Founder & CEO, Rockford Buzz
BAMIT Academy Support Team Member, East High School
Bio and Professional Experience
I grew up just outside of Rockford on a family farm, graduating from Hononegah HS in 2002 and Rock Valley College in 2005 with an Associates in Arts. After RVC I worked in the IT field for 10 years doing sales, network design, project management, CRM development, and tower climbing.
In early 2013 I started a Facebook passion project called "Dream Rockford" which highlighted the positive news and events going on within our community. By late 2013 I had renamed it to "Rockford Buzz", formally incorporated, and started working on our website, rockfordbuzz.com. In September of 2014 we launched rockfordbuzz.com and by the end of the year I had left my career in IT to go full-time in business.
Rockford Buzz now serves as a free community resource featuring a calendar of events, positive news, and local business directory. It also functions as a low-cost advertising solution for our local small business/non-profit community. Along with the website we offer professional video production and digital marketing services to our clients.
It's been a wild and fun ride so far and we have a lot of great new things scheduled to launch this year!
You were recently voted “Community Member of the Year” at the Rockford Public Schools Academy Awards dinner. Could you tell us a little about your volunteer experience with the Rockford Public Schools?
I was introduced to the Academy program when Jefferson was piloting Freshman Seminar. A friend of mine, Scott, worked at the district and introduced me to Dave Carson who laid out the vision for the Academy Program within RPS205. He sold me right away and I jumped into East HS almost immediately. It's been a great experience working with the teachers, staff, and students within East. I really feel as though I'm making an impact and a difference in the lives of the kids in East BAMIT.
Can you share any significant reflections or specific moments that stand out from your membership within an Academy Support Team or in volunteering in the schools?
My most recent memory was during this past school year. I served as a mentor to a VEI 2(Virtual Enterprise International) student, Karina. Karina was developing her own entrepreneurial business concept and her assignment in class was to develop a full business plan. Karina is an AMAZING person and student and after praising her for how well her business plan had progressed since our last meeting she said something that really struck me. She thanked me for all the help, ideas, and insight I had given and told me that she wouldn't be anywhere as far along with this project if it wasn't for my help. It was a very humbling experience and really cemented that fact that I was making a difference in someone else's life.
How do you feel that community involvement within the schools has impacted Rockford Public School students?
I think the statistics speak for themselves when it comes to the impact the Academy program and AST members are having on students. AST members bring a unique perspective to the students, including real world application for what they're learning in the classroom. But it doesn't end with the students. It's been a lot of fun working with the teachers to help implement new projects and initiatives within the school.
As a new school year is just around the corner and the work of the Academies continues to evolve, why is it important for community members to continue to get involved, and do you have any suggestions on how they can get started?
If someone is serious about contributing to the future of our community, they need to be an AST member. The future of Rockford lies within our community's children and any way we can make a positive impact in their lives makes Rockford better as a whole. A person doesn't have to be highly dedicated or come to every meeting to contribute. All it takes is an hour of a single day to come in and speak with some students. A lot of people all doing a little makes for big changes within our community.