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  WINDY CITY TIMES

18th annual 30 Under 30 Awards on Wed., June 21
2017-06-21

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Each year Windy City Times honors 30 outstanding LGBT individuals ( and allies ) for substantial contributions to the Chicagoland LGBT community in the fields of entertainment, politics, health, activism, academics, sports or other areas. The honors will be presented Wed., June 21, at 6 p.m. at the Polo Cafe, 3322 S. Morgan St., Chicago.

Nickecia "Nick" Alder

Nickecia "Nick" Alder is the founder and editor-in-chief of Black Girl Fly Magazine as well as co-founder of Party Noire.

She is a doctoral candidate and researcher, digital content creator and strategist, engineering online communities and digital stories that celebrate the complexities of Black women and girls. As a researcher, she interrogates the intersections of media representation of Black women and racial and gender identity.

Nick is a multifaceted creative with a passion for shaping brands through strong digital and social media storytelling especially for Black millennial women. Her background in community mental health and therapeutic practices adds to her toolbox for connecting with people both in physical and digital spaces.

Did you know? When she is not juggling all of the above, she is collecting sneakers, capturing photographs or tweeting her favorite GIFs.

Kirstin Brockenborough

Kirstin Brockenborough, 24, is a visual storyteller committed to reframing conversations of Black and brown people's accessibility to public health resources. The Virginia native utilizes digital storytelling as an educational tool to promote sex positivity as well as illuminate laws that target and criminalize Black people across identity spectrums.

Following her graduation from Columbia College Chicago, Kirstin accepted a position within the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's policy and advocacy team. Her work as the policy and legislative specialist has empowered her to create and produce podcast programming for the organization's local and nationally recognized projects such as the Midwest HIV Prevention Pregnancy Planning Initiative ( MHPPPI ), SpeakUP and Protect Our Care — Illinois.

Kirstin is also tied with the Black Youth Project 100 as a digital organizer. She credits the organization as an influence to her work within the public health sector, contextualizing critical theory to Chicago's reality.

Did you know? Kirstin is the founder and currently an active member of the "Whisper Bitches" club.

ASHLEY BRAZIL

Ashley Brazil, 28, is the senior career specialist at Chicago House, where she works with those affected by HIV, TGNC people and those with disabilities to enhance their economic self-sufficiency and improve their health outcomes.

Ashley is an active leader in the LGBT community. Her involvement began volunteering with Affinity Community Services, an organization centered on issues affecting Black queer women, supporting their programming and becoming an Affinity Leadership Scholar in 2012. She then went on to support the Center on Halsted in her role as an internship coordinator at Adler University. Also while at Adler University she worked with area PFLAG groups to expand their reach into the South Side of Chicago, and into black and brown communities. Since graduating from DePaul University in 2011, she has mentored LGBT students as an alumna.

Did you know? Ashley writes for community anthologies and has been included in Voices de Queer Femmes, a book being released this year.

Carsen Casica

Carsen Casica has developed BeStrong, an innovative physical wellness program for trans/gender-diverse ( T/GD ) youth and young adults ages 14-25.

T/GD youth have limited gym and locker-room spaces in which they are welcomed. For those on gender-affirming hormone therapy, it may be difficult to identify a personal trainer who is knowledgeable, supportive, and effective in helping them reach physical wellness goals.

Carsen, a certified personal trainer and student at DePaul University, consulted with our program's medical and behavioral health teams as he developed BeStrong, a 10-session group in which participants develop personal wellness goals, increase their knowledge of cardiovascular and weight-training techniques, improve nutrition practices, and find peer support. The second session began June 17.

Did you know? Carsen is a personal trainer at a fitness facility named for Ray Meyer, who coached men's basketball for 42 years at DePaul University, racking up 724 wins.

Lissette Castillo Vizcarra

Lissette Castillo Vizcarra, 25, is a member of Organized Communities Against Deportations, as well as a paralegal/organizer with PASO-West Suburban Action Project. She has been a part of efforts to pass model sanctuary city ordinances in Berwyn and Oak Park, ending collaboration between those suburbs and ICE.

Prior to joining PASO, Lissette also worked with faith communities seeking to become immigrant-welcoming and sanctuary-offering congregations. Lissette came to Chicago for college and graduated from the University of Chicago in 2014. She is originally from the U.S.-Mexico bordertown of Brownsville, Texas.

