This award recognizes graduates whose achievements, strength of character, and citizenship serve as
role models to inspire and challenge today’s youth.
Urbana High School
Class of 1982
Herbert Burnett, a 1982 graduate of Urbana High School, attended Parkland College, Eastern Illinois and served 20 years in the U.S. Army in both Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. Returning to his C-U roots, Herbert runs a clothing store Suits by Soouljah, has served as associate pastor, substitute teacher, coach, referee, and founded the Leadership Development Academy. Herbert is the CEO/founder of Not on My Watch (NOMW) created to commit outreach, connection and support for the challenges of young black males through hope and accountability. He co-hosts an Urbana Public Television show “Let the Truth be Told”, and volunteers regularly at the juvenile detention center, providing guidance and connection to struggling youth. His nominator Eric Minor says, “Herbert is someone focused on doing something about the challenges facing our community’s youth. He refuses to sit back and wait for others to get involved. He always jumps in with both feet, and stays engaged until something positive occurs.”
Sue Grey, a 1979 graduate of Centennial High School, has been making a difference in CU for over 30 years in a variety of roles. A U of I graduate in Leisure Studies and die-hard Illini fan, Sue worked in the Champaign Park District, was CEO for Girl Scouts-Green Meadows Council, provided leadership for the Unit 4 Schools, (Board of Education) and currently serves as the President and CEO for United Way of Champaign County. She is a Champaign Rotarian, and active in C-U Cradle to Career and Community Coalition initiatives. One of her nominators, Cate Stallmeyer says, “sometimes when students graduate from high school, they can’t wait to get out of town. For Sue, this community is her home, and she has spent an entire career inspiring others to volunteer and support this community.”
Dianne Massock Messina-Stanley, a 1966 graduate of Champaign High School (Central) attended the University of Illinois receiving her master’s degree from the College of Media. After relocating to Los Angeles, Dianne enjoyed a long and productive career as a television writer and producer. She wrote and contributed to many television shows including: Knots Landing, Strong Medicine, Judging Amy, The Young and the Restless, House Calls, Army Wives, That’s Life, and Pacific Palisades. Ms. Messina was nominated with a team of writers and producers for an Emmy award for Homefront (1991) and received the Imagen Foundation Award -Best Primetime TV series, for Second Chances in 1993. Her nominator, former Central High School English teacher Patricia Johnson notes “Dianne’s accomplished career in television speaks for itself; her talent and ambition are indeed noteworthy.”
Smile Politely online magazine, founded by 1997 Urbana High School graduate Seth Fein, will be awarded the Local Business Community Impact Award. This award recognizes local business owners who graduated from Champaign Unit 4 or Urbana School District 116 high schools; and have demonstrated a commitment to philanthropy, service, or volunteerism. Seth is the founder and publisher of Smile Politely, an online community magazine reporting on the arts, culture and culinary scenes around Champaign Urbana. Seth has also dedicated himself to showcasing music in the community by creating the Pygmalion Festival, a four-day event celebrating music, technology, art, literature and food in CU. His nominator Terri Reifsteck says, “Seth is an Urbana native son, advocate for funding the arts and champion for showcasing the best that his community has to offer.”
These recipients have demonstrated an impact on the community through their commitment to philanthropy, service, and volunteerism, or employing local high school graduates.
The Local Hero Award
This award recognizes graduates who have demonstrated their commitment to benefiting the Champaign-Urbana community through their volunteer time and efforts.
Centennial High School
Class of 2002
Amariah Hays, a 2002 Central High School graduate will be recognized with the Local Hero Award, which celebrates an individual who has willingly volunteered time and effort to benefit the local community. Amariah’s childhood experiences led her to pursue a 15-year career in social work, serving most recently as the coordinator for volunteer advocates at Champaign County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). She also serves as a board member of The Family Room, a local non-profit serving families with foster children or children in transition. Her book for children of all ages, A Place to Call Home is provided to children and caregivers at CASA to help explain the process of foster care. Her nominator, Julia Rietz says “Amariah is a local hero for the children in our community. She is a shining example of what children can accomplish with support–despite the adversities they face.”