Thursday, April 7, 2016

Announcing the 2015-2016 recipients of the YMCA Cause-Driven Leadership Awards!

The University YMCA is pleased to announce the 2015-2016 recipients of the University YMCA's Cause-Driven Leadership Awards.

The following award recipients recognized are:

Sana Singh and Jacob Ferruzzi for the Harold W. Colvin Award for Undergraduate Leadership;
Ann Abbott for the J. Fredrick Miller Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service;
Kimball Anderson Esq. for the Edward Nestigen Award for University YMCA Alumni;
Ruta Rauber for Distinguished Service Award (non-student);
Benjamin Daniels and Catherine Kemp for Distinguished Service Award (student); and
Keilin Jahnke for the John Price Award for Volunteer Service to International Understanding.

Recipients of the Colvin, Miller, Nestigen, and the Distinguished Service Awards will be honored at the University YMCA's Annual Dinner & Auction at the I-Hotel on Saturday, April 16, 2016. For those interested in attending the Annual Dinner & Auction, please RSVP by April 8, 2016 online at or in person at the Y.  For more information about each award recipient, please view the biographies provided below.

The University YMCA seeks to recognize those individuals whose involvement has positively impacted the University YMCA and the Champaign-Urbana community. Each year, recipients are chosen and honored for their commitment to the organization and mission of the University YMCA. These individuals are honored at the Annual Dinner & Auction in the spring and recognized on plaques found in Latzer Hall. The John Price Award for Volunteer Service to International Understanding is awarded each year at the Y's International Dinner & Performance Night in March.

For more information about scholarships and awards of the University YMCA, visit

Harold W. Colvin Award for Undergraduate Leadership

Jacob Ferruzzi

Few students are as devoted to racial justice as Jake; yet, he is so humble about his accomplishments and the extent of his involvement. Jake has served as a co-director for Prison Justice Project’s CU Succeed mentoring program. He contributed to strengthen and expand the program to reach more students in need. Before that, he served as a planner for UIUC's annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage, as well as a Tunnel of Oppression coordinator. In his junior year, he was invited to lead a research lab with Dr. Neville to study youth civic engagement in youth of color, facilitating several focus groups last summer in Chicago as part of that work. For over a year, he has interned with Representative Carol Ammons where he is in charge of the Judicial and Criminal Justice Panel that discusses ways to reform the criminal justice system with constituents. He was a transcriber for Dr. Mendenhall's research project with Black single mothers in Chicago and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Jake will be graduating in May and plans to become a Civil Rights Lawyer.

Sana Singh

Sana has showed an amazing amount of commitment, resilience, and impeccable leadership in her time serving as the Director of Alternative Seasonal Breaks, a student program of the University YMCA. Sana’s involvement with ASB began as a first year student. Since then, she has remained actively involved all the way through her senior year, including serving on the ASB board for three years. Sana worked tirelessly in serving not only in her position of Director, but as Multimedia, Internal, and Public Relations chairs as well. Throughout this, she has demonstrated her positive leadership, inspiring confidence and pragmatism in working with the board. Sana is committed to diversity and inclusion. Her leadership was made evident in the Fall of 2015, when the Champaign-Urbana chapter of Black Lives Matter and black students on campus were attacked by the creation of the “Illini White Student Union.” Sana approached the YMCA Student Board presidents to propose that the 12 YMCA student programs and Student Board take a stance in support of black students and Sana was a main contributor in the letter-writing process.

J. Fredrick Miller Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service

Ann Abbott

Ann Abbott has been a committed advocate to the spanish speaking community in Champaign Urbana and a passionate advocate for service learning. Ann's "Spanish in the Community" classes challenge U. of I. students to step out of their comfort zones and to use their language skill in the community to make a difference for some of CU's most vulnerable members. Ann advocates for our growing Spanish-speaking newcomers in our community by partnering with local agencies, schools, clinics and organizations to not only provide her students with learning opportunities but to provide newcomers with resources from the community. Among the programs receiving volunteers from her courses are La Linea, the Ys ESL helpline for newcomers, and VIS-A-VIS (VAV) Volunteer Tutoring. She has worked side by side with VAV not only to provide Spanish-speaking tutors but also to develop ways in which VAV and the class may work together to support the learning opportunities of tutors and students, such as subject specific vocabulary lists. She has also been a reliable and thoughtful reader for the University YMCA’s Fred S. Bailey Scholarship for Cause-Driven Leaders since 2010.

Edward Nestigen Award for University YMCA Alumni

Kimball Anderson 

Kimball Anderson was the student President at the University Y in 1974. While at the Y, Kimball organized the Coalition Voter Registration, a program that registered students to vote and successfully obtained in court the right of students to vote in Champaign County.

