself a lifelong learner and believes that new and difficult situations are an opportunity to grow. She is an advocate of libraries and other resource centers, as they allow members of a community to better themselves. Tura firmly believes that we all have the capacity to help someone and it is our responsibility to do so. Her introspective nature allows her to find the lesson and the humor in things. This, along with her need to know more, has resulted in her developing a varied body of interests. When she is not working or volunteering, she can be found enjoying a good book, eating delicious food, and traveling to new places.
Meet Nayoka Griffis — this POWERHOUSE of positivity is determined to live a life of peace, purpose, and passion! She gives herself permission to grab fear in one hand and faith in the other to play full-out! As an educator, trainer and coach, she motivates, inspires and encourages others to do the same. She enjoys lively discussions, and her energy is contagious! She finds pleasure in turning strangers into FRIENDS and obstacles into OPPORTUNITIES. Nayoka is a Christian bridge-builder with a servant’s heart. In this broken world, she prefers “big talk” over “small talk” and values connecting by getting to know people on a deeper level. Nayoka would describe herself as a “wing girl” — not one who eats chicken, but instead one who journeys alongside others by investing in them. She wholeheartedly believes the best of her is designed to bring out the best in others.
Court Hruska is from Normal, Illinois and is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Court works in the agricultural field and strives to make a difference in agriculture by promoting diversity and inclusion within the industry. Court and her husband Brandon Schaub live on a family farm, where they enjoy farming with the whole family. Court is also a very active volunteer with the American Red Cross, by working at special events and fundraisers and by being part of the American Red Cross PRIDE group. In her spare time, she likes fitness, nutrition, and traveling the world with her family.
Swati Khanna is different. That’s how she describes herself, and so does everyone who meets her. Raised in Dubai and on the high seas (her father is a Merchant Navy Captain – think Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips), she decided to move to the US as part of a life change. A lawyer by passion and profession, she has degrees in law, English literature and political science. In case that makes you think she’s too serious, she would like you to know that she could get a degree in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, too. Swati loves to read and has previously written short stories which have been published. She has an interest in many things, including karaoke, trivia nights, music, dance, martial arts, good food — especially dessert (don’t call her a ‘foodie’ though), animals, volunteering, and a keenness to learn new things. Swati views the MCLP program as the next step in her self-development, as well as an opportunity to fulfill her desire to constantly keep learning and making a difference.
Originally from Decatur, Lori Marmion considers Bloomington-Normal home. She has resided here for the past 35 years. An ISU alum, Lori has enjoyed building life-long friendships in this productive Midwest community. Bloomington-Normal is where she raised her son and daughter, supported Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and served as a hospice volunteer, a Girl Scout leader, a baseball mom, and vice president of her Toastmasters club. She currently enjoys reading a variety of books with her book club, which has been together for more than 15 years. In her role as a Training Analyst, Lori has a passion for teaching others new skills and simplifying complex tasks for the learner. It truly warms Lori’s heart to have the opportunity through MCLP to give back to a community that has been a tremendous resource to her and so many families over the past several decades.
Sarah Moravec was born in the suburbs of Chicago but was raised in Normal. She graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. in May 2016 with a degree in international relations, focusing on public health. Her passion for social justice, politics, human rights, the environment, and health has led her to travel to India and study in Kenya, where she interned in a clinic in Nairobi. Sarah’s interest in health took a turn when she started in the field of social work after college. She loves meeting new people and learning about new perspectives and cultures every day. For her, there is nothing quite as exciting as a new adventure. While she is not working, Sarah spends her time running, watching movies, or doing genealogical research. She has a great appreciation for the arts, participating in theater in college and currently playing flute in the community band. In the fall and winter months, you can usually find Sarah watching hockey, as she is a rabid Chicago Blackhawks fan. Sarah’s stubbornly positive attitude has pushed her to grow with, advocate for, and serve those around her, and she hopes that MCLP will better equip her for whatever her next chapter holds.
