11 Alumni Inducted into Legacy Hall
The District 230 Foundation recently added 11 members to the distinguished list of alumni who inspire current students and remind them of all that is possible when you have the support of the D230 community. Legacy Hall was established to recognize and honor graduates from Sandburg, Stagg and Andrew High Schools who make an impact in their careers, their families and their communities.
Since 2008, the Foundation has been proud to recognize alumni from District 230 for their outstanding contributions in eight different categories: Education and Humanities - Science and Technology - Philanthropy and Non-Profit - Arts and Entertainment - Sports and Recreation - Business and Commerce - Government and Military - Community and Volunteerism
To be selected for Legacy Hall, candidates must not only be recognized for their careers, but also demonstrate a willingness to give back to their communities and to share their expertise, knowledge, and time with others. As part of Legacy Hall, candidates are able to return to their alma maters, and share the story of their careers with the students of District 230. The Foundation hopes and believes they will have a lasting impact on students’ paths in the future, creating the future generation of Legacy Hall inductees.
Congratulations Legacy Hall Class of 2022:
Brian Forystek graduated from Carl Sandburg High School in 1996. During his four years as an Eagle, Brian became one of the most accomplished baseball players in school history. As a pitcher, he broke the single season records for strike-outs, wins and ERA. Brian carried the Eagles to state in 1996 where he earned All-State honors and was named Player of the Year by the Chicago Tribune.
He was the first Carl Sandburg baseball player to be drafted out of high school by the Florida Marlins. Brian chose to attend Illinois State University and after an outstanding college baseball career, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched 7 seasons, playing at all levels in the organization. In 2002 he was placed on the Baltimore Orioles 40 man roster.
Brian’s passion for baseball and athletics lives on in his career and family life. Today, Brian runs two successful businesses centered around baseball: Future Stars Baseball Academy in Mokena and Chicago Elite which is a travel baseball and college recruiting organization. He has helped over 150 college commits since 2012 with 77 committing to Division I schools and 7 Major League Draft picks.
Brian’s daughters, Mia and Ella, share their father’s athleticism. He loves to cheer them on in soccer, basketball, cross country and track. Mia was the Illinois State Champion in the 800 meter AND mile last year. He is extremely proud of both girls who work hard and have lots of fun…just like Brian!
When Carolyn “Carie” Ganser was a student in the Special Education Program at Andrew High School, there were no athletic programs available to her. So she would stand on the sidelines and cheer when her older brother, Brian, played football and her younger sister, Katie, played softball.
It was after graduation that Carie ran across the Orland Park Special Recreation Volleyball League. She immediately loved it AND she was good at it! Carie’s confidence soared.
She tried more sports in the Special Recreation Program. Then she started competing in the Special Olympics. She ran track, played basketball, tried powerlifting and many other events. Carie flourished as an athlete and has earned well over 100 medals - many of them GOLD!
Carie was invited to become a Global Messenger for the Special Olympics. She wrote her own speeches and delivered them to corporate sponsors and donors. She gave interviews on television and radio. She traveled and became well known for her effective speeches.
Carie became the first athlete to serve on the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Illinois.
In 2002, Carie served as honorary coach when the Chicago Bears played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She got to do the coin toss and stay on the field for the whole game. She was also given the opportunity to open the Special Olympics Summer Games at Illinois State University.
Carie also works for Jewel-Osco. She started as a service clerk and has been there for 28 years. She is adored by all of her customers because of her smile and positive attitude.
Carie leads by example and encourages others to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals.
SMSgt John F. Kinsella III
Senior Master Sergeant John Kinsella’s accomplishments span the categories of Education, Military, and Music. He graduated from Andrew High School in 1995 having earned vocal and instrumental recognition in choir and band.
After high school, he attended Northwestern University to study Music Education and Tuba. Sergeant Kinsella was an instrumentalist for the 1997 Disney All-American College Band in Walt Disney World, FL.
