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Stephenson County She-roes

She-Roes of Stephenson County banner

Stephenson County She-roes

Women supporting and uplifting women! March celebrates Women’s History Month. While we can all promote the work of global leaders who have advanced the role of women, here in Stephenson County, we can do better! There are so many SHE-ROES RIGHT NOW who are making our community a better place and innovating the way we do business and contribute to a better future.

We asked women who live and work in Stephenson County to nominate their she-ro to recognize and promote the positive support and activity advancing women, business and our community.

Dorothy Chatman

Dorothy Chatman

Dorothy advocates for both Stephenson and Jo Daviess Couniy seniors on a daily basis. As a case supervisor of Healthcare Plus, she works diligently to ensure that seniors are able to stay in their homes, while still having allowing them stay in the communities they live in. Dorothy is still a caregiver for a family member, and being a former caregiver for other clients, she is driven to advocate for seniors and their best interests. She provides a source of encouragement for the caregiver team and sees to it they provide top quality care to each senior. Dorothy and other team members visit each client personally at least twice a year. During client visits, they make sure each senior is getting the proper support they need, and is able to refer them to the Stephenson County Senior Center, Golden Meals, PT/OT, and Skilled Nursing services as needed. Dorothy has a heart of gold, and her heart in the right place by making sure that every senior lives a good quality-filled life and being able to do so in the safety and comfort of their own home for as long as they are able. She is a SHE-RO!

Dr. Rocio del Castillo

Dr. Rocio del Castillo

Rocio began her career as a school psychologist in Peru and has dedicated her professional career to being an advocate for educational equity and social justice. Her rich and diverse experience includes serving for over 20 years in both public and private school systems, where she has received recognition and accolades for her work in the special education, bilingual, and dual language settings. Rocio currently serves as Assistant Superintendent for Bilingual Education in Freeport School District 145 where she works is working to transform and enrich the services provided to the multilingual learners and their families.

 

Liz Gerber

Liz Gerber

In Northwestern Illinois, the name “Liz Gerber” is synonymous with the concepts of student support, professional empowerment, and civic engagement. Over a remarkably dedicated — and decorated — tenure spanning roughly three decades at Highland Community College, Liz has illuminated the journeys of thousands of Cougars. She has headed Highland’s Division of Student Development and Support Services as Vice President and Chief Student Services Officer for ten years. Liz is a leader at every level of the institution, from directing stakeholders across campus and the community in strategic planning and enrollment management to guiding the Behavioral Intervention Team and acting as Title IX Coordinator. Traditionally, Highland has served a large population of girls and women, and Liz has proven herself to be an ally for all, but especially to our most vulnerable and at-risk Cougars. She successfully spearheaded support for families with the implementation of campus child care and has become a trusted personal advocate for students navigating life crises or seeking learning accommodations.

Beyond these critical aspects of care, Liz is the tireless supervisor of all student activities and extracurricular services at Highland. She rarely misses a Student Senate meeting or fun activity for Cougars. Despite being an administrator, she serves as an immediate contact for the concerns of students, parents, staff and faculty. Liz is also an advocate for emerging leaders. Within her division, she has brought in three new women directors. She encourages them to grow and develop in their roles by providing coaching and being a role model.

Ashley Huffines

Ashley Huffines

This lady is amazing, and she is a librarian! Incredibly smart and resourceful, she is compassionate and truly a kind person. But she can also kick butts and take names. A truly fabulous human being!

Ashley leads by example and has the heart of a servant leader. She has the ability to gently challenge thoughts, and ask tough questions without casting judgement or shame. She holds space for others to examine a different possibility without pressing or forceful persuasion. From the way she talks about her profession, and her team you know she truly loves what she does and is passionate about the services the library provides for the community. Ashley makes Freeport a better place for all! We are thankful she is here. 

Photo of Chris Kuberski, Highland Community College

Chris Kuberski

Chris Kuberski, Highland Community College

Chris Kuberski is a proven leader who simultaneously took on the challenges of a pandemic and a new position as president of Highland Community College. A servant leader, Chris demonstrates courage, resilience, and integrity. She is a skilled problem solver, communicator, culture builder, and negotiator. Since hitting the ground sprinting, Chris continues to engage all of Highland in providing an exceptional education. Her position is unique, as women comprise less than a third of college presidents across the nation. But she didn’t have the luxury of a celebratory reception or transitional phase — as nearly 3,000 students and close to 300 employees were looking to her for clarity, reassurance, and solutions in 2020. Chris met every one of the challenges COVID-19 dealt with grit, determination, and a can-do spirit. She launched Campus Connection, an all-employee forum to communicate and support connections. She revitalized the Diversity Committee, established shared governance, and began foundational culture work through ONE Highland. She took on barriers and paved innovative new pathways for students. In addition to her administrative duties at Highland, Chris serves on the boards of the Greater Freeport Partnership and Regional Planning Council, and is a member of the Women’s Enrichment Network for the Greater Freeport Partnership, the Association of Supervision and Curriculum, and the Presidents Council of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB). Chris Kuberski transforms lives in Freeport and the surrounding community, empowering learners and economic growth. It is my sincere honor and privilege to nominate her for the SHE-roes Recognition.

