Get IN Chicago's STAR Awards are designed to encourage, promote, and recognize members of SYNC mentoring and therapy teams who have demonstrated a spirit of collaboration, a tireless commitment to youth, have gone above and beyond the call of duty, and have been responsive to the unique needs of youth they serve.  Congratulations to the honorees so far!



Terrence Isaac, Westside Health Authority

"Terrence represents the meaning of the STAR award. He is proactive in creating partnerships with other organizations and stakeholders to provide wrap-around services to young people. He makes himself available beyond work hours including evening and weekends for his mentees, and is present in their times of need. He is committed to working with his colleagues and partners to offer the youth quality services. And lastly, Terrence is responsive to the unique needs of each individual young person. He meets them where they are and never applies a “cookie-cutter” approach to mentoring. Although with a son of his own, Terrence is father, brother, uncle, and friend to so many youth."

- Tina Cooper, Director of Youth Programs at Westside Health Authority

Jimi Orange from Children's Home + Aid receives the Get IN Chicago STAR award from Toni Irving

Jimi Orange, Children's Home + Aid

“In addition to supervising the SYNC team and providing on-site support, Jimi works collaboratively with community partners to ensure the success of the program. He is able to see the big picture and has been willing to make introductions, share resources, and help establish relationships to ensure not only success for the youth that Children’s Home and Aid serves but all the youth in need of services through SYNC.”

- Amanda Whitlock, Director of Clinical Services at Children's Home + Aid

Daisy Mertzel, UCAN

“There are so many examples of Daisy’s commitment to the youth in our program that it is difficult to choose just one. She has supported so many youth during the SYNC screening and enrollment process, taking them on adventure therapy hiking and kayaking trips to keep them engaged before services start. Even though she has not become the assigned mentor for all of the youth she referred, their families have continued to reach out to her for guidance and additional services, and she has never failed to help them. Daisy ensured there was truly a warm handoff throughout the SYNC network. ”

-Jacob Dancer, Program Manager at UCAN

Kelly McGee, One Hope United

“Kelly has consistently gone above and beyond and taken initiative to support SYNC. He takes steps to keep youth engaged and attending their SPARCS groups, and he makes every effort available to reach out to referred youth.  When we needed a location, he even utilized his own community resources to locate a space for us.  He is our “go-to guy” and we really appreciate him greatly.”

-Leteria R.S. Price, General Counseling Supervisor at One Hope United

LaShawn Fonza, BBF Family Services

"LaShawn regularly goes above and beyond. She exercises great dedication in her outreach to the youth in the community, mentoring them 24/7. She attends court hearings every Wednesday at the JTDC, refers youth to the screener and then awaits the outcome, carefully following youth through the process. She inspires other BBF mentors to be courageous and to have a “no holds barred” attitude, demonstrated by her willingness to meet her associates at home, no matter where they live. Ms. China helps the youth acknowledge the role they play in their current situation and empowers them to make positive changes. She is more than a team player; she is an enforcer of cultural value."

-Tatino Williams, Mentoring Coordinator at BBF Family Services

Lauren Mast, One Hope United

“Lauren always asks the right questions and puts time into being well-prepared for every situation. She is consistently the first one there for any meeting and event, and diligent about checking in and communicating well with others in any process, including her MFS navigator, Charles. She is deeply committed to her kids, working hard to meet their needs. She also connects incredibly well with them, using creativity in how she meets with them and develops strong bonds.”

-Leteria R.S. Price, General Counseling Supervisor at One Hope United


Darius Ballinger from KLEO received the Get IN Chicago STAR Award

Darius Ballinger, KLEO

“Darius has shown not only passion and dedication, but also innovation and an ability to analyze and adapt to the needs of his youth. He has been very instrumental in helping me get in touch with some of the youth that I was having trouble getting in contact with. I have seen him in action at KLEO - from obtaining transcripts to help youth get back into school to offering to take the youth to get IDs so that they could be one step closer to finding employment.  The level of trust that the youth have in Darius is astounding. There is no doubt in my mind that Darius is a glimpse of what the future holds for these programs, and that future is bright.”

-Kevin Murillo, SYNC Youth Navigator at Metropolitan Family Services

Adreiona Fox from UCAN receives the Get IN Chicago STAR Award

Adreiona Fox, UCAN

"During UCAN's weekend camping trip - which was rainy and wet the entire weekend - Adreiona demonstrated tireless positivity that kept the SYNC youth and her co-workers motivated to perform the teambuilding tasks. Her tireless commitment and collaboration led to many youth being exposed to nature and professional experiences that would have not come their way otherwise.  Adreiona also mentored and advocated for two of her youth to successfully present in front of a thousand people at Chicago Ideas Week.  Because of her support, our SYNC youth have taken more steps towards healing from their trauma and becoming future leaders. UCAN is thankful to have Adreiona be part of the SYNC team!"

