Standing: Blake Barnard, Kristin Gaskill, Yujie Chen, Bobby Hambrick, Christine Deehring, Audrey Williams, Julie Locke Moore, Wade Blumenshine, J. Logan Block. Seated: Dr. Paul M. Jeziorczak, Nicole Frederick. Photo by Kelli Drake/DRAKEphoto
The 40 Leaders Under Forty Class of 2019 had some surprising revelations—from unusual hobbies and things they wish they would’ve done differently, to coping with loss and working through stressful situations. Here are some things you may not have known about some of this year’s winners!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Tamara Meister: A performer. My parents gave me every opportunity for voice lessons, dance lessons, theater involvement, etc. It was only upon completing my undergraduate degree that I realized I was uniquely positioned to succeed as an attorney. Through my parents’ support of my interests as a child, I gained public speaking experience, confidence, and was comfortable in front of a crowd. The arts directly contributed to my success in law school and in practice, and I am now deeply fulfilled by a career where I can feel confident in my own skin.
Dr. Paul Jeziorczak: My mom is a tailor and my dad is a contractor, so I always wanted to work with my hands. After meeting my friend Brian who has muscular dystrophy, I wanted to be a pediatric surgeon.
What is something no one in your office/organization knows about you?
Corey Dolan: I have been in love with my wife since I was 16 years old.
Kristin Gaskill: I was severely injured in a car accident 11 years ago, and, as a very active person, being limited physically and working through my recovery was something that really impacted and challenged me. It was by the grace of God and support and encouragement from friends and family that I was able to make a full recovery.
Demario Boone: I would love to run for mayor of Peoria someday.
Brent Baker: I was in not one, but two, truly awful nu-metal bands in high school and college.
Mitch Gilfillan: I legally changed my name in court from Matthew to Mitch in the eighth grade. I wanted to be like the 1990s Chicago Cubs pitcher Mitch Williams.
Courtney Newgard: I was the 2006 Miss Macon County Fair. I learned a lot that year about myself, my presentation skills, my community, and how I could give back.
Camille Yameen: I am highly skilled at walking while balancing items on my head! I learned how to carry buckets of water while I was in Madagascar, and now I can pretty much carry anything.
Mollie Shepherdson: I studied sign language as a second language in college.
Kyle Rose: I was in a punk band in high school.
Adam Duvall: I only started wearing sunglasses last year.
Kimberly McGhee: I absolutely love The Temptations! I went to see them in concert when they came to Peoria.
Julie Locke Moore: Someday I hope to study biblical counseling to help women and children.
Sandy Garza: I grew up on a farm mending fences, cutting our own firewood for heat, and training horses.
Tye N. Smith: I was valedictorian of my middle school.
Nicole Frederick: As a stress reliever, I sweep my kitchen floor.
Stephanie AlKhafaji: I am the one responsible for regularly stealing all the Dr. Peppers out of the upstairs fridge!
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
Demario Boone: Self-doubt. Being counted out due to youth, size and stature. Being told by some in my field that I wasn’t good enough. Having to break through that wall and press forward.
Dr. Angela E. Moriarity: When I was in school for my PhD, I also had three young children at home and a full-time job. I was approached to lead a human resources department, train the staff, and bring it into compliance for a company employing approximately 700 employees at that time. It has been about five years now, and I finally feel like we can take a breath. Without the help of many people involved, we would not be where we are today. I will always be grateful to those individuals who worked side by side with me and listened to me on my most emotional days. I learned so much during this time and appreciate the challenge looking back.
Tye N. Smith: Growing up in poverty.
Sandy Garza: Becoming a foster mother to three children, ages five months to five years, for 2.5 years and each needed various levels of specialized care. Returning them home was harder than I could ever have imagined, but knowing it was their happy ending was the greatest blessing.
Julie Locke Moore: Growing up in a fatherless home.
Audrey Williams: I lost my father to Parkinson’s disease in my mid-20s. My dad was my biggest supporter and number-one fan, and every day is a challenge without him in my world. Losing a parent at any age is hard, but when you are still so young, I think it is extra-painful.
Ellen Adams: Student debt. It haunts me still to this day.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Audrey Kamm: Be willing to make mistakes and admit that you don’t know everything.
Jennifer Thompson: Trust your gut.
Erica Robinson: Let go of all of your fears and doubts and just go for what you want in life. You are your biggest obstacle.
Jake Turner: You are going to meet a beautiful young lady within a year; if you play your cards right, she will make you the happiest man alive… Don’t screw it up. (Basically, I wouldn’t change a thing!)
Liz Wiest: Your quirks, flaws and talents were given to you with deliberate purpose. Be yourself and don't be afraid of being judged.
Nicole Sutherland: Give yourself permission to be where you are, it is absolutely enough.
Yujie Chen: A) Any qualitative transformation of outstanding achievements comes from quantitative accumulation. B) The choice is greater than the effort.
Bobby Hambrick: Be more patient and don’t forget to live and enjoy life along the way.
Camille Yameen: Stop crying over that boy!
Ellen Adams: You can only control your own response and outcome—not others—so remain positive and don’t let others get you down.
Blake Barnard: Stop looking in the rearview mirror. Yes, things happened to you, and we both know you weren’t perfect, but leave those feelings and thoughts where they are and let’s move forward. You are too good to waste your talents and dwell on past mistakes.
Danielle Easton: Stop thinking you can pull off bangs!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Dr. Paul Jeziorczak: Move with a sense of rhythm and purpose.
Mollie Shepherdson: My current boss says, “No one will ever leave a meeting and say, ‘She was too prepared and organized.’” I use that advice in many aspects of my life.
Katie Jurgens: Don’t stress about things that haven’t and may never happen.
Yujie Chen: Do not try to satisfy everyone.
Nicole Frederick: You see in others what you look for.
Hannah Ramlo: “You will not ‘find yourself’ in a vacuum or while waiting for inspiration to strike, so connect—and stay connected—with the real world.” (from The Enneagram Institute.) This advice hits home for me. As an introvert, it can be tough to show up in the community when I don’t feel like it, but I’ve never regretted it, and in fact, it’s usually the best way to get back on my game.
Anthony J.B. Strickland: The advice from one of my first leaders at Caterpillar was “If you don’t swing at the pitch, you don’t give yourself a chance to hit the ball.” … That empowered me to start making decisions and be confident and comfortable with the outcome.
Courtney Newgard: It’s okay to go rogue. In human resources, we’re the rule makers, rule enforcers and rule followers. It’s against my nature to break the rules. However, you need to go rogue to figure out new ways to overcome obstacles.
Camille Yameen: The best life advice I’ve ever received is to make my bed first thing in the morning. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid and it’s a habit now. It’s an accomplishment first thing, it looks nice, and it makes ending the day back in my bed feel peaceful. PS