Since the fall of 1999, Sergeant Kinsella has been the band teacher at Jerling Junior High School in Orland Park where he is known to his students as “Bandmaster K.” His talent, enthusiasm, and dedication have inspired generations of musicians. Students, under his direction, performed ceremonial music for then U.S. Senator, Barack Obama. Sergeant Kinsella also spent 4 years as Assistant Band Director at Carl Sandburg High School for marching, jazz, and pep bands.
Sergeant Kinsella is the resident military expert for District 135 and coordinates assemblies to honor military members and veterans. Sergeant Kinsella served in the Illinois Air National Guard from May 2000 to January 2022 at the 182nd Airlift Wing, in the 566th Air Force Band, the Air National Guard Band of the Midwest, as an instrumentalist. He has earned nearly 2 dozen military awards including the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal.
He continues to directly impact the lives of our community whether he is playing Taps at Lincoln National Cemetery for families of veterans, performing concerts with his wife on their front porch during Covid lockdowns, or being principal tuba in the Chicago Area Educators Orchestra, the Naperville Winds and the Wheaton Municipal Band.
Molly Nagle graduated from Stagg in 2011. As if by design, her high school experiences pointed her in the direction of her dream job. Molly’s success in A.P. U.S. History and A.P. Government, her involvement in the Drama program, her confidence as a television reporter for Youth and Government, her leadership skills as Student Council Class President would all prove valuable in the near future.
While attending University of Illinois, Molly was offered an internship with the ABC News Global Affairs team in Washington DC. As her internship was winding down, the team at “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos asked her to stay for the summer and intern on their program. When Molly graduated from U of I, she received a job offer from ABC to return to the “This Week” team as a production coordinator. In this role she helped with guests, wrote banners and worked on background research for the show.
Molly was promoted to Segment Producer for “This Week.” She wrote question outlines for interviews and field produced tape packages. Molly was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards for the segments she produced.
The 2020 election was on the horizon and Molly was approached to leave “This Week” to become a campaign reporter covering the Biden Campaign. She traveled around the country with the campaign reporting on what she saw - becoming the eyes and the ears of the campaign for other ABC reporters. Once President Biden was elected, she transitioned to her current position, Producer/Reporter for ABC News covering the White House.
Molly’s hard work and bold choices led her to a successful career in journalism.
Mike Probasco graduated from Carl Sandburg High School in 1983, and he was a fixture there long after. He devoted his time and talent to the Sandburg Athletic Boosters for many years. From 2010-2020, he served as President of the Boosters. Under his direction, the Boosters raised approximately 1.3 million dollars for 31 different sports programs and awarded $250,000 in athletic scholarships.
During Mike's tenure as president of the Boosters, he spent countless hours supervising parent volunteers, student athletes, working the concession stand on Friday nights, running board meetings, communicating with donors, and overseeing the well-known and well-respected Sandburg craft fair that typically raised $100,000 annually for the benefit of the student athletes.
Mike’s philanthropy extends even further. He spent many years volunteering his skills on behalf of the District 230 Foundation as a board member; working with community partners and planning fundraisers.
Prior to that, Mike was President of the Orland Youth Association’s High School Basketball League and manager of an elite travel baseball organization.
All of these good deeds were done on Mike’s personal time. Mike’s full time job is with Palos School District 118 and he has been there for 30 years.
Mike's efforts are so extraordinary and so expansive, he has been recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education who provided him the Meritorious Service Award in the category of Community Volunteer. The Carl Sandburg Athletic Hall of Fame inducted Mike in 2021.
Personally and professionally, Mike’s dedication benefits our community’s youth, their teachers and parents.
Colleen Reaney is in love with education. She has a gift for analyzing problems and finding solutions, particularly in the fields of education and business. She possesses an eagerness and readiness to tackle challenges, especially when it comes to the quality of education for others. She has an exceptional level of enthusiasm and energy for teaching, mentoring, and encouraging others to create and pursue their personal and professional goals.
