Danny Jaquez

Jaquez Named Waubonsee “Fab 40”

For his courageous tenacity in the face of adversity, Waubonsee Community College has named Danny Jaquez, seen here, as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.
Sugar Grove — Danny Jaquez has not let serious obstacles stand in his way. Critically injured in 2000, Jaquez worked tirelessly to continue the pursuit of his dreams, including being awarded the prestigious Lincoln Academy Student Laureate Award. For his courageous tenacity in the face of adversity, Waubonsee Community College is proud to honor him as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.

As part of the college’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, Waubonsee is honoring 40 alumni and students who embody the mission, vision and values of the college. These individuals represent the diversity of Waubonsee’s students and the college district, as well as the diversity of the college’s mission as a comprehensive community college.

A graduate of Oswego High School, Jaquez worked hard throughout high school and went off to college at Northern Illinois University (NIU). He was only a freshman at NIU when a severe injury left him with a fractured neck and vertebrae. In an instant, his life was completely changed. After intensive and extensive physical therapy, Jaquez began to think about returning to school, eventually enrolling at Waubonsee in early 2002.

“I had been in the hospital for some time and was looking to get back to school,” he said. “I had several friends at Waubonsee already. I was still going through physical therapy, and, at first, it was kind of awkward being back at school.”

Returning to school after his convalescence was not easy, but Jaquez found Waubonsee’s faculty and staff eager to help him readjust to life as a student. Jaquez singled out Access Center Counselor Heidy Kindelin and Student Activities Manager Cherie Westfall in particular, calling Westfall “my mom away from home.”

“[Westfall] really took care of me and made me feel at home. I owe a lot to her,” he said. “My Waubonsee experience would not have been the same without her.”

Prior to coming to Waubonsee, Jaquez did not participate in many student activities. That all changed because of Westfall’s urging.

“She told me about the student government and told me to get involved,” he said. “Pretty soon, people would say that they shouldn’t ask me what I was involved in, but what I wasn’t involved in.”

Jaquez’s list of extracurricular activites at Waubonsee is truly exhaustive. He was the college’s student trustee for one year; executive vice president of Student Senate; president of Latinos Unidos; a member of the African Cultural Alliance; a member of the Womyn for Womyn Alliance; on the Curriculum Council; a member of the Student Conduct Board; part of the college’s Vision Statement Team; delegate to the Illinois Community College Board Student Advisory Committee; delegate to the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Advisory Committee; a volunteer peer tutor; a Big Brothers/Big Sisters youth mentor; and part of Pueblos Unidos de Durango en Chicago.

Academically, Jaquez also excelled while at Waubonsee. He was a member of Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society, the Psi Beta Psychology Honors Society, the All Illinois Academic Team and was a nominee for the All USA Academic Team. On the Dean’s List and President’s List, Jaquez completed numerous honors courses, graduating with honors with associate degrees in business and liberal arts.

Jaquez’s parents only had a sixth grade education when they emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. They both later earned their GEDs after completing GED preparation classes through Waubonsee.

“My parents were instrumental in my academic success,” he said. “They’ve always stressed the importance of academics. Although they didn’t have the opportunity to pursue academics, they’ve worked their entire life so that my siblings and I could go to school.”

Jaquez’s greatest academic honor, however, was receiving the coveted Lincoln Academy Student Laureate Award, which is presented annually for excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities to one student from each four-year institution in Illinois and only one student from the community college system.

“Waubonsee helped me to believe in myself,” he said. “I am capable of achieving greater things — mainly because of the people who influenced me there. Waubonsee is great because of the people who are a part of the college community.”

Coming full circle, after graduating from Waubonsee, Jaquez returned to NIU, where he is completing his Operations Management Information Systems degree. He expects to graduate in December and plans to work in the accounting field.

“Because of my experience at Waubonsee, I want to pursue a career where I can contribute to the community,” he said.

Jaquez continues his commitment to extracurricular activities and academic excellence at NIU. He received NIU’s Presidential and Centennial scholarships and has served as president of the Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, as an NIU student senator and as vice president of the NIU Student Association Senate.

Even though his path to Waubonsee was unexpected, Jaquez cherishes his time at the college.

“When I first got to Waubonsee, I only wanted to hurry up and finish,” he said. “At the end of my time at Waubonsee, I didn’t want to leave.”