2019 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 his/her field and to his/her 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.

2019 Honorees

2019 Alumni Achievement Award Winners

The District 128 Foundation for Learning is proud to announce this year's recipients of the Alumni Achievement Awards: Jessica Chiarella, Vernon Hills High School Class of 2005, and Sarah Potempa, Libertyville High School Class of 1999. The two were recognized at the Foundation's annual fundraiser, THE BIG EVENT, held Nov. 8, 2019.

Jessica Chiarella wrote her first novel, And Again, as a student in DePaul University’s Masters of Writing and Publishing program. She wrote the first draft in a ten-week novel writing class and continued to revise the manuscript as her graduate thesis. The novel sold to an imprint of Simon and Schuster in the fall of 2014 and was published in January 2016. And Again was featured in USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Paste Magazine, and The Chicago Review of Books. It was a Millions’ Most Anticipated book for the spring of 2016, an Indie Next Pick for January of 2016, and a finalist for Best Debut from the Chicago Review of Books Awards. In advance of the paperback release, it was selected by unanimous committee vote as the Target Club Pick for August of 2016.

Jessica went on to earn her Masters of Fine Art from the University of California, Riverside, where she was awarded the Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship Award. She’s spoken at panel discussions and author events across the country, from the Litquake Literary Festival in San Francisco, to Skylight Books in Los Angeles, to Women and Children First in Chicago and the Vernon Area Public Library. Prior to graduate school, Jessica graduated summa cum laude from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. She has never, and will never, use the cliched phrase “tears were streaming down her face” in her writing because Chris Curry forbade it in her Creative Writing class in 2004. She currently lives in Chicago and is working on her second novel.

Sarah Potempa is a bicoastal celebrity hairstylist. Her clientele includes Lea Michele, Emily Blunt, Camila Cabello, Reese Witherspoon, Busy Phillips, Selena Gomez, Millie Bobby Brown, and many more! She has worked on editorial shoots for Vogue, Paper, Marie Claire, Jalouse, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and W Magazine. Sarah has collaborated on advertising campaigns for Bergdorf Goodman, Target, Converse by John Varvatos, Tommy Hilfiger, Urban Outfitters, FHI Heat and MTV.

Additionally, Sarah is the inventor of the Beachwaver® curling iron and styling tools. She is the CEO of The Beachwaver Co.®, located in the greater Chicago area, which provides innovative hair tools and products to customers worldwide.