May 10, 2024

Congratulations to these three individuals and two teams for receiving Distinguished Service Awards from the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association (INSPRA)! This recognition is given to individuals and groups throughout the state who partner with the school communications department, acting as ambassadors for public education and advocates for both students and staff.

Marisol Guevara, Aldrin Elementary School PTA President

When Marisol Guevara talks about immigrating to the United States, she shares that she was nervous about speaking English and volunteering at her children’s school. However, she chose to get involved despite her hesitation, because she knew that it was important to support her children and the school. She says it also helped her find her sense of belonging in her new community.

Now as the PTA President at Aldrin School, Marisol is constantly looking for ways to connect new families to the school. She also looks for opportunities to celebrate the many cultures at Aldrin. One example of this is Multicultural Night. Marisol personally invited families from different backgrounds to host a table and teach the school community about their culture (check out photos on the PTA Instagram – @aldrin_eagles_pta – which she also runs).

The impact Marisol makes also extends across the district. She served as a guest speaker at the Multicultural Parent Advisory Council. By sharing her story she served as a positive example for others, who became more willing to get involved in their schools. This resulted in more families from a variety backgrounds becoming active in District 54.

All of these events were a huge success thanks to her leadership. However, the true impact Marisol makes on the Aldrin and District 54 community is through the individual connections she makes all the time, with the goal of making everyone feel a sense of inclusion and belonging.


Kim Miller, Muir Elementary School Behavior Coach

Kim Miller leads with her heart. So when she sees needs in her community, she fulfills them. She is not afraid to ask anyone for anything, if it will support our families. For example, she noticed that Muir School didn’t have a robust PTA like other District 54 schools where she has worked. So she connected with the Hoffman Estates Mayor’s Office and members of a local community church to create a “community PTA.” This group supported Muir School’s Trunk or Treat event, Muir Giving Tree and Winter Wonderland Market. Kim also facilitated partnerships with multiple community locations to hold toy drives and winter clothing drives. Kim also works hard at providing students with experiences they may not otherwise have. This year she helped organize a whole-school field trip to a Chicago Wolves game.

At the district level, Kim is the field leader for all District 54 social workers. She is dedicated to providing professional development, coaching, and direct support to all social workers so students across District 54 can learn socio-emotional skills within a school setting.
In addition to working with staff, Kim builds secure bridges to numerous community providers, mental health agencies, and organizations. Together they created a District 54 Resource Fair where social workers and school psychologists can learn about the services offered to families. These examples are just a snippet of the impact and partnerships that Kim has created for our community. Kim is truly committed to the calling of supporting others.


Barb Velez, District 54 Welcome & Assessment Center

One of the first individuals that multilingual families meet in School District 54 is Barb Velez. Barb is the administrative assistant for the Department of Language and Culture and in that role, she runs the District 54 Welcome and Assessment Center. However, the impact that she has on families and staff across District 54, extends far beyond the initial interaction.

In her role as the Welcome Center liaison, Barb is frontline public relations. She goes above and beyond in ensuring that everyone she interacts with feels not only that they are welcome, but that they belong in District 54.

The number one form of communication is 1-to-1, and Barb takes the time to ensure her connection lasts beyond the appointment time. She often goes out of her way to follow up with information, even offering information about how to register at the high school (a different district) or how to access community resources.

Barb has become a vital connection for many families who are not only new to the district, but are also new to the country. Many families continue to call Barb and share her name as a resource with others. This passion for supporting families led to her department providing more opportunities for families to gather and learn together. The “Coffee and Conversation” sessions. At each meeting, as Barb’s name is mentioned, you hear the impact she has had on lives, as multiple people say, “I know Barb. Have you met her? She helped me with….”


District 54 Special Olympics Illinois Youth Activation Committee

District 54 is home to nine members of the 2023-2024 Special Olympics Illinois Youth Activation Committee. Through public presentations, these students are working to increase the inclusive practices of elementary and middle schools across the state. Malik Hamidof, Rania Iqbal, Danny Bush, Hannah Tomchuk, Summer Johnston, Grace Furno, Daimely Serrano, Maxine Go and Jude Gulliford were nominated in the spring of 2023 by staff in their schools to apply for this prestigious statewide committee, which only accepts 20 junior high students annually.

Their first presentations were at the virtual Youth Activation Summit in December, for more than 250 elementary and middle school students. Their presentations focused on how to be a good leader, what it means to be a Special Olympics Unified Champion School, and an overview of some of the amazing things Unified Champion Schools are doing across the state. This group also works as an advisory board for Special Olympics Illinois staff, offering input on the content that is shared with more than 350 schools across the state of Illinois. They also work in their schools to spread this information on inclusion and respect for all.

The leadership of these District 54 students and their enthusiasm for inclusion has been vital to the success of the Youth Activation Committee and the spread of inclusive practices and mindsets across the state of Illinois.


District 54 Club Unify Sponsors

The mission of Schaumburg School District 54 includes a statement that “we will promote a culture of unconditional belonging in which all students, staff and community members will be treated with dignity.” The 62 dedicated employees who sponsor Club Unify in District 54 schools are committed to not only communicating that message, but also to modeling it every day.

Club Unify is offered in 23 District 54 schools under the Special Olympics program. It brings students with and without disabilities together to play, lead, inspire, and spread inclusion throughout their school. They work together in their school-based teams to facilitate activities promoting inclusion, respect, understanding, and sportsmanship.

Club Unify is also an inclusive youth leadership experience pairing students in special education and with students in general education classes. So while club sponsors are communicating the message of inclusion and respect, they are also teaching communication skills to their students, enabling them to talk about disabilities and inclusion in a fair way, helping athletes feel included and empowering everyone to make a difference.

The impact of this work is far reaching. Students in each school benefit from the work these sponsors and their club members do every day and will carry this commitment to communicating about inclusion into high school and beyond. The Community Relations Department can, and does, communicate the commitment to inclusion and belonging all the time. However, the message is so much more powerful with the force of 62 passionate educators and the students they support.