Tiara Randle is a proud graduate of Eastern Illinois University and Illinois State University. Her career has always centered around empowering students — specifically first-generation, low-income, and students with disabilities — and equipping them with the skills necessary to live the life they desire. Outside of work, she loves spending time with her beautiful nieces and traveling. She holds her time studying abroad in Spain near to her heart. She is a foodie, enjoys writing poetry, and loves exploring museums. She was deeply moved by her recent visit to the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. Tiara believes in the resiliency of people, captured perfectly in Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise.” As a lifelong learner, she knows the journey never ends… just new chapters begin.
BreAune Sajna was born and raised on the West Side of Chicago. She moved to Bloomington-Normal in 2017. She is kind and optimistic when faced with obstacles, and has a passion for quality education, art, and writing. She enjoys living life to the fullest and trying new things. She has been sky-diving, parasailing, underwater walking at an aquarium, swimming in a cave, and other adventurous activities. She enjoys travelling the world, tasting/cooking new food, and learning new things. She was active duty in the Navy from 2010 to 2014; after the Navy, BreAune was a full-time student pursuing a degree in chemistry. In 2015, BreAune started volunteering, and she still volunteers today, as well as serving as a board member to a non-profit organization and an advisory board member at one VA Hospital. BreAune is excited to be a participant of the 2019 Multicultural Leadership Program and to learn how to develop and be confidant in her leadership skills.
Alag Santhalingam was born in Coimbatore, India and moved to United States in 2000, receiving citizenship in 2010. Alag earned his bachelors degree in India and has lived in Bloomington for 18 years. He is a software management professional and loves spending time with his family of two daughters and his wife. Alag is a committed community leader as an organizer for McLean County Tamil Sangam (MCTS) and as a volunteer making meals for Salvation Army Safe Harbor. He is very excited to learn, improve, and implement leadership skills in community projects through the MCLP program. Outside work, Alag enjoys marathon running, cricket, volleyball, and traveling. He is a believer in Swami Vivekanda quote “The more we come out and do good to others, the more our hearts will be purified and God will be them.”
Raised in Normal by her father and her third-culture-kid mother, after 24 years in Washington, D.C. and traveling extensively, Katherine (Kathy) Sawyer is now a Bloomington resident. While studying at Illinois State University, her semester in France coincided with an election cycle. Returning to ISU after being fascinated by a true multi-party electoral system, Kathy stayed on to add a political science minor to her French major. Curiosity re-surfaced in D.C., while she earned a master’s degree in international development, then applied her multi-cultural perspective to many nonprofit organizations. The question that drives her is “How can I help?”, asked with the openness to realize the response may be anything from a request to roll up her sleeves to stepping back. When not pitching in with a community organization, she enjoys traveling, cooking, knitting, and attending live performances. She also enjoys puns and the world from her dog’s perspective.
Sameeh Ullah is a highly motivated and goal-oriented individual. His background is that of farmer’s family from Central Punjab of Pakistan. Sameeh especially enjoys spending time learning about the latest technologies. Sameeh is blessed with a wonderful family: a wife defined by her patience, a daughter best described as an angel, and three sons. His values are well-defined by his faith, which keeps him grounded and humble in reminding him of the value of gratitude. Sameeh looks forward to his MCLP journey of personal growth and also looks forward to making new connections.
Sharon Ware was raised in south Florida, but spent many of her formative years on the Jersey and Virginia coasts. She recently moved to the Bloomington-Normal area from Atlanta, Georgia. Sharon graduated from the University of South Florida and the University of Georgia. She has worked in private practice, for the state of Georgia, and, most notably, for Atlanta Legal Aid, representing indigent clients in landlord tenant disputes, domestic matters and senior citizens’ issues, which began her lifelong passion and dedication to pro bono work. Sharon and her husband David have three children. Her family, experiences, and faith have shaped who she is today. Sharon enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading and mentoring students and young professionals.
Julia Zuñiga Alzamora is originally from Bloomington, Illinois. After only three years of school, she graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2017 with a B.A. in international studies. During her undergraduate career, Julia studied abroad in Lima, Peru for six months, becoming fluent in Spanish during her time there. Now that she has returned to the U.S., she continues to learn foreign languages and is working to become fluent in French and Portuguese within the next few years. She continues to use her Spanish by volunteering to interpret and translate for local human services organizations. Julia is passionate about immigrants’ rights, women’s rights, and international development. In her spare time, she likes to care for her many houseplants.