Did you know? She dances best in cowboy boots and most days can likely be found at the Jumping Bean Cafe. Also, she just turned 25 on June 20.

Derrick Clifton

Derrick Clifton, 28, is an award-winning writer and speaker whose work often examines the intersections of identity, culture and social issues. A proud Chicago native, Derrick's social justice and community engagement efforts took shape during high school at Payton College Prep, where they led both the Queer-Straight Alliance and a nationally competitive policy debate team. Derrick attended Northwestern University as a Point Foundation Scholar and was named a "Senior to Watch" in 2012 based on their campus journalism and nonprofit work.

Derrick went on to forge careers in media and communications, with reporting, commentary and news analysis that has appeared at various outlets, including NBC News, Vox, Quartz, The Root and ( yes ) Windy City Times. Their writing on social issues in Chicago earned the 2016 National Association of Black Journalists Award for Newspaper Commentary, as well as a 2017 Peter Lisagor Award from the Society of Professional Journalists - Chicago. Derrick has an MSJ from the Medill School of Journalism and currently works in corporate communications for a Fortune 100 company, while pursuing creative writing projects and drafting a memoir.

Did you know? Derrick took longer than most toddlers to start talking and their first word was "Jesus." And so began a journey toward excessive talking detentions in grade school and a mouth that could send censors into a frenzy.

Bea Cordelia

Bea Cordelia, 24, is an award-winning, Chicago-bred writer, filmmaker, performance artist, actor, producer, educator and activist whose work uplifts and reimagines the narratives of transgender people. Her "life-changing" solo show Chasing Blue featured in Steppenwolf Theatre's LookOut performance series in February, and last summer she made headlines for her lawsuit against the City of Chicago regarding its sexist, transphobic ordinance forbidding the exposure of breasts in establishments with liquor licenses.

Did you know? She is currently working on the forthcoming web series The T with co-creator Daniel Kyri and distributor Open TV.

VITA E.

Vita E. ( they/she ), 28, is a Black trans femmepoet, percussionist, activist, disability advocate and educator from Cleveland, Ohio. Their YouTube channel and brand, TWOC Poetry, seeks to create more realistic representation of the identities related to and outside Vita's life as a NeuroDivergent Black trans femme. She's currently a proud member of the Chicago Latinx punk band Cabrona, the Chicago BTGNC Collective, and the Chicago Chapter of Black Lives Matter. Their response track to Janelle Monae, "Hell Y'all Ain't Talmbout," was listed by The Source as one of the "10 Songs Soundtracking the Black Lives Matter Movement."

Did you know? She's the youngest of 13, and shares a birthday with their twin brother and father.

Shea Coulee

Shea Coulee, 28, is quickly becoming a drag legend with only six years under his belt as of July 2017. Originally from Warsaw, Indiana, Jaren Shea Merrell went to Columbia College studying costume design.

After watching RuPaul's Drag Race on TV, Shea was inspired to start performing in drag and auditioned for five years finally landing on the ninth season of the hit show. Shea slayed the competition week after week and is currently a final contestant.

Experience in the Windy City has paid off with Queen! events at Smart Bar and Neverland circuit parties taking place around Chicago. Talented at lip-synching, Shea now performs at venues across the globe for millions of fans.

Coulee continues to build a brand at SheaCoulee.com . The future looks bright with makeup tutorials on YouTube, creating, as well as starring, in an indie movie Lipstick City with Chicago's LGBT community, and a fierce new dance track called "Cocky" featuring Lila Star and The Vixen, and produced by Jeremiah Meece.

Did you know? Shea means "beautiful boy" in Swahili.

Antonio Elizondo

Antonio Elizondo, 24, is an organizer with Vives Q and the Center for Disease Control ( CDC ) Coordinator at Howard Brown Health Center.

His activism started as a volunteer at Mujeres Latinas en Accion in Pilsen. In 2013 Antonio co-founded Vives Q, an intergenerational Latinx LGBTQ series that highlights the contributions of LGBTQ trailblazers. For the past four years, Vives Q has been an innovative community hub and platform for the Latinx LGBTQ community.

