ICCTA Pacesetter Award

2001 Nominees


Christine Caplinger-Gillespie
Student, Rush Medical College
Oakton Community College (1997)

Caplinger-Gillespie explains, "The decision to return to school was an easy one to make. I was just informed by my then-husband that he was going to pursue a divorce. . . . I knew that my earning potential was not sufficient to support my toddler and myself. School was the only logical choice." She has since gone on to graduate with honors from Oakton and Elmhurst College and anticipates her medical degree in 2004.

Lynette M. Gage
Instructional aide, Marie Schaefer Middle School
Aerobics instructor, O'Fallon YMCA
Southwestern Illinois College (1999)
2001 award recipient -- click here to read more

At the age of 10, Gage was thrown from a horse and suffered a brain injury that left her in a coma for three months. Having to relearn to walk, swallow and speak, she has become a national voice for people with disabilities. Last year she was named one of the Illinois Jaycees' Ten Outstanding Young People. "My experience at Southwestern helped provide a sense of community and partnership to me," says Gage.

Christina Griffin-Welch
Accountant, Blanchfield Doherty Peterson
Moraine Valley Community College (1999)

Griffin-Welch served as Moraine Valley's student trustee from 1998 to 1999. After transferring to St. Xavier University, she earned her bachelor's degree in accounting in less than a year û despite new professional standards that forced her to take 60 credit hours in three semesters. "I know that the paths and journeys that have been made available to me through the community college will always give me a rich and fulfilling life," she says.

Kenneth Ingersoll
Community policing officer, Centralia Police Department
Kaskaskia College (1997)

"I was an average student in high school with questionable future plans," admits Ingersoll. "It was not until I found myself in a law enforcement career that I felt a desire to expand my education . . . . Today, I am achieving satisfaction in my personal life and career due to my desire to learn more." Ingersoll received the Head Start Volunteer Award in 2000 and was chosen Officer of the Year by his police department in January.

Michael Johnson
Assistant to the director, Youth Outreach Program / Special projects manager
Chicago Board of Education
Malcolm X College (1998)

A product of Chicago's Abla housing project, Johnson attended a major university for two years on an athletic scholarship before enrolling at Malcolm X as an underprepared learner. "Malcolm X was unique in its resolve to help me," he recalls. "They only asked me for my time, attention and a genuine effort. Malcolm X College did everything they said they would do." Since graduating, he has already received five awards for community service.

Dinah Markland
Communications student, Western Illinois University
Spoon River College (1999)

Markland came to Spoon River in 1997 after an occupational injury left her partially disabled and unable to work in her chosen fields of cosmetology and nursing. Her new career goals include a master's degree and a teaching position at a community college. "Hopefully I will positively impact other lives the way mine has been impacted through my community college experience," Markland says.

Ryan Nelson
Poet / Graduate student, Southern Illinois University
Rend Lake College (1998)

Ignoring a high school counselor's advice to attend a trade school, Nelson has refused to allow cerebral palsy to interfere with his writing or his teaching duties at Southern. He recently published a book of poetry that includes work inspired by another Illinois community college graduate, Gwendolyn Brooks. "The quality of education I received at Rend Lake provided the doorway for success," Nelson says.

Anibal Santiago
Patrol officer, Rockford Police Department
Elgin Community College (1997)

Dismissed from high school for truancy, Santiago has come full circle. After graduating from Elgin, he has passed the University of Illinois' police institute and is training for his department's canine unit. This fall he will return to school to finish his bachelor's degree in accounting and plans to pursue his master's degree as well. "Elgin instilled the fundamentals that allow me to perform in my current career," Santiago says.

Terri M. Stearns
Sign language interpreter, First Coast Technical Institute / University of North Florida
John A. Logan College (2000)

A GED graduate, Stearns enrolled at Logan after her daughter asked to see her grades and diploma from high school. Now a proud product of Logan's acclaimed interpreter preparation program, she provides interpreter services for such varied clients as the Jacksonville Jaguars football team and the United States Rugby League. "All of this I owe to John A. Logan and the teachers there for giving me the education that I was lacking to have a great life," says Stearns.

Giselle Updike
Associate developer, Applied Systems
Prairie State College (1998)

Updike came to Prairie State as an international student from Lima, Peru. Initially her English was weak and she had to take basic education courses. Four years later, she has a master's degree in computer science and a successful career in programming. Updike and her husband (whom she met at PSC) recently bought their first house, and she is in the process of becoming a naturalized citizen. "Prairie State helped me realize my potential," she says.

Roseanne Zink
Partner / president, Sault & Pepper & Co.
College of Lake County (1999)

While attending CLC, Zink worked full-time in the catering business, rising from wait staff to general manager at Sault & Pepper. "Although the fact of studying and working full-time seems like a blur to me now, the fact that I could attend classes without leaving my community allowed me to tend to my proudest accomplishment: successfully raising my three children," she says. Upon graduation, Zink purchased the high-profile catering company from her former employer and was elected president by her four partners.