Colleen graduated from Andrew High School in 1997 and went on to receive her B.A. in Speech Communications from Eastern Illinois University, her M.A. in Communications, Training and Development from Governors State University, and a doctoral degree from DePaul University in Curricular Studies. She is currently a PhD Candidate in Higher Education at Loyola University Chicago, focusing her dissertation research on defining external partnerships for higher education institutions.
Colleen recently became the Director of the Tillman Leadership Institute at The Pat Tillman Foundation dedicated to uniting and empowering remarkable military service members, veterans, and spouses as the next generation of leaders, committed to service beyond self. Prior to that, she was Director of the Executive and Professional Education Center at Loyola University in Chicago, where she taught and served as an administrator.
Colleen was invited to speak at Harvard University, has written several articles for the Huffington Post website, and named among the “Notable Women in Education” by Crain’s Business Media in 2018.
Brian Sladek graduated from Stagg in 1997. He was an honors student, an athlete, and a member of Youth and Government.
In 1999, as a twenty year old college student, Brian was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He returned home and began treatment; undergoing his first stem cell transplant. He continued his education at Moraine Valley and DePaul University and seemed to have defeated cancer.
Brian married Stagg alum Kate Kelly Sladek in 2007 and Brian began what was sure to be a lucrative career at Goldman Sachs. Shortly after, he was diagnosed for the second time at age thirty. He again went through treatment and another stem cell transplant, but his real battle was learning to cope with the depth of the emotional and physical effects of the disease.
A pivotal achievement for Brian was running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man/Woman of the Year campaign in 2012. Over the course of ten weeks, Brian and his team held 16 events, raising over $102,000 and winning the title. From that point on, Brian made it his goal to support others and advocate for the rights of patients like himself. He left Goldman Sachs and accepted a position within the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where he continued his work through not just that cancer diagnosis, but the two additional diagnoses that followed it. Even while in treatment, Brian served as the Director of Patient Advocacy for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Brian convened with legislators, fighting to change legislation and insurance coverage to provide better access to patients regardless of receiving IV or oral chemotherapy. Brian also worked to put together the LLS Survivorship Guide, a step-by-step guide that most hospitals in the Chicagoland area use. It provides cancer patients pertinent information on all aspects of their battle, along with resources and supports they and their families need.
Brian served as an advocate, a role model, and a warrior. He chose to lead a life of immense purpose. His legacy is the work he did for patient care and advocacy for cancer patients.
Max Strus is a 2014 graduate of Stagg High School. As a Charger, Max played football, varsity baseball, and was a 3-year member of the varsity basketball team.
Max began his collegiate career at Lewis University and was named second team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference. As a sophomore, Max led his team to the 2016 GLVC Championship and a berth in the Division II NCAA Tournament. In addition to setting school records for points scored in a single season (666) and points scored in a single game (52), Max was named first team GLVC All-Conference and a Division II All-American. He transferred to DePaul University, and during his final year, he was named second team All-Big East Conference and became only the second Blue Demon ever to score 700 points in a season, while setting the school record for 3-points in a season (113).
In November of 2019, Max made his NBA debut for the Chicago Bulls. Unfortunately, in December of 2019, Max suffered an ACL tear and was sidelined for the rest of the season. In 2020, Max signed a contract with the Miami Heat and appeared in 39 games. During the 2021-2022 season, Max appeared in 68 games and averaged 10.6 points per game. He helped the Heat finish with a record of 53-29 as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Max was inserted into the starting lineup for the playoffs, helping the Heat to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, one win away from the NBA Finals.
Max believes in giving back. Over the past few years, he has generously donated basketball shoes for every member of the Stagg Boys Basketball program. Max gave a Charger University presentation for freshmen and sophomore male students who struggled to start their academic careers on the right path.
In July of 2022, Max launched the Max Strus Basketball Camps at Stagg to inspire by teaching the fundamental skills of basketball. Proceeds from the camps went to the Andrew Weishar Foundation which helps families ease the financial burden of adolescents battling cancer.