In 2014 he was one of 25 people to be part of #SpeakOutHIV, a national campaign by Greater Than AIDS to confront the silence and stigma that still too often surrounds HIV/AIDS. In 2015 he began his position between the Center on Halsted and TPAN coordinating a youth outreach program that consisted of weekend retreats with built in messages of self confidence and its relation to one's health. In 2016, he was invited by the Center for Disease Control ( CDC ) to participate in a new social marketing campaign to promote HIV testing among his peer group. In 2017 he continues his work with Howard Brown Health Center coordinating a CDC grant that provides HIV/STI screenings city wide.

Did you know? Antonio loves Rihanna so much he is able to tell you the story of her upbringing to the business mogul she has become today.

Angelica D'Souza

Angelica D'Souza ( she/her ), 24, grew up in Canada and moved to Chicago to study at Loyola University, graduating with a BA honors in history.

She is a proud multiethnic, multilingual, binational queer femme and the only child of two immigrant feminist scientists. The complexity of occupying the spaces in between—of living in the hyphen—has called her to seek to build spaces where people from diverse communities can find common ground.

Currently, Angie serves as the LGBTQ and hate crime victim specialist for the Cook County state's attorney's office, where she spends most of her time providing advocacy and support to folks coming into contact with the criminal legal system as victims of a crime.

As part of her work, she is actively involved in community engagement efforts in diverse communities throughout Cook County. Previously, she has worked throughout the Chicagoland area in domestic violence and sexual assault services, and in efforts to eliminate discrimination and bias-motivated violence.

When she's not working, you can find Angie watching Netflix and cuddling with her rescue cat, at a local watering hole with her pals, or exploring the city with her super-rad partner.

Did you know? Angie is a major foodie and loves to try out new recipes on her friends, especially when she can combine different flavors into the ultimate fusion dish.

Jessie Fuentes

Jessie Fuentes ( she, her, hers ), 27, is an active organizer in the Humboldt Park community. Fuentes is a Puerto Rican lesbian that strives to create a more just world for the LGBTQ and Puerto Rican Community. Jessie Fuentes is a program director of four youth initiatives with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. Jessie Fuentes also helps organize the Puerto Rican LGBTQ contingent for the Pride Parade, assists annually to coordinate Vida/SIDA's Coronation ( crowing our transgender queen for the Puerto Rican Parade ), and provides healthy alternatives to LGBTQ youth that are experiencing discrimination in their homes and community. Jessie believes in the independence of Puerto Rico and is the coordinator of National Boricua Human Rights Network - the campaign to free the last Puerto Rican political prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera.

Did you know? Jessie is a fitness addict. She works out six times a week and sometimes twice a day!

Antonio Gutierrez

Antonio Gutierrez, 28, is a queer gender non-conforming undocumented immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico. Antonio has lived in Chicago for more than 16 years after immigrating to the United States to reunite with family members. Antonio is a graduate from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a Bachelor's of Architecture ( B.Arch. ).

After graduating in 2012, Antonio joined the immigrant-rights movement as an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League ( IYJL ), an undocumented-led organization. Antonio has engaged in and remains active in collective organizing of community events such as fundraising programs, mass marches, national retreats, city-wide ordinance campaigns and civil disobediences.

Antonio is one of the co-founders of the Autonomous Tenants Union ( ATU ), an all-volunteer anti-displacement organization in the City of Chicago. Antonio is a member of the steering committee of Organized Communities Against Deportation ( OCAD ), an undocumented-led group that fights deportations and criminalization of Black, brown and immigrant communities in Chicago. Antonio is the Director of Operations for Community Activism Law Alliance, a social justice legal organization that promotes lawyers and communities working together for social change.

Did you know? Antonio is also a steering board member of the National Right to the City Alliance.

Justin Koziatek

Justin Koziatek, 29, is a non-profit leader who lends a spirit of energy, enthusiasm, creativity and compassion to his role as corporate and volunteer engagement specialist at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Born in Michigan, Justin obtained two bachelor degrees in nutritional science and food science from Michigan State University, then started his career in the quality control areas of the food and pharmaceutical industries. As fate would have it, his world got shaken up in a fabulous way.

Justin made the move to Chicago and was ready to embrace his authentic self. He came out publicly at the age of 25, and his approach to career and community coalesced around LGBTQ rights soon after moving. Before being welcomed warmly to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago staff, he had immersed his personal time in Chicago's Human Rights Campaign as steering committee co-chair, volunteer engagement co-chair and gala volunteer coordinator since phone banking for Illinois marriage equality in 2013. Simultaneously, for over three years, he has held leadership positions as race co-director, president and board member with Proud To Run. He maintains focus on creating meaningful change.

