Ibrahim Abubakar, Chicago, Illinois, strives to represent positive Black males in Chicago high schools, showing his future students how powerful it can be to have more educators who are also people of color. On campus, he has been involved in Illinois Student Government, representing the college of Liberal Arts and Science, LAS Leaders, Golden Apple, worked as an intern for LAS 101, and has served as a tutor in Champaign District 4. He truly values the lessons of inclusion and diversity that he's learned at the University of Illinois and is humbled to be a part of the Homecoming Court.
Jake Akstins, Monee, Illinois, is pursuing an Actuarial Science major with a Business minor. Akstins is a social justice educator, a passion he practices through his Multicultural Advocate position at Nugent Hall. He is an ally, advocate, and organizer for equity. Akstins is an academic leader — he serves as the Actuarial Science Club’s President and has served as an Undergraduate Assistant for courses including CS 105, LAS 101, and FIN 230. Often, he can be found studying for actuarial exams. Akstins’ passions for math, insurance, and social justice create a unique mélange which he utilizes to enact positive change.
Lorianna M. Anderson, Chicago, Illinois, is a first-generation college student majoring in Social Work with a Pre-Law concentration. She prides herself on scholarship by being a James Scholar and Dean’s List Recipient. She’s heavily involved in community service locally and soon abroad through her upcoming service trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Currently, Anderson is a Senator in the Illinois Student Government, a mentor with the 100 Strong African American Retention initiative, and the Vice President of the Nu Delta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. She plans to go to law school next fall and will be honored to always call Illinois home.
Briana Banks, Olympia Fields, Illinois, is studying Integrative Biology with a minor in Chemistry. Over the summer, she interned at Weill Cornell Medical College and performed HIV research at Aaron Diamonds AIDS Research Center. On campus, Banks is President of the Alpha Nu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a research assistant at Carle Woese Institute of Genomic Biology, an LAS 101 Intern, and Academic Initiative Chair for Minorities in Pre-Medicine. Her passions include raising cultural awareness and serving as an advocate for the underrepresented and underserved. Beyond graduation, Banks plans on obtaining her MD to combat health disparities.
Maria Climaco, Arcola, Illinois, is a James Scholar majoring in Community Health with a minor in Chemistry. She enjoys educating students as an ACE-IT Facilitator and as an intern at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. Climaco has studied abroad in Italy and has served on a medical mission’s trip in Peru. She passionately contributes to her community as a Co-Coordinator of the 25th Annual Filipino Americans Coming Together Conference, a Research Assistant at the Infant Cognition Lab, and volunteer at Carle Foundation Hospital. She is truly grateful for this opportunity to represent Illinois on this year’s Homecoming Court.
Lauren De Vries, Western Springs, Illinois, is a Speech and Hearing Science Major in the College of Applied Health Sciences where she studies communicative differences in the Child Language and Literacy Laboratory. On campus, she has been involved with the Student Alumni Ambassadors, Phi Sigma Sigma, and currently works in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. Her next steps include pursuing a Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. De Vries is honored to be a member of the 2017 Homecoming Court and is exceptionally proud to be an Illini.
Francesca Fridman, Glenview, Illinois, is studying Communication and Public Relations. She has spent her four years with IlliniThon Dance Marathon raising money for St. John's Children's Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, served as the Vice President of Service for Panhellenic Council and President of Volunteer Illini Projects, and has worked for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Office of Volunteer Programs. She currently volunteers at the Champaign County Humane Society aiding with photography and social media. Following graduation, Fridman intends to start her career in public relations or corporate communications.
Spencer Haydary, Loves Park, Illinois, is studying psychology and communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. On campus, he has been involved in several organizations, serving as the Chief of Staff on Illinois Student Government, President of the Illini Democrats, and Chief of Staff for Model United Nations. On campus, he has advocated for accessible education for undocumented students, and promoted diversity and inclusion initiatives, among other things. He is also a master and national champion in Tae Kwon Do. Haydary is currently applying for Teach for America, and hopes to attend law school for civil rights law.
Jillian Kaehler, La Grange, Illinois, is studying Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. She hosts the University’s first ever morning show, Good Morning Illini. Kaehler is also a Student Development Representative for the University of Illinois Foundation, raising over $90,000 for scholarships and funds allocated across campus. During her time at Illinois, she has interned at the Pentagon, the FBI, and will spend the Spring 2018 semester at the U.S. Department of State. Kaehler’s parents both received their Master’s at Illinois, so carrying on her family’s Illini tradition, and having the opportunity to serve on Homecoming Court, is the highest honor.
Rob Klein, Northbrook, Illinois, is studying Agricultural Leadership Education. He splits his time between working as a Graf Intern in the Illinois Leadership Center, a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Erica Thieman studying the psychophysiology of wellness, and playing music, reading and writing. Whether teaching ukulele lessons, working on campus sustainability efforts or bringing students together to engage in intercultural dialogue, everything Klein does is to create a more self-actualizing, community-oriented campus. He wants to thank all the family, friends, faculty and staff that have allowed him to thrive on this campus.