Kimball received his BA in 1974 and his JD in 1977 (U. of Ill. College of Law, 1st in his class). He then joined Winston & Strawn LLP,  where he practices today as a trial lawyer.

Since his University Y days, Kimball has remained active in social justice causes. He secured the release of wrongfully convicted persons, represented Guantanamo Bay detainees, argued a landmark habeas corpus case before the U.S. Supreme Court, and represented the homeless. In recognition, Kimball has received numerous awards, including: the Justice John Paul Stevens Award  (the Chicago Bar Association’s highest honor), ABA Pro Bono Award (the ABA’s highest pro bono award), Business Professional People for the Public Interest Law “40 Who’ve Made a Difference”; Chicago Legal Clinic’s Cardinal Bernardin Award; Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago Lifetime Achievement Award (2008); AIDS Legal Council of Chicago 2006 Advocate of the Year; U.S. District Court and the Federal Bar Association Public Interest Service Award; and the “Person of the Year” (Chicago Lawyer Magazine).

Distinguished Service Award (Non-Student)

Ruta Rauber

For over 10 years, Rut Rauber a has served as a dedicated volunteer for the Y’s community recycling program, Dump & Run. Not only does she spend countless hours over many weeks in both May and August literally in the muck sorting, organizing and saving useable items from the trash, she has also stepped up to take more leadership every year she has been involved in the program. For the past several years, Ruta has served as the coordinator for the kitchen and household departments, which are the two largest departments at the program’s sale. In 2013, during the Y’s transition without a development director to lead the program, Ruta stepped up to be co-site volunteer coordinator in May. For the past two years, she has served on the annual dinner planning committee. She has helped with set-up, decorations, and staging. Beyond her dedicated service, as a constant advocate, always engaging others in the work of the University YMCA.

Distinguished Service Award (Student)

Ben Daniels

Ben’s leadership as President of the UIUC chapter of Amnesty International is responsible for transforming the group into one of the most effective and participatory student programs at the University YMCA. He made Amnesty a place where members with strong drive and self-motivation can leverage the group to effectively advocate for social justice in their own areas of interest, while less-directed members can still meaningfully participate in addressing social justice issues. This has manifested in separate member-led committees within Amnesty working on projects as diverse as collaborations with La Colectiva, fundraising for R.A.C.E.S., fundraising for elementary school students in Pajule, Uganda, implementing Congo Awareness Week, and planning multiple events for Sexual Assault Awareness month. Ben is also co-president of the YMCA student board. He attends meetings held by each student group at the YMCA to foster inter-group communication and make sure he is up-to-date with their activities. Ben invests so much time and effort into his leadership roles at the YMCA because he is a true believer in a core aspect of the YMCA’s mission: to help individuals and communities develop ethical principles and responsible leadership for social justice.

Catherine Kemp

As an environmental leader, Catherine has exemplified YMCA values through her service, mentorship, and dedication to so many different programs. As a fellow environmental organization at the Y, Students for Environmental Concerns (SECs) continually looks to Catherine and the Green Observer Magazine to help achieve shared goals. Catherine is always there with a smile and ready to help in whatever way she can. Catherine is a continual supporter of the shared mission of environmental activism, collaborating with SECs on events and promoting their work through publishing articles. Considering that Catherine’s position as “Editor of the Green Observer” is only one of the many roles she has, it is amazing that she has the time and energy to work above and beyond in that position. Catherine also works for Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment on their newly-founded bike-share program, organizes the Portraits Project, serves as ride-leader for Illini 4000 and serves as co-president of the YMCA Student Board. Catherine’s dedication to the environmental movement and every other social justice cause that comes through the doors of the YMCA continues to instill inspiration in others.

John Price Award for International Service to International Understanding

Keilin Janhke

Keilin has been deeply involved in international service work, contributing to meeting the needs of the developing world since her first year as a student at the U. of I. She cut her teeth on international service design as a project manager for the LINC Mali Water Project, then became involved in Engineers Without Borders (EWB) -- primarily as a graduate-student researcher evaluating the impact of service work on student learning outcomes -- and traveled to Adu Achi with the EWB team.  Keilin is one of the originators and remains a co-instructor of the ENG398/598 Honduras Water Project course, and has led student teams on site in Honduras all three years of the course's existence. Now, as a PhD student, she is working with Dr. Bruce Litchfield's research team to develop a sustainable solar cooker for the developing world. Her openness to cultural influences in engineering combined with her get-it-done attitude about working contextually with communities to achieve successful outcomes has brought Keilin Janhke to the forefront of contributions made by graduate students to further international understanding.

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