Did you know? Justin loves to tap dance. Starting at the ripe old age of 4, he practiced until the age of 14, stopping due to a fear of being bullied. The good news is that he has picked it back up and has been taking classes at Second City Training Center. Look out, Gene Kelly!

Becca Hofrichter

Becca Hofrichter, 28, is a licensed clinical social worker, and has been working as an adult ally with youth experiencing unstable housing since 2010.

Beginning her role as a youth ally with Teen Living Programs, Becca at some point worked in almost every program with the agency, but found a real calling to street and community based outreach. Most recently, Becca joined Center on Halsted in October 2015 to support the design and implementation of the Youth Housing Initiative, which currently offers 10 youth ages 18-25 apartment style housing. As a Queer, femme-identified clinician; Becca hopes to pursue more clinically focused work in her future while still approaching her work from a place of authenticity, advocacy, and action.

Outside of work, Becca is learning American Sign Language, loves baking and gardening, is an avid record collector, and makes jewelry.

Did you know? Becca collects oddities such as taxidermy, bones and teeth.

Latonya Maley

Latonya Maley, 29, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the middle of four daughters raised in an unintentionally feminist home by a strong, sensitive, intimidating mother and an artistic, calm and grounding father. She attended public Montessori schools from kindergarten to 12th grade and was class president. Her experience with Montessori public school educators taught her the value of questioning everything, consentual hugs, working with animals and community meetings.

After a brief internship at the CDC in Atlanta, she moved to Chicago in 2010 and earned a Master's in public health from UIC. During her studies Latonya worked with Chicago Public School students, teaching sex education, epidemiology and facilitating public health clubs. In 2011, she was awarded the Bevier Global Health Fellowship that supported her field study in community based HIV prevention in rural Ghana. After returning to the States, Latonya focused on community-based public health HIV/STI interventions centering Black, Latinx and LGBTQ populations.

She has continued to further her practice by rising through Howard Brown from part-time research assistant to her current role as director of the Broadway Youth Center ( BYC ). Leading youth services at Howard Brown is the perfect polyamorous marriage of her commitments to social justice, health equity, emotional growth and fun! If there is one thing you can do to support Tonya in her next steps, please ask her when she will get the BYC podcast up and running!

Did you know? Latonya is an Aquarius, a secretive sci-fi/fantasy writer, righteously vegan and is a parent to a femme crew of rescue cats and a dog.

H. Melt

H. Melt is a poet and artist whose work proudly documents Chicago's queer and trans communities. Their writing has appeared many places including In These Times, The Offing, and Them, the first trans literary journal in the United States. They are the author of The Plural, The Blurring ( Red Beard Press 2015 ) and editor of Subject to Change: Trans Poetry and Conversation ( Sibling Rivalry Press 2017 ). H. Melt co-leads Queeriosity at Young Chicago Authors and works at Women and Children First, Chicago's feminist bookstore.

Did you know? Lambda Literary awarded them the Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging LGBTQ Writers in 2017.

Mahdia Lynn

Mahdia Lynn ( she, her, hers ), 29, is the director of Masjid al-Rabia—a new women centered, LGBTQIA+-affirming mosque in Chicago. A writer, educator and organizer, Mahdia is a prolific advocate for LGBTQIA+ Muslims on a local and international level. As a disabled bisexual Muslim woman of trans experience, Mahdia can also be found striving every day towards disability power, economic and racial justice, prison abolition and trans liberation.

Did you know? Mahdia is currently one of three transgender women in the world ( and the only one in the western hemisphere ) to lead a mosque.

Roberto Mendez

Roberto Mendez, 27, is a Latino Chicago native. He was born and raised in Logan Square/Humboldt Park, and was awarded a leadership scholarship that allowed him to attend Pomona College in Claremont, California, on a full ride. He returned to Chicago after graduating college, and began to explore the various ways to give back to the communities that shaped and guided him. He identified the intersections of race and sexual/gender identity as his passion and decided to contribute to the local Latino and LGBTQ communities of Chicago.

Roberto knew about 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Therefore, in 2014, he began working as the information and referral specialist at La Casa Norte, a nonprofit agency that assists youth and families confronting homelessness. Recently he has transitioned roles and now is one of the development associates and primarily manages the volunteer program.