Grace Merrett, Macomb, Illinois, is passionate about empowering others, promoting self-care, and spreading Illini spirit. When this spunky Recreation Management major isn’t advocating for improved student experience with Student Alumni Ambassadors and Applied Health Sciences James Scholar, Student Fee, Tuition Policy, and Campus Recreation Advisory Committees, she’s supporting the Greek community as Order of Omega Vice President, Greeks Support Homecoming President, and Alpha Epsilon Phi Cultural Chair. In addition, she has served as Director’s Intern and Zamboni Driver, among many other positions, within Campus Recreation, and plays clarinet in the Athletic Bands. Merrett is incredibly honored to represent this University she loves.
Monica Milkint, Hinsdale, Illinois, is majoring in English and Disability Studies (IPS) with a Business Minor. While on campus, she has been an active member and held leadership roles in the Student Alumni Ambassadors, Alpha Omicron Pi Fraternity, and the Student Advocacy Coalition. In the future, she hopes to become a disability rights attorney to help advocate for a more inclusive society that embraces all forms of diversity. Monica is proud to be an Illini and excited share her love for Illinois with the rest of the Court and her Illini family throughout the week.
Xavier Morgan, Chicago, Illinois, believes in the future of agriculture. Morgan is studying Agriculture Communications with a minor in Food & Environmental Systems. While promoting the importance of selfless giving, he serves in various roles including being a of member of the National Student Advisory Team for the Agriculture Future of America organization, Senator on the Illinois Student Government as well as the Co-Founder and Treasurer of UNIFY, a newly established organization that promotes food security, human livelihood and sustainable systems. Morgan is honored to be a part of the Illinois community and to serve on the homecoming court.
Benjamin Nagelhout, Lindenhurst, Illinois, is studying accountancy in the College of Business. On campus he is a Student Alumni Ambassador, midshipman in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, and a Business Peer Advisor. Additionally, he works for both the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. After graduation he will serve as an officer in the United States Marine Corps with plans to eventually enter the U.S. Intelligence Community. He is honored to have been selected for Homecoming Court and looks forward to continuing to represent Illinois both on and off campus.
Ciera Phillips, Chicago, Illinois, is studying History and Secondary Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She is a strong advocate for mentoring underprivileged youth and giving them the educational resources for academic achievement. She is a Golden Apple Scholar, a devoted member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and has served as the Vice President of the Minority Association of Future Educators. She has studied educational systems in both Hong Kong and Australia. Her domestic and international experiences with the University have granted her many opportunities to tackle the conversation of diversity and inclusion within education.
Ana Rodas, Fox Lake, Illinois, is studying Graphic Design with a minor in Art History in the College of Fine and Applied Arts. A proud Guatemalan immigrant, she has been actively involved in the Catholic Illini Retreats, I-CAUSE (Illinois Coalition Assisting Undocumented Students' Education) and Ambassador Program for FAA and the School of Art + Design. Her work experience comes from University Housing, Latino/a Studies Department, La Casa Cultural Latina and New Student Programs. Rodas will be applying to graduate school where she hopes to use her education to address social injustices through a design approach.
Stephanie Santo, Orland Park, Illinois, is a senior studying psychology and communication. Stephanie has been a president of NAMI on Campus and Delta Xi Phi. Additionally, she has been actively involved with the Communication Leaders and the Undergraduate Psychology Association/Psi Chi. She has interned with the Borgen Project and the Women’s Resource Center in order to promote justice and equity. She has also studied human rights at Columbia University. Upon graduating, Santo hopes to work in a lab before attending graduate school in social work or clinical psychology. She is very excited to be part of Homecoming Court this year.
Kaity Spangler, Bushnell, Illinois, strives to be an agriculture advocate and is passionate about educating the world about the importance of agriculture. She has interned for Illinois 4-H, the Illinois Corn Growers Association, and Farm Progress. Majoring in Agricultural Leadership and Science Education, Spangler is an active member of the Agricultural Education Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Collegiate FFA and PAS. She is on the Explore ACES Planning Committee and has coordinated Agricultural Education Day and the University of Illinois Greenhand Conference. Spangler says her family “bleeds orange and blue” so she is excited to represent the University on the Homecoming Court.
Fredeurika Toussaint, Tinley Park, Illinois, is pursuing a dual degree in Community Health and Psychology because her passions have driven her to want to be able to eliminate health disparities amongst many. Toussaint has devoted her undergraduate career towards social justice, inclusion, scholarship, and service. She is currently a Resident Advisor in University Housing, has served as a pageant coordinator, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and has led various student groups. Toussaint continues to expand her efforts for change in and out of her community. She is honored to be a member of the Homecoming Court.
Aleia Tripp, Chicago, Illinois, is studying Community Health. A recipient of the Bloom, David & Mary scholarship, she holds leadership as the vice president for the Pre Dental Club, as well as the mentor program director for I-LEAP. She previously interned at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, and has a passion for eliminating health disparities. Tripp looks forward to serving on the Provost’s Undergraduate Student Advisory Board and providing mentorship to underclassmen her senior year. She is grateful for the opportunities the University has provided her and is honored to serve on the Homecoming Court.