North Central College - Naperville, IL

Jim Owczarski '02

Jim Owczarski was honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) for investigative journalism. His story, “Who is Montaous Walton?,” uncovered a Milwaukee man posing as a baseball prospect who was defrauding legitimate agents. Owczarski’s story also uncovered falsified documents, which led to an investigation by Major League Baseball and eventually an arrest. He was selected as one of 10 finalists along with writers from USA Today, the New York Times, Yahoo! Sports and Los Angeles Times.

Kevin Vodak '96

Kevin Vodak is litigation director of CAIR-Chicago, a nonprofit grassroots membership organization that works to promote an accurate image of Islam and Muslims in America. Prior to this position, he worked at small law firms for eight years. After graduating from North Central, Vodak earned his J.D. degree from DePaul University College of Law.

Shelley Crawford '07

Shelley Crawford performed in her first solo