Around the same time, he was introduced to the Association of Latino/as Motivating Action, an organization that has been around for more than 26 years fighting for the rights of the Latino LGBTQ community by advocating for fairness and equality and affirming Latino LGBTQ culture. He joined its youth advisory board and has dedicated three years to providing safe spaces and advocating for Latino LGBTQ youth.

Did you know? Roberto's favorite author is James Baldwin, and he has read Giovanni's Room every year for the past six years.

Taylor Nys

Taylor Nys, 26, was born in Superior, Wisconsin, and has a cute dinosaur tattoo. They double majored in Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies and Sociology at Grinnell College located in a tiny, but beautiful, cornfield in Iowa. Taylor has been working and volunteering at social services since they were 18. Most recently, Taylor has worked at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Sarah's Circle.

Taylor's passion is creating supportive, nonjudgmental spaces to work collaboratively with people to define and make steps towards their goals. Taylor has helped create several working groups to address trans inclusion and safety in programming and staffing. They believe deeply in harm reduction and trauma-informed care, and have successfully advocated for the removal of a drug-free policy in a residential setting.

In their free time, Taylor spends a lot of time outside with trees and thinking about how cool root systems are. Taylor loves to volunteer with the Openlands program that provides community grants for tree planting across Chicago. They also love to cuddle their four cloud ( cat ) kids and make food with their partner, Marlo.

Did you know? Taylor had surgery on their tear duct as a kid and can breathe out of their eye socket. When they were on the swim team in high school, they had a hard time keeping on their goggles.

Vince Pagan

Vince Pagan, 28, is a native Chicagoan, small business owner, activist, consultant and storyteller.

Since returning to his hometown after receiving a BA in drama from Ithaca College, he has worked as a teaching artist at organizations across the city, including The Goodman Theatre. In 2014, Vince started working with Morten Group, LLC, national Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in organizational development and racial equity workshops and action planning. Since beginning as a project assistant, Vince has grown to a consulting associate capacity and racial equity trainer. In 2016, Vince was a subcommittee co-chair for the National LGBTQ Task Force's Creating Change Conference, which was hosted in Chicago.

Vince is also a writer and a company member with 2nd Story, a Chicago-based storytelling company whose belief is that stories can change the world, where he is a storyteller and curator. He is also a company member with For Youth Inquiry, a project of Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. He is also a volunteer with the Illinois Safe Schools' Alliance, and is very excited to be joining them for Action Camp this year!

Last year, Vince made the decision to take his two passions—social justice and baking—and marry them together to establish Vince the Baker. Vince the Baker's future mission will focus around creating opportunities for ( 1 ) practical training for young people interested in pursuing entrepreneurship and/or baking; and ( 2 ) providing workshops and training for the public in baking skills and de-colonizing the food that we make, eat and share with each other. More information is at www.vincethebaker.com .

Did you know? Vince has seen every episode of the Great British Bake Show more than three times! His favorite contestant was Nadiya, who made him cry twice.

Eileen Pagan

Eileen Pagan, 26, is a boricua queer boi ( with an i ) from the south and uses they/them pronouns.

Eileen recently graduated from Adler University with a double masters degree in art therapy and mental health counseling and began their career at Center on Halsted with the youth department. During their time there, they created a Clinical Youth Training Program that aims to support LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. Rooted in Southern community organizing and social justice, Eileen recently made a giant leap to Atlanta and is currently working as an art therapist at the National Youth Advocate Program building LGBTQ competency in the foster-care system.

Did you know? When Eileen was younger, they auditioned for the show ALL THAT! Clearly, their career went a different path.

Avi Roque

Avi Roque, 28, ( they/them/theirs ) grew up in San Francisco, received their B.A. in theater from California State University- Fullerton, and moved to Chicago to nurture their artistic spirit. Today, Avi is proud to say that they are a multidisciplinary artist and a Latinx gender non-conforming/trans individual who is constantly exploring transformation and discovery of self through devising new works and simultaneously breathing life into the words of others.

Avi loves theater and they recently appeared in Men On Boats at American Theater Company, under the direction of Will Davis. They have also worked with other Chicago theaters such as The Goodman, on several staged readings and a workshop production of Mother Road by Octavio Solis. You may have also seen them as Joan in a reading of Saint Joan, by George Bernard Shaw, at Writers Theatre in association with The Chicago Inclusion Project. Avi has also worked with a few storefront theaters and is a company member with Collaboraction, First Floor Theater, and Pride Films and Plays. They also served as a co-deviser on a piece titled [Trans]formation with The Living Canvas and Nothing Without A Company.

