By Devese “Dee” Ursery
The third annual C3 Collinsville Community Awards was held Nov. 8 at Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville.
C3 is the collaboration of the city of Collinsville, the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce, and Collinsville Community Unit School District 10 (CUSD 10). These three organizations held the awards dinner to celebrate the distinguished citizens, companies and organizations that contribute to the makeup of the city.
There are two categories that specifically honors CUSD 10 individuals: Leaders of Tomorrow and the Stan Schaeffer Education /Community Leadership Award. Those individuals being Destiny Thomas, Toni Geisen and Jacob Post, respectively.
Destiny Thomas, winner of the Leaders of Tomorrow Award is a senior at Collinsville High School. She is the head drum major for the Marching Kahok as well as a member of the school’s Symphonic band. Thomas is also a member of the Drama Club where she is responsible for light/sound technical support for CHS theater productions and school events.
Thomas is praised by CHS faculty for her upbeat personality and her ability to make a positive impact on her school, community and fellow students. She exhibits natural leadership ability, according to Robert Wright, assistant principle and former band director.
“She was very out-going, so I knew when she was coming up that she was going to do some good things. She can walk in the room and everybody kind of gravitates toward her. I could see that she was a natural leader,” Wright said.
Current Director of Bands, Alfredo Deleon agrees, saying Thomas is in charge of tempo and making sure everything happens the way it should.
“Destiny can write her own ticket,” said Wright. “I don’t know if she knows that, but I hope receiving this award kind of helps her realize the gravity of how special she is. The level of excellence that she demonstrates will come out in whatever profession she chooses.”
Social Studies teacher, Jacob Post and Special Education teacher Toni Geisen were the recipients of the Stan Schaeffer Education Community Leadership Award.
Geisen and Post have been the sponsors an faculty leaders KAHOKstrong since its inception ten years ago. KAHOKstrong is a student-based organization that was created to assist
CUSD 10 students, staff, and families during times of tragedy.
The organization also provides scholarships to CHS graduates. The Fred Fierce and the Ryan and Sarah Stolcis Scholarships, respectively. The group also offers the Kelly Liljegren Scholarship, which is a $4,000 scholarship. All were CHS teachers affected by cancer.
Mike Liljegren, CHS Teacher and husband of Kelly Liljegren explained what happened when he and his family moved to Collinsville in 2003. The administrators at Collinsville Central Office came out of their own pockets to pay for his families insurance for the rest of that year, he said.
“I mention that because Toni and Jacob, what they’ve done with this KAHOKstrong organization has just been a continuation of that kind of love for community that people have shown since I’ve been here,” Lilijegren said.
Hannah Liljegren, CHS student and daughter to Mike and Kelly, gained extra inspiration when first hearing there was going to be a KAHOKstrong Club. I wanted give back to a community that has given so much to her and my family, she said.
“My friend heard about it as well and we all thought it would be a really good organization to be involved in,” Liljegren said. That’s something that Ms. Geisen and Mr. Post really did well. They were able to inspire the student body in a way, that I don’t think many other people could.”
The group started in 2013, to help a CHS teacher who was battling cancer. Even though the faculty member tragically lost her short battle with the disease, Post and Geisen decide to continue the organization to assist others in the CUSD 10 family.
To date, KAHOKstrong has provided nearly $100,000 of assistance to members of the CUSD 10 community in a variety of ways.
There were eight other categories celebrated at the awards ceremony. Here is a complete list along with its winners:
- Leader of Tomorrow-Destiny Thomas
- Small Business Impact Award-Redmon Insurance
- Corporate Impact Award-FCB Bank
- Firefighter of the Year Award-Jason Warner
- Police Officer of the Year Award-Trent Ross
- Stan Schaeffer Education Community Leadership Award-Toni Geisen
- Stan Schaeffer Education Community Leadership Award-Jacob Post
- Spirit of Tourism Award-McDill’s Irish Pub
- Cool Cities Sustainability Award-Jerry & Dorothy Young
- Outstanding City Employee-Paul Phipps
- Good Neighbor Award-Chris Hudzik