exterior of west side of Huff Hall

I-LEAP Honors Outstanding Students

AHS E-News April 2021

The Mannie L. Jackson Illinois Academic Enrichment and Leadership Program celebrated six I-LEAP Scholars this year with awards recognizing academic achievement and contributions to their I-LEAP and campus communities.

Emerging Leader Award

head shot of Abigail Keasler

Abigail Keasler
Abigail plans to become a speech-language pathologist after graduating from the Department of Speech and Hearing Science in 2024. She first would like to work as a traveling SLP, and work with children with disabilities later in life. This semester, Abigail has been volunteering with the Young Olympians of Champaign County Program at the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club in Champaign. She serves as a group leader for the program, which focuses on promoting the Olympic values of determination, friendship, courage, and equality through physical, educational, and cultural activities. As a virtual volunteer last fall with Hope Meadows, a residential community in Rantoul, she kept the Facebook page up to date with COVID-19 related news and provided technology assistance to older residents.


Excellence in Transition Award

head shot of Nadia Hernandez

Nadia Hernandez
After graduating next year with a degree in Speech and Hearing Science, Nadia will pursue a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She plans to work with children and parents on early language development. She also hopes to work with members of the Deaf community who choose to pursue spoken language. She completed an associate’s degree at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, IL. Nadia became interested in research last fall while transcribing audio files for a study of voice fatigue in bilingual speakers. This semester, she joined Dr. Marie Moore Channell’s Intellectual Disabilities Communication Lab, which focuses on enhancing the social and academic success of individuals with disabilities such as Down syndrome by understanding how they learn to communicate.
A Dean’s List honoree, Nadia also received a Barbara Williams Hodson Scholarship this year.


Mannie L. Jackson Award

head shot of Julia Eichenbaum

Julia Eichenbaum
Julia is a first-year student in Kinesiology. She hopes to mentor young athletes in the future as a physical therapist. Julia is a member of the University of Illinois women’s soccer team. When she is at home in New Jersey, she serves as a referee for recreational youth and club soccer teams in the area. She also has been learning more about her future profession by shadowing physical therapists in her home town. She led her high school soccer team to back-to-back state championships in 2017 and 2018, and to the state championship finals in 2020. She has been honored by United States Youth Soccer as a Top Goal Scorer and a National League EDP Conference Spring Showcase Best XI Standout Player. She received the 2020 US Navy Distinguished Athlete Award and the 2020 Outstanding Art Student of the Year Award.


Outstanding Senior Award

head shot of Johana Machuca

Johana Machuca
After graduating in May, Johana will begin graduate studies toward a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Rush University. As a future bilingual speech-language pathologist, one of her goals is to mitigate the social, economic, and cultural disparities that can negatively impact families seeking services. As a Graf Intern with the Illinois Leadership Center, Johana facilitates leadership education workshops, assists with curriculum design, and leads team meetings. She oversees event planning as president of the Illinois Promise Council is secretary of the American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Club. She has volunteered with Chesterbrook Academy pre-school and the Rantoul City School District, for which she translated the parent-student handbook into Spanish. She also is a member of the Child Language Lab in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science, where she assists with research on minimally verbal children with autism. A Dean’s List honoree and Edmund J. James Scholar, Johana also received a Barbara Williams Hodson Scholarship this year and previously received the I-LEAP Peer Mentor of the Year Award.



Peer Mentor of the Year Award

head shot of Anastasia Adjei

Anastasia Adjei
Anastasia will complete her degree in Community Health with a focus on Health Education and Promotion in 2023. Her goal is to become a physician who advocates for her patients and mentors minority students to be successful within the healthcare profession. Anastasia has volunteered in the maternal-child health unit of OSF Healthcare in Champaign. As a Wellness Ambassador on campus, she has helped educate students about COVID-19. Mentored by Dr. Minakshi Raj in the Department of Kinesiolgy and Community Health, Anastasia is researching whether long-term care facilities are inclusive when it comes to the meals they serve to their patients. Anastasia is a Dean’s List honoree and 2020 LeaderShape participant.


Research Scholar Award

head shot of Emily Williams

Emily Williams
Emily graduates in May with a degree in Community Health focused on Health Planning and Administration. She plans to work for a year within a public health setting before applying to accelerated nursing programs. She also hopes to pursue a Master of Public Health degree, and intends to work as a Public Health Nurse. As a junior, Emily assisted with research on events sponsored by sexual violence prevention centers across Illinois in the Department of Clinical and Community Psychology’s Action Research and Collaboration Lab. This semester, she is assisting with research on the correlation between childhood body mass index and media use for the Family Resiliency Center’s STRONG Kids program. She also has been a contact tracer for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District since July.
Emily is a Dean’s List honoree and Edmund J. James Scholar.