Avi is hoping that more stories are written to reflect those who are trans, genderqueer, non-binary, agender and gender non-conforming. They also would love to do more TV/film and were really excited to get cast as George, a trans person, in Matthew Aaron's Indie Comedy Landline that premiered this year.

Did you know? Avi loved ( and still loves ) musicals, including Disney's Newsies ( the movie ) and dressed up as a Newsie for Halloween in first grade.

Ilene Palacios

Ilene Palacios is a contributing editor of Gozamos, a nonprofit Latinx online publication and media collective. She is also co-manager of community, art and culture space, Cultura in Pilsen.

In 2016, Ilene co-organized that year's edition of Vives Q, a Latinx LGBTQ series that featured six transgender trailblazers, and that autumn she joined local activists to travel to Standing Rock Prayer Camp in North Dakota to stand in solidarity with the water protectors fighting against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This year, she continues this work and organized Vives Q: Labs, a series of LGBTQ workshops and panels that focused on topics of immigration rights, bi+ inclusion, transgender rights and domestic violence.

Did you know? Ilene is a huge Harry Potter nerd and reads the book series every night before bed.

C. Russell Price

C. Russell Price ( they/them ), 28, is an Appalachian genderqueer punk writer originally from Virginia but now lives on the north side of Chicago.

Their creative nonfiction and poetry has been published in Lunch, Story Club Magazine, Nimrod International, Court Green, The HIV Here and Now Project, and elsewhere. Their chapbook Tonight, We Fuck the Trailer Park Out of Each Other was released last summer by Sibling Rivalry Press and is under consideration for the 20th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards. They are a Literary Death Match Champion and a Lambda Fellow in Poetry. Russell teaches poetry at Northwestern University and with marginalized groups across Chicago.

Did you know? C. Russell Price plays acoustic rap/pop mashups on the piano. You can find them on a random Tuesday playing at Uncommon Ground's open mic.

JES SCHEINPFLUG

Jes Scheinpflug, MSW, 29, is an advocate for social and economic justice issues, including racial equity, LGBTQIA rights, fair and affordable housing, living wage, police/prison abolition and immigration reform. Jes values grassroots organizing with individuals and communities, with a belief that collaboration and solidarity are necessary for true [r]evolution.

Jes is a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Togo during 2010-2012, and is an AmeriCorps alum. They received their BSW from Illinois State University and their MSW from Loyola University Chicago. Jes and the team at TransWorks just created Infinite Genders, a poetry book that shares experiences of trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming individuals.

Jes is currently the development director for Nothing Without a Company, encouraging marginalized people to embrace their creativity and serves as on the Board of Directors for Expanding Lives, a nonprofit that empowers West African girls who are the first in their family to attend high school.

Did you know? Jes loves Chicago so much, they've lived in the city on and off for more than 20 years.

Kevin Strowder

Kevin Strowder, 29, ventured to Chicago in 2010 to live in community and serve with 13 unique individuals from around the country—all compelled to give a year of service in AmeriCorps. After building meaningful relationships with some resilient young people in the city, it became evident why supporting youth would take shape as a personal mission for Kevin. This led to completion of another year in service with Public Allies Chicago, an eye-opening encounter with a multitude of organizations in the nonprofit sector, and a newfound journey around navigating the mission-driven efforts in which Kevin strongly believes.

Over the next seven years, Kevin's work would span the spectrum of youth development, strategic partnership and civic engagement. As the current program manager for a thriving nonprofit designed to reshape the educational platform for young people here in the city, the plan is to dream bigger and push even harder.

Upon completion of a master's degree in organization development this fall, Kevin will resume the work which calls him to act on purpose, and unremittingly uplift the folks rarely offered a seat at the table.

Did you know? It is a life goal of Kevin's to someday appear on Wheel of Fortune as a dynamic pair with his mama. Also, she has always been his champion.

Carolyn Wahlskog

Carolyn Wahlskog, 28, is a licensed clinical social worker for two youth organizations: 360 Youth Services and Youth Outlook.