-Jacob Dancer, Program Manager at UCAN

Omar Guzman of Children's Home + Aid accepts his Get IN Chicago STAR award

Omar Guzman, Children's Home + Aid

“Omar was instrumental in connecting Children’s Home + Aid with young people in our program. He was persistent: calling and leaving voicemails with families and probation officers, knocking on doors and windows, tracking youth down in their respective schools, and even talking to neighbors to learn about participant whereabouts. Omar is always available for youth when they need him and shows a great deal of compassion.  Omar is full of knowledge and does a great job sharing information with the youth. Even with all of this, Omar still finds time to be a support to co-workers. I am lucky to have him as my partner. Omar’s compassion and hard work make him completely deserving of the S.T.A.R. award." 

- LaTia K. Lane, Therapist at Children's Home + Aid

Kotera Heard wins STAR award from Get IN Chicago

Kotera Heard, BBF Family Services

“Ms. Heard wears many hats - mentor/tutor/confidant /guardian angel. She is a true team player, and she can often be found working even when she is not on the clock, at school meetings and functions.  She even stays after the building is closed to interact with youth who sometimes need that extra love.” 

- LaShawn Fonza, Mentor, BBF Family Services

Jide Ofoma wins STAR award from Get IN Chicago

Jide Ofoma, Metropolitan Family Services

“Ms. Ofoma works tirelessly in the field to assist young people, working at all hours of the night to reach the youth in the SYNC Program. She is especially effective with the youth and their families. Several times this navigator's vehicle has broken down and she still finds a way to reach her youth.”

- Joyce Austin, Senior Case Manager, Metropolitan Family Services

D'elegance Lane from Westside Health Authority receives the Get IN Chicago STAR Award

D'elegance Lane, Westside Health Authority

 “D’elegance Lane has gone and continues to go above and beyond in her efforts to show her youth that she has their best interests at heart as their advocate. She helps young people enroll in GED programs and alternative schools, has taken her youth them to see their children in foster care, and organized an Women’s Empowerment Brunch to uplift and inspire young women.  After some participants expressed a need to be healthier, D’elegance took the initiative to start exercising with them.”

-Marcus Warren, Lead Mentor at Westside Health Authority

Dhara Nathwani from One Hope United receives the Get IN Chicago STAR Award

Dhara Nathwani, One Hope United

"Dhara has reached out to community partners and been flexible with her schedule, even committing to working on Saturdays to service youth in need.  She has gone to the homes of the youth to enlist them and found ways to transport them to and from group to ensure their presence and participation. Moreover, her therapeutic approach helps young people truly understand the material."

-Kelly McGee, Therapist at One Hope United

LaNita Reed from Youth Advocate Programs receives the Get IN Chicago STAR Award

LaNita Reed, Youth Advocate Programs

“When Ms. Reed comes to our building, our students affectionately call her 'Mom'  and lean on her daily for her love and support.  Not one time have I seen her fall short in this diligence.  Ms. Reed has made it her own business to meet each child where they are and build with them. She never judges but always encourages - I could not imagine a better recipient for the STAR award.”  

-Richard Smith, Principal at Fenger High School

Marcus Warren from Westside Health Authority receives the Get IN Chicago STAR Award

Marcus Warren, Westside Health Authority

"Marcus Warren is an embodiment of S.T.A.R.: he’s reliable, dependable, and hardworking.  When we lost our supervisor Terrence Isaac, Marcus stepped up with not only with the staff, but with the youth to help them in their grieving process. He also continues to fight for peaceful solutions by conducting anger management group sessions. He understands that many of our youth associates must first be willing to put aside their differences and value one another in order to stand together."

-D'elegance Lane, Mentor at Westside Health Authority

Marcus Warren from Westside Health Authority receives the Get IN Chicago STAR Award

Jillian Mershon, Healthcare Alternative Systems

"Jillian is continuously reflecting and adapting her approach with each youth. Many of them come with very unique challenges that present barriers in the group setting.... but she is great at working as part of a team and uses a good understanding to keep her sessions inclusive and positive. Jillian has a great energy and vibe that pairs so well in working with youth populations." 

-Michelle Duda, Healthcare Alternative Systems

Marcus Warren from Westside Health Authority receives the Get IN Chicago STAR Award

Kevin Murillo, Metropolitan Family Services

"Kevin has been instrumental in SYNC since the very beginning - high energy, upbeat and collaborative. He is the glue that keeps the stakeholders connected. In his case management work, he nurtures relationships with schools, mentors, and clinicians to ensure the youth have a strong network of support... Kevin always goes the extra mile for the kids.”

-Jen McCraw, Program Manager at Metropolitan Family Services

Marcus Warren from Westside Health Authority receives the Get IN Chicago STAR Award

George Wilson, BBF Family Services

"Mr. George has the ability to bring the youth together. I can recall when we were short-staffed and he maneuvered throughout the entire building, interacting with all the youth. He jumped rope with the girls and played volleyball, then transformed and played basketball. Further, we all have a few youth on our caseloads who are struggling financially. I have driven Mr. George to houses where he drops off turkeys that he purchased with his personal finances. Where he finds the energy, I don’t know, but he is our superman!"

-LaShawn Fonza, Mentor at BBF Family Services