Alumni Achievement Awards

District 128 Foundation for Learning Alumni Achievement Awards, established in 2014, are presented annually to individuals who graduated from a District 128 high school at least five years prior to nomination, and who have made significant contributions, and demonstrated leadership and character in their field and to their community. Nominations are accepted on an ongoing basis and remain active for three years. The Foundation for Learning Board of Trustees comprise the selection committee.

Online Nomination Form

2023 Honorees

Foundation names Rachel Jacoby and Patrick Slade 10th Annual Alumni Achievement Award Recipients

2023 Alumni Achievement Award Winners

The District 128 Foundation for Learning is proud to announce the recipients of its 10th Annual Alumni Achievement Awards:  Rachel Jacoby (Vernon Hills High School ‘14) and Patrick Slade (Libertyville High School ‘13). Jacoby and Slade will be honored at the Foundation’s annual fundraiser, THE BIG EVENT, on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Mickey Finn’s in Libertyville. Visit this link for complete details and to purchase tickets.

Rachel Jacoby is a proud graduate of Vernon Hills High School, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Previously an organizer with March For Our Lives, Rachel is currently a Gun Violence Prevention Specialist at the Lake County State's Attorney's Office. She has organized in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington DC in support of gun violence prevention legislation. Most significantly, she helped lead the grassroots organizing effort in support of the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which passed in early 2023, making Illinois the 9th state in the country to ban assault weapons. Rachel previously served as the Finance Manager for Giffords, a national nonprofit committed to ending gun violence and spent a year living and working as an English teacher in rural Malaysia on a Fulbright grant. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rachel founded the nonprofit, Feed the Front Line, to support small businesses, frontline workers, and food insecure populations in the Chicago area. In her free time, Rachel works to increase political representation for Gen Z in elected office and is trying to perfect her chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Rachel was nominated for the award by VHHS CTE Teacher Kristin Schwarz.


Patrick Slade is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard University. He graduated from LHS in 2013 before completing his bachelor's at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and MSc, PhD, and postdoctoral studies in Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering at Stanford University. He directs the Harvard Ability Lab which combines robotics, biomechanics, and human-centered AI to build intelligent health models and assistive devices. His work explores how to safely and effectively design and integrate human-robot systems so people can live healthier, more independent lives. His work focuses on solutions that are open-source and low-cost to make care accessible for underserved populations. Patrick was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, named a Forbes 30 under 30 in healthcare, and has published in journals including Nature and Science Robotics.

Patrick was nominated for the honor by LHS Mathematics and Computer Science Teacher Teresa Elmore and LHS CTE Teacher Andrew Thomson.


2022 Honorees

Foundation names Bob Chikos and Danny Park 9th Annual Alumni Achievement Award Recipients.

The District 128 Foundation for Learning is proud to announce the recipients of its 9th Annual Alumni Achievement Awards:  Bob Chikos, Libertyville High School Class of 1992, and Danny Park, Vernon Hills High School Class of 2011. Chikos and Park will received their awards at the Foundation’s annual fundraiser, THE BIG EVENT, on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at White Deer Run in Vernon Hills.

Bob Chikos ​(LHS '92) ​currently serves as a special education teacher and head speech team coach at Crystal Lake Central High School, where he has worked since 2008. After earning an associate​s​ degree from the College of Lake County and a bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University, he joined Lambs Farm, where he coached Special Olympians and developed​ ​and administered the QUEST life enrichment program. This helped Lambs Farm earn the highest rating from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Bob went on to earn three master’s degrees: special education and school leadership, both from Northeastern Illinois University, and literacy education from Northern Illinois University, as he transitioned to a ​teaching​ career. 

During his leadership program, he attended his 20th reunion tour and learned that LHS no longer ranks students. This led him to advocate for ending the practice in his own district, which occurred in 2015. Bob continues to advocate for change at local and state levels. He is a member of the District Equity Leadership Team in District 155, where he and his colleagues examine existing practices and implement newer ones to affirm all students. Since 2017, he has guest lectured at the university level to future school administrators on how to build affirming schools for LGBTQ+ students. As a member of Equality Illinois’ Community Advisory Group, he has helped to pass several items of legislation to support LGBTQ+ Illinoisans, including the LGBTQ+ Inclusive Curriculum Law and the Keeping Youth Healthy and Safe Act. He has testified to the Illinois State Board of Education in support of Evidence-Based Funding and is currently working to advance the Racism-Free Schools Act in the Illinois Legislature.

In 2020, Bob completed a one-year fellowship with Teach Plus, where he researched social and emotional learning and became involved with the educational legislative process. He currently partners with Advance Illinois, where he serves on a team that is developing strategies to address teacher shortages. He has recently been named to the Teach Plus committee with the Illinois Education Association.

Outside of his profession, Bob is an accomplished artist. He produced the cable access sketch comedy TV show Far Out. As a public speaker, he won the 2009 Chicagoland Toastmasters Humorous Speaking Championship, was a 2016 finalist in the International Speech Contest and helped coach one of the top ​10 speakers in the world. As a writer, he has had over 30 short stories published in literary journals.


Danny Park ​(VHHS '11) ​is the CEO and founder of RoboThink, a children’s education franchise specializing in delivering robotics, coding and engineering programs to curious young minds. Danny is the recipient of the International Franchise Association’s NextGen Franchise Award and is the youngest person in Illinois state history to receive the Governor’s Export Award.

After graduating from college, Danny started RoboThink in 2015 and has grown the concept from a single location in Lake County, Illinois to a global brand with locations across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Central America and Africa. RoboThink develops and manufactures STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education products, software and curriculum that is in use by over 50,000 students every day. 