Dr. Lauren Vollinger
Dr. Lauren Vollinger is a 2009 Stagg High School graduate. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at DePaul University and both a master’s degree and doctorate in Ecological-Community Psychology from University of Michigan, with research focusing on anti-human trafficking and human trafficking survivor advocacy.
Dr. Vollinger serves as a psychologist, evaluator, consultant, and award-winning community-based researcher whose work centers on linking agencies together to bridge service-related gaps for survivors of human trafficking.
Lauren puts each survivor at ease, creating a safe space to discuss their trauma and an understanding ear to hear their unique difficulties. Lauren’s research is the first of its kind that measures how people escaped their situation, not just what happened to them after they escaped. She intends to use this research as a way to evaluate programs and laws that pertain to human-trafficking survivors.
By partnering with local and state anti-trafficking task forces, schools, and law enforcement, she has managed to create a better understanding of the inter-organizational needs of agencies to support survivors of trafficking in their communities.
She is also passionate about incorporating the arts and creativity into research methods and social action. In her 2020 TedxTalk, “The Art of Amplifying Survivor Identities in Anti-Sex Trafficking Work,” she taught survivors to dance as a way of shaking “survivor” as their only label.
Anti-human trafficking is its infancy, and Dr. Vollinger is blazing that trail. Her research will ultimately lead to growth and added understanding of the topic and her community engagement will impact survivors greatly.
Lisa Vucsko is a 1990 graduate of Andrew High School. During her time as a T-Bolt, Lisa played on the volleyball, basketball, and Powder Puff football teams. She carried those experiences as a fair competitor and team player into her successful career in journalism.
Lisa has been the Assistant News Director/Managing Editor of WFLD-Fox Chicago for 14 years. She started there as a field producer shortly after graduating from University of Illinois. She worked her way up to #2 in command of the newsroom. Although her boss, the News Director, will tell you LISA is the one in charge.
In her quest to get the news on her station first, she is always fair and devoted to accuracy. She goes the extra mile to do the research, find a reporter who will tell the story the right way, and give the assignment. In this role, she acts as producer, news gatherer, fact finder, writer, assignment editor…and boss.
Lisa is dialed in 24/7 and has a natural nose for news. She books most of the interviews that air on Fox 32 Chicago. She monitors news outlets to quickly identify and assign coverage of breaking news stories and ensure content integrity.
Lisa has planned and led news coverage for major events in Chicago including election nights, World Series games, Stanley Cup coverage and celebrations for nearly 2 decades.
She is the winner of several awards through her work at WFLD Fox Chicago – including a Peabody Award, Edward R. Murrow award and several Emmys.
Grammy-nominated composer, producer, and instrumentalist, Bobby Wooten III, credits his family’s Wooten Choral Ensemble and his experiences at Stagg High School as his main influences and inspiration.
Bobby was in Stagg’s bands, musicals, Madrigal choir, and Youth and Government Program. A class project for AP U.S. History turned into a remarkable achievement and indicator of Bobby’s future success. Bobby wrote, produced and starred in “A Musical About the Civil War.” This historical musical predated “Hamilton” by several years and included a “rap version” of the Battle of Gettysburg.
After graduation in 2007, Bobby went on to Indiana University where he was a direct admit to the Jacobs School of Music. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Jazz Studies and Business.
Bobby is enjoying a successful career in music and has performed and recorded with many celebrity musicians including David Byrne, Jennifer Lopez, Mac Miller, Jennifer Hudson, Rick Ross and recently Carly Rae Jepsen. His Broadway credits include Moulin Rouge and the Emmy-nominated, Tony Award winning production of David Byrne’s “Utopia,” later filmed by Spike Lee. Composition and production credits include music for the TV series, Empire, and the Music Score for an upcoming film, "Rare Objects.”
Bobby teaches music at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute. He also has an internet series, “America, Learn Your History.” These are a series of short clips in which Bobby explains some of the unknown facts of history to try and set the record straight. His interest and knowledge of government and history send a unique message to young people that you can be a “rock star” and a scholar at the same time.