Haley Kurtz

Haley Kurtz

Haley Kurtz is an exceptional role model and educator, consistently going above and beyond for her students and community. Her unwavering commitment and voice of reason in challenging situations set her apart as a deserving candidate for recognition.

After graduating high school, Haley pursued her passion for education, earning a BSE in English from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. True to her roots, she returned to her hometown, Freeport, becoming an English teacher at Freeport High School. Her motto, “Once a Pretzel, Always a Pretzel,” reflects her dedication to the community.

In addition to her teaching role, Haley serves as the Yearbook Advisor for the Freeport School District. Her impact extends beyond the classroom, shaping the educational experiences of students through various avenues.

Outside of her professional life, Haley finds solace in reading and proudly wears the title of a devoted dog mom. Her well-rounded and compassionate nature makes her not just an educator but a source of inspiration for those around her.

Haley Kurtz embodies the spirit of excellence, making her more than deserving of any accolades that come her way.

Jane West

Jane West

Jane embodies the qualities of an innovator, mentor, advocate, business leader, and SHE-RO through her outstanding contributions to her profession and her community. She consistently pioneers new approaches and solutions, earning recognition as a visionary leader. Jane mentors others, empowering them to achieve their goals, while also advocating for causes like fairness in employment, leadership development, and sustainability. As a business leader, she has led her organization to remarkable success, including winning the prestigious “Best Places to Work” award. Jane’s leadership, dedication, and achievements inspire women everywhere, making her a true SHE-RO and role model for future generations.

Jane’s passion and commitment to the employees’ well-being at Nuestro Queso is evident in the respect and admiration shown to her by the employees. She is always looking to find innovative ways to improve safety in the work environment, utilizes the latest HR tools available to streamline processes and improve communication between employees and management, and promotes the company brand so that prospective employees are aware of the positive environment of Nuestro Queso.
Jane is well deserving of recognition and anyone employed at Nuestro Queso would echo those sentiments.

Jane is a key part of several new projects including outfitting new employee facilities, understanding the needs and requirements necessary to improve the skill levels of the work force and works to improve the culture in the growing factory operations. Her role is about people.

Outside of work, Jane is also involved in the local community, coaching volleyball and involved in a variety of youth-oriented activities. By way of example, Jane is a part of the Birth to Five council. Birth to Five Illinois is a critical part of ensuring that the communities are part of the decision made about early childhood education (ECEC) and care by elected officials and state agencies. Jane also works with Education for Employment (EFE) Region #220 and CareerTec to teach youth about careers in manufacturing. In fact, she hosted a group of young students to visit the factory and take a tour of the unique aspects of cheesemaking. Further, Jane is the Stockton Park Commissioner/Treasurer.

Collectively, her involvement and leadership with her work as well as remaining true to the community are the underpinnings of this well-deserved nomination.

 

Nakita Woods

Nakita Woods

Nakita Woods epitomizes innovation, mentorship, advocacy, business acumen, and heroism. As a versatile entrepreneur, she shatters gender barriers as 1 of 18 female auto repair shop owners, the only in Illinois. She owns and operates Woods Garage Automotive in Freeport, working along side her husband.

Nakita’s unwavering commitment to community service is evident in her dual roles as treasurer of Freeport Festivals Inc., where she and other members of the committee successfully rejuvenated the Tutty Baker Days (Tutty Baker Fest) after a two-decade hiatus, and as secretary of the Freeport Hot Rods, orchestrating the acclaimed Tutty Baker Fest Car Show. Beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors, Nakita champions legal advocacy, interning under a local law firm while owning her own advocacy which specializing in critical areas such as domestic violence, fathers rights, and family court proceedings.

Nakita’s dedication to empowerment extends to both her blended family of seven children and her broader community, where she serves as a mentor and leader. She adeptly manages all facets of her businesses, including intricate design and marketing strategies, all while balancing her familial responsibilities. Her resilience, compassion, and entrepreneurial zeal distinguish her as a true SHE-RO, inspiring others to pursue their aspirations boldly and make meaningful contributions to society.

Moreover, Nakita’s philanthropic efforts are commendable. She extends a helping hand to individuals seeking to rebuild their lives after domestic abuse by providing essential household items and clothing for women and children. Additionally, her annual Thanksgiving dinner basket drive ensures that every member of the community can enjoy a hearty holiday meal, reflecting her deep-seated commitment to community welfare.

Nakita’s enduring dedication to uplifting others, especially those in vulnerable circumstances, underscores her profound compassion and generosity, cementing her status as a genuine SHE-RO and an emblem of hope within her community.

Key Industries

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Healthcare

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Construction, Plumbing, Heating, & Service

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Private Label Food Manufacturing

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