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Employee Spotlight: 2018 Trailblazer Nominees

2018 Trailblazer Nominees

2018 marks Search’s 50th year of service!  In honor of this very special milestone, Search chose to recognize one of our hardworking staff members with our signature Trailblazer Award.   

We held an agency-wide nomination and selection process that resulted in 22 heartfelt nominations from across the organization. The nominations were reflective of our incredible team and all of the creativity, energy, dedication and magic that our nominees bring to their roles each and every day.  Each nominee has made substantial difference on Search – through their years of service, impact of their work, or the way that they embody our mission and values.

Here are the 2018 Trailblazer Award nominees, as described by their nominators:

Amanda Sammons, Kensington/Adult Learning

“Amanda deserves this award because of her willingness to stay positive during an emergency situation or a crucial turning point in our individual’s lives. Along with her positive attitude, Amanda keeps a smile on her face as she moves swiftly throughout the building.”

Christine Zanca, Supported Living & Clinical Services

Christine websize

“Christine is a humble, hard-working, determined, caring, compassionate and dedicated leader and tireless advocate for the people we serve.  From building a dedicated team, to rolling up her sleeves and painting a bedroom, and everything in between….Christine routinely gives 100% on behalf of the individuals we serve.”

“Christine’s dedication is unparalleled. She leads by example of being the first one in and the last one out and makes any time necessary for her team. Christine is always willing to put the individuals we serve before any other needs.”

Jennifer Gledhill, Community Inclusion

Jennifer websize

“Jennifer has made community life for our folks MORE meaningful, MORE frequent, and MORE individualized. She does this always with a full heart and energy that makes the enthusiasm become contagious. Jennifer has not only brought meaning and laughter to the individuals lives at Search for 18 years, she has also brought meaning and laughter to staff’s lives.” 

“Jennifer is a visionary. She wants the lives of the adults at Search to be just as enriching as our own lives, which is why she is so passionate about community integration. Year after year she works hard to create new ideas for programs like Search for Adventure and for new partnerships with groups like the Still Point Theatre Collective and Wilderness Inquiry. ”

Jessica Dentzer, Intake & Self Directed Assistance

Jess websize

“Jess is an amazing manager and a wonderful work role model. Jess uses her knowledge and strong personal skills to get the job done for the individuals and families we serve. She cares tremendously and takes her role seriously.”

Jessica Gray, Supported Living

Jessica websize

“Jessica is consistently on top of everything that her job duties entail as a SLP coordinator. She goes out of her way to make sure the individuals needs are met and does so to their guardian’s liking. The extra mile is not the extra mile to her, it is her norm. Jessica is a true professional and embodies what a Search employee is.”

Kim Wilson, Colfax/Supported Living

Kim W websize

“Kim is a great lead! She knows the company well, has the experience to do the job, works well with others, and consistently seeks to learn. She cares for the individuals and treats everyone with the utmost respect.”

Maria Marinescu, Kildare/Supported Living

Maria M websize 

“Maria cares so much for the guys at Kildare and they truly see her as a part of their family. She provides them with structure, but in a nurturing and loving environment. Maria has worked for Search for 17(+) years and truly knows the Search way!”

Matt Sullivan, Kensington/Adult Learning

“Matt makes people feel welcome with his warm, gentle personality and sense of humor. He maintains a wealth of information about a person and shares this with staff so they can understand the many dimensions of an individual. Matt is a reliable person, great co-coworker, and there isn’t a job you won’t see him perform all for the betterment of the people we serve.”

“Matt is an awesome, loving, caring, team player. He has a great sense of humor and is a very dedicated and honest person. Matt never says “no” – he is always willing to help anyone with anything. He has such a big heart for life, for our individuals, and for his teammates.”

Melanie Ausbrook, Waukegan/Adult Learning

Melanie websize

“Melanie goes above and beyond every day at work. She goes out of her way to advocates for individuals and makes the individuals feel comfortable to speak with her anytime. Melanie makes me want to come to work every day. She makes me feel I matter at Search and embodies our mission.”

Milena Lupulovici, Kenilworth/Supported Living (and overtime in Des Plaines!)

Milena websize

“Milena is patient and kind with the individuals. She is able to keep up with the sometimes dizzying pace here at PAC. She is versatile, dependable, and responsible. She is also super positive – an encourager. She takes an interest in the lives of staff and individuals. She is a joy to work with!”

Raul Castillo, Lincoln/Adult Learning

Raul websize

“Raul has been a great asset to the agency.  He is always helpful when asked to take on other responsibilities as needed. He is supportive when it comes to individuals’ grooming and hygiene and does a great job in keeping the persons’ dignity when caring for them. His care is consistent and genuine.”

Ruxonda Teodorescu, Hamlin/Supported Living

“Ruxonda is a hard worker. She takes care of all from her soul. She attends all of the activities and cares for everyone with love. All of our members love her.”

Sarah Armour, Dempster/Ventures


“Since she joined JJ’s List, Sarah has been a committed and fierce disability advocate. She courageously confronts her own fears and anxieties and shares personal experiences and tips on how to navigate the world. Sarah is empathetic towards others with disabilities and always willing to support them. She is an intelligent and helpful coworker who is willing to take on any task asked of her.”

Sarah Meyerson, Des Plaines/Career Services

Sarah M websize

“Sarah is truly dedicated to matching client’s wants and abilities to the right job and employer. Her retention rate is one of the best I have known in my 20+ years of working in the field. She is outstanding in building relationships with her employers and meeting their needs. She has always gone the extra mile including coaching on weekends, very early mornings and late evenings to ensure her client’s success.”

Shawn Kirby, Physical Plant

Shawn websize

“For the past 20 years, Shawn has made significant contributions toward making Search one of the most highly regarded agencies in Illinois. Shawn has a keen understanding of how the care and set up of Search’s environments directly impacts the comfort and well-being of participants and staff.”

“Shawn is absolutely fantastic with the individuals. He is always looking for products and items that would best suit the individual’s needs. He is fun and makes coming to work enjoyable. No matter how busy he is, Shawn always takes the time to stop and say a simple hello.”

Ultimately, Tina Zemen, Visibility Arts Manager, was selected as the 2018 Trailblazer Award winner.

Tina Zemen, Visibility Arts

2018 Trailblazer Award Winner

Tina websize

“Tina empowers the people in her programs in ways many of them never expected to feel. She has created ways for people to express themselves, to deal with positive and negative emotions, to earn money from their expression and to appreciate beauty in the world.”

“Tina has a gift for working with each of our artists to unleash their inner potential. She has been instrumental in creating new inclusion opportunities for our participants. Tina is a versatile team player and embodies grace under pressure.”

“Tina has been able to combine her life passion of creative expression with the mission of Search to create something that has been truly life changing. Tina has become a leader that epitomizes grace, tenacity, integrity, empathy, creativity and her dedication leaves us all feeling like Search is a better place because of her.”

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