In addition to the day-to-day management of RoboThink, Danny is also involved in facilitating trade and investment opportunities between South Korea and the United States as a partner of the Korean Trade Investment Promotion Agency in the pharmaceutical, chemical and electronic manufacturing markets.

Danny’s passion lies in building businesses and music and is grateful to have had the​ ​opportunity to have been a pupil with D128’s many passionate and encouraging teachers


2021 Honorees

Foundation names Frank Fitzgerald and Kate Lee 8th Annual Alumni Achievement Award Recipients.

The District 128 Foundation for Learning is proud to announce this year's recipients of the Alumni Achievement Awards: Frank Fitzgerald, Libertyville High School Class of 1987 and Kate Lee, Vernon Hills High School Class of 2012.

Kate Lee is the Director of Choirs at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois. She directs the Treble Choir, Bass Choir, Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, and All In Choir. She also directs Audacity In Blue A Cappella, assistant directs the annual V-Show, and vocal directs the annual musical.

Kate has more than tripled the size of the choir program since she began her career at Maine East in 2018. She also started a new class called All In Choir: a choir for students of all physical, cognitive, and sensory ability levels. It is a class in which both special education and general education students come together to build connections and friendships through music.

She was named the Illinois State Board of Education's 2021 Outstanding Early Career Educator of the Year and is a Teach Plus Illinois ILSTOY Policy Fellow. For the past year, she has been working with her Teach Plus cohort on developing a Racial Harassment Policy for school districts across the state. She also serves on the District and Building Equity Leadership Teams at District 207. As a first-generation Korean-American immigrant, she is passionate about creating equitable and inclusive spaces for all students at Maine East. 

Kate graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Voice and Opera Performance, Music Education, and a minor in Sociology from Northwestern University. She is currently working towards a Masters of Music Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When she is not teaching, she maintains an active performing schedule with various professional choral ensembles in Chicago, including Bella Voce and Music of the Baroque.


Frank Fitzgerald was born in 1969 in Chicago. His family moved to Libertyville, Illinois when he was just a baby. He remembers his childhood fondly and his artwork today reflects a colorful response to his happy suburban childhood memories. School, however, was a different story for Frank. At times, it was even difficult, as he struggled to pay attention causing him to hate school. His teachers frequently commented that Frank needed to work on his self-confidence. He credits the Libertyville High School community for instilling in him the value of formal education and starting him on the path to becoming the art teacher he is today. Art class was always what made school tolerable. During Frank’s senior year, Ross Shellenberger’s portfolio class took students to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and other area colleges. This field trip allowed students to see firsthand how artists can find jobs that allow them to be both creative and contributing, productive members of society.

Frank attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he received a bachelor of science in Art in 1991. In 1994, he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree at Northwestern University. Frank studied and worked as a studio assistant for the Chicago Imagist painter Ed Paschke. While working with Ed, Frank taught his first class and found his passion for teaching. Frank believes that every child, not only “artists” or art majors, deserve artistic experiences. Professor Paschke taught Frank that teaching art can be another facet of the creative process of being an artist. In 1995 while teaching painting and design classes at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Frank earned his art education certification for kindergarten through 12 th grade from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Frank has taught art for 25 years at Spaulding School in Gurnee, Illinois. Spaulding is a pre-kindergarten through second grade school. Each day students will tell Mr. Fitzy “When I grow up, I want to be an art teacher!” A large part of a teacher’s job is to help students learn to overcome school anxiety and practice their subjects so as to understand how to succeed in school and beyond. His classes introduce students to a range of artistic media and creative experiences from drawing and painting to sculptural materials such as clay. The children also manipulate kindergarten founder Fredrich Froebel’s original blocks to integrate mathematical concepts into art class. These kindergarten gifts and occupations develop the students’ higher-level thinking and creativity skills by allowing them to experience three-dimensional shapes using the tactile wood blocks.

In 2013, Frank started The Mr. Fitzy Painting Show, an all-ages instructional art program through Comcast cable access and YouTube. You can watch it on Comcast Cable channel 17 in northern Illinois on Fridays at 4 and anytime on his YouTube channel: Mr. Fitzy Painting Show. In 2017, Mr. Fitzgerald was humbled to be awarded the teacher of the year for Gurnee School District 56.

Frank’s surreal and cartoony paintings have been shown throughout Lake County and the Midwest including the Robert T. Wright Community Gallery at the College of Lake County and the Blue Moon Gallery in Grayslake. He was a founding member in 2011 of the artist cooperative, Dandelion Gallery, in Waukegan, Illinois. Frank continues to show his work each month during Artwauk openings. Frank has volunteered in the community teaching classes and workshops and by completing commissions and arts projects including murals. He continues to advocate on behalf of the value of arts education in students’ lives. He has taught art to children and adults in a great many venues in the Chicagoland area, including the Art Center of Highland Park and the art camp at the Adler Cultural Arts Center in Libertyville. Frank lives with his wife and two daughters in Lindenhurst, Illinois. Currently, he is still teaching art in Gurnee and is busy working on his first children’s book, an autobiography titled, How I Became an Artist and an Art Teacher.


Read About the 2020 Honorees

Jessica Lawdan

Tom Morello

Read About the 2019 Honorees

Jessica Chiarella

Sarah Potempa

Read About the 2018 Honorees

Chris Bryant

Dr. Raghu Mirmira

Read About the 2017 Honorees

Steven Breitenfield

Brett Butler

Read About the 2016 Honorees

Y. Ralph Chu, M.D.

David Margules

Read About the 2015 Honorees

Allyson Bain

Gwynne Rowley Shotwell

Read About the 2014 Honorees

Dale Eggert 

Matt Nuernberger