For the last six years, Carolyn has worked with Youth Outlook, an agency that supports LGBTQ+ youth across DuPage, Kane, DeKalb, LaSalle, Whiteside and suburban Cook counties. She currently serves as the Community Education and Gender Programming Manager and supports trans and gender expansive youth ages 12 to 25 through the Transcend Drop-In Center.

Carolyn is also the senior program manager at 360 Youth Services' Transitional Housing Program for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. In addition to these roles, Carolyn is the co-chair of the DuPage Community Network: Professionals Serving LGBTQ+ Youth, a volunteer with Transformative Justice Law Project's Name Change Mobilization and a member of the Linden Oaks Behavioral Health's Transgender Taskforce which is working to change the culture of the hospital to be safe and affirming to trans and gender-expansive patients.

Did you know? Carolyn has a passion for podcasts, donuts and her poodle, Ole. Also, her ultimate goal is to open a bagel shop as that was her favorite job in college. ( Shout out to Bloomington Bagel Company! )

Milo Vieland

Milo Vieland ( he/him ), 24, was born in New York City and raised in the Midwest. He graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in comparative American studies before moving to Chicago in 2014.

Milo was a volunteer at the Transformative Justice Law Project, working on the Hidden Expressions zine and helping organize Trans Day of Remembrance events. Milo also began volunteering at After Hours drop in night for trans and gender non-conforming people at Howard Brown Health, where he is now a medical case manager. He helps people navigate healthcare systems and advocates for healthcare access for trans people and people living with HIV. Milo presents on trans health advocacy and quality healthcare, most recently at the Midwest LGBTQ Health Symposium, the National Trans Health Conference in Atlanta, and the HRSA end+disparities Learning Exchange.

Did you know? Milo is an avid fan of Friday Night Lights—the book, the TV series, and the film.

Alicia Williams

Alicia Williams, 29, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, and raised in Richmond, Virginia.

Her summers as a child were spent on the South Side of Chicago, where her love for the city blossomed. In 2006, she relocated to the Chicago area with her mother. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in politics, she joined Americorps, where she worked with Chicago's immigrant community.

Since then she has solely worked with community-based organizations that provide direct service to Chicago's communities of color. Currently, she is working at Howard Brown Health in Englewood engaging residents in healthcare they deserve on their terms.

Did you know? Alicia spent a semester of college abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she worked with an organizing group of Black Argentines who were fighting to get their ethnic identity added to the census. They were successful one year after she returned to the United States.

Connor Williams

Connor Williams, 25, is a clinical social worker and therapist currently working as the behavioral health program coordinator for Care2Prevent—a comprehensive HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention program through the University of Chicago—and as a staff therapist for IntraSpectrum Counseling in the Andersonville neighborhood. After finishing his bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Colorado, Connor moved to Chicago to pursue graduate education at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

Throughout his career, Connor has focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and care, primarily working with LGBTQ young people and youth experiencing homelessness in Denver and Chicago. Among many other things, Connor is passionate about creating spaces that honor the narratives and personal journeys of his clients, believing deeply in a philosophy of social work and therapeutic practice that is client-centered and social justice-oriented.

Connor recently completed the Fellowship Program through the Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis, and finished the beginning year training through the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute. In the coming years, he hopes to pursue doctorate education in order to further explore and develop innovative approaches to HIV/AIDS prevention, with specific focus on approaches that cultivate the physical, emotional and spiritual health of LGBTQ-identified individuals.

Did you know? Connor and his partner, Keith, are obsessed with Harry Potter. For their wedding, they had photos taken of them on broomsticks while they chased around a golden snitch.

Rae Chardonnay Taylor

Rae Chardonnay Taylor, 29, is a DJ and arts administrator with a background in events management and production.

She began DJing in 2010 and has since held residencies at venues in Chicago including Underground Wonder Bar and The Promontory and has circulated many private and public events to share her musical styling techniques. She is the founder of Black Eutopia, a series of popup programming intended to cultivate space for marginalized communities. She is also a co-founder of Party Noire and #trapyogaparty.

Rae utilizes her passion for activism to create community outreach and development strategies through event coordination. Her involvement in programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Stony Island Arts Bank, School of the Art Institute and Soho House Chicago have catapulted her career in unimaginable ways. She is dedicated to encouraging a life of open-minded learning and expression. musical explorations include house from around the world, soul, funk, disco, hip-hop and R&B.

