I was born and raised on the north side of Joliet in a four-room bungalow with my sister and mother. As the son of a union carpenter and the grandson of a Joliet small business owner, I was taught a strong appreciation for the value of hard work and perseverance.
After graduating from Joliet Township High School, I juggled several minimum-wage jobs to make my way through Joliet Junior College. In 1999, I was elected by my peers to serve as Student Trustee on the Joliet Junior College Board. The next year, I was elected to serve more than one million community college students statewide on the Illinois Community College Board.
I continued to save, borrow, and work part-time in order to earn a bachelor's degree in Communication from the University of Illinois. Having served statewide and received unprecedented feedback regarding the state of leadership at Joliet Junior College, I decided to enter the seven-county race for a seat on the Joliet Junior College Board of Trustees. In April of 2001, I was elected as the youngest person to ever serve on the Board. I served on the Board for six years, spending two terms as Chairman, and led the college through a historic search for a new President. In December of 2006, I was appointed to the Troy Township Board as a Trustee. I served a two-year term and won re-election in 2009.
In addition to my service on school and township boards, I have been active in many local causes, serving on the Boards of the Forest Park Community Center, the Spanish Community Center, and Joliet/Will County Project Pride. I am a past President of both the Joliet Exchange Club (two terms) and the Channahon-Minooka Chamber of Commerce. Community service is a passion that began for me early in life and continues today.
Early on, I volunteered as an American Red Cross Disaster Area Responder for the Will County area, providing food, clothing, and shelter to people displaced by tragedies, such as house fires and the flood of 1996.
For four years, I have worked as an Animal Cruelty Investigator with the Will County Humane Society, an experience that prepared me for two weeks volunteering in 2005 to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina and the animals left behind by the storm. The group delivered supplies and helped reunite owners with their lost pets.
I have also volunteered to ensure the success of several festivals in the greater Joliet community. Most notably, I serve on the committees to organize and coordinate downtown Joliet's KidzFest and the Spanish Community Center's Family Fiesta, as well as the Forest Park Community Center's Bill Ray Memorial Golf Outing.
My dedication to the community has not gone unnoticed; in 2007, I received the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2008, I was named Young Professional of the Year by the Joliet Area Young Professionals, becoming the youngest person to ever receive the honor.