2020 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.

2020 Honorees

Foundation names Jessica Lawdan and Tom Morello 7th Annual Alumni Achievement Award Recipients


The District 128 Foundation for Learning is proud to announce the 2020 Alumni Achievement Awards: Jessica Lawdan, Vernon Hills High School Class of 2011, and Tom Morello, Libertyville High School Class of 1982. 

Jessica Lawdan is an active music teacher in the public school and community arts education circles of Denver, Colorado. She attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN where she earned her Bachelor's of Music in Vocal Music Education for grades K-12. During her time at St. Olaf, she started the school's first co-ed a cappella group, The HillHarmonics, and sang with the St. Olaf Choir under Anton Armstrong. Since relocating to the Denver metro area, she has worked with the Colorado Music Festival + Center for Musical Arts, The Colorado Children's Chorale, 303 Choir/VoCoalition, Youth on Record, the Colorado Chorale, the Denver Choir League and many other musical organizations while serving as a full-time music teacher in Aurora, Glendale, and Green Valley Ranch. Her students have performed with local groups such as hip-hop duo The Reminders as well as recorded on records for national acts such as The Flobots (hear them on 2017's record "Neoenemies"!).

Jessica has designed multiple music programs from scratch at schools where arts education was lacking. Currently through grant writing, community engagement, and creative fundraising with PTO she is the Music Specialist for a fully functioning K-8 "Modern Band"-style general music program, where students learn the basics of singing, ukulele, guitar, drumkit, keyboard, and songwriting. Her efforts have been featured on Denver9News and Colorado Public Radio, and her school was recently chosen out of 200 other schools from across the country to be awarded the Guitar Center Music Foundation grant for even more funding. She hopes to use this grant to officially have enough instruments to support an extracurricular instrument-loan program and work towards her long-term goal of building an in-class recording studio to teach 21st century music production skills. 

Additionally, she is the Music Director for the Vintage Youth Theater's Summer Children's Spotlight, and has worked to build this program since its inception in 2016. The VYT Summer Spotlight provides access and training for 3rd-12th grade students to perform fully-staged musicals once a summer in a low-income area of Denver where arts education is sparse. Ms. Lawdan's passion lies in arts integration and innovative programming and is proud to use the knowledge and joy that began in her experience at D128 schools to provide music education that draws on each students' unique backgrounds and abilities to create personalized, meaningful artistic experiences.


Tom Morello is the multi-Grammy Award-winning guitarist of Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Prophets Of Rage, and The Nightwatchman. The incendiary rock guitarist and acoustic troubadour, known for his innovative guitar solos and thunderous chords, is a groundbreaking artist and lifelong activist who has sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Morello has also been recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the “100 Greatest Guitar Players of All-Time (#26).” Morello has produced or collaborated with artists of diverse genres including Wu Tang Clan, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Page, John Fogerty, Gary Clark Jr., Public Enemy, Joe Strummer, Marcus Mumford, Crystal Method, Dave Mathews Band, Paul McCartney, Killer Mike, Travis Barker, and Pete Seeger. In addition, he joined Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band for six years on tour and is a featured lead guitarist on Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball and High Hopes albums. Morello was the first Libertyville High School graduate to attend Harvard University and graduated from there with an honors degree in political science in 1986. For his decades of public service and unrelenting commitment to workers’ rights and social justice, Morello has been the recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award For Human Rights, the Harry Belafonte Hillman Award, the Spirit Of Courage Award, the Reed Award, the Culture Of Liberation Award, the Ethical Culture Warrior Award, the WhyHunger Chapin Award, and the MTV award for most historic Occupy Wall Street performance. He is also a proud union member of Musician’s Local 47 in Los Angeles and The Industrial Workers Of The World, and an honorary member of the National Air Traffic Controllers Union and the Teamsters. Morello is the only musician to be named an ACLU ‘Smart Justice’ Ambassador and was dubbed “Most Valuable Musician” by The Nation magazine. He has written a graphic novel (“Orchid”) appeared in several films (Iron Man, Star Trek: Insurrection, Made) and scored countless others. This year he released a career retrospective photo memoir (“Whatever It Takes”), an Audible Original (“Speaking Truth To Power: Live At The Minetta Lane Theater”), and a signature “Soul Power” Fender Guitar. Morello has a regular show on Sirius XM Lithium entitled “One Man Revolution” which regularly features his 97-year-old mother, Mary Morello, a retired LHS history teacher. Morello resides in Los Angeles with his wife Denise and his sons Rhoads (11) and Roman (9). He has a daughter, Ruby, who lives in Boston.