Did you know? Rae was recently noted as Chicago's Best DJ by the Chicago Reader—and she is dedicated to making backs sweat on the dance floor.

Dylan Geick

Dylan Geick, 18, has only been an openly gay member of the LGBTQ community for a year now, and it's been the best year of his life. He was an all-American and all-state-winning wrestler at Stevenson High School, compiling an 86-8 record.

"I didn't realize how connected and supportive the LGBT community is," Dylan told Windy City Times in a March profile. "From the moment I came out, there was outreach from so many people, [offering] guidance and advice. It surprised me how much people cared in a positive way, how much they really wanted to help me.

"To the kids in the closet who are worried [about coming out], there is such a huge community that wants to help, and that was pretty surprising to me."

Did you know? Dylan is now committed to attend Columbia University and will wrestle in Division I.

Adam Davies

Adam Davies, 19, grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin.

He is currently an undergraduate student at Northwestern University studying biology and aocial policy. He hopes to continue on to be a university professor and pursue research involving the transgender community.

At Northwestern, Adam has two main passions: speaking out against sexual violence and

advocating for transgender students. Adam is a vocal survivor presence on campus where he has

spoken multiple times about the intersections of queer identities and sexual assault.

In response to a letter written by the dean of students that Adam felt halfheartedly pledged to assist transgender students, he realized it was time to take action to make the university accountable to be a safe space for its transgender community. He currently works closely with University administration and staff in order to achieve gender-affirming healthcare, restroom facilities and correct pronoun usage for all students.

He hopes that, in the future, transgender students who go to Northwestern will not have to face the

struggles he did and can be empowered to be leaders for the transgender community. In addition, he hopes to assist Northwestern in becoming an example for other schools on how to provide

necessary resources for their transgender students.

Did you know? Adam performs on campus as his amateur drag character—" Dick NU" ( pronounced "in you" )—actively mocking ideas of toxic masculinity at Northwestern.

Artem Kolesov

Artem Kolesov, 23, is originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia.

He began his violin studies at the age of 6 with renowned violinist Natalya Maximenko; he soon after was launched as a young prodigious talent and performed throughout Russia. Later, Artem went on to study with Professor Irina Chichina. At 12, he won first prize at the International Violin Competition in Tallinn, Estonia. Thereafter, he took first prize at the Freiburg International Violin Competition in Germany and was awarded a government prize as the most outstanding young violinist in Saint Petersburg, Russia ( 2009 ). He has performed several times as a soloist with the renowned Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. One of those performances was recorded, and at the age of 16 Artem was invited to study with Philippe Djokic at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Artem now lives in Chicago and studies violin with Almita Vamos.

In March 2017 Artem came out to his family, and later posted a video on YouTube where he shared his experience of growing up gay in a Pentecostal family. His coming-out story was published by BuzzFeed, CNN, NPR, Windy City Times and other media outlets in order to highlight the issue of treatment of the LGBT community in Russia and Chechnya.

Did you know? Due to an anti-gay propaganda law, Artem's coming-out video put him at risk of arrest if he returns to Russia.

SPECIAL JOURNALIST AWARD

Liz Baudler

Liz Baudler, 26, never thought she'd be a journalist—her degree from Columbia College Chicago is in fiction writing.

However, Liz realized she was decades from writing a novel and started talking to authors instead; occasionally, that's earned her money. She joined Windy City Times as a freelance writer in 2014. Career highlights include stories about LGBTQ health and psychology as well as interviewing musician Amanda Palmer. Liz also co-hosts Sappho's Salon, a monthly performance series at Women and Children First Bookstore for women, trans and non-binary artists, and has told stories herself at Outspoken, Loose Chicks and Fillet of Solo, among others.

Currently, Liz works with the National LGBT Media Association, a coalition of 12 regional LGBT newspapers of which Windy City Times is a member. This helps her indulge her loves of social media, journalism and LGBTQ history. From 2013 to 2016, Liz delivered lectures on current and past LGBTQ scientists at both Columbia College and Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Her future plans include sharpening her journalism skills by covering LGBTQ advertising and marketing, reading lots of queer writing and publishing her poetry chapbook.

Did you know? Liz's non-writing jobs involved feeding giraffes, holding lizards and giving tours on a real WWII German submarine. She's worked at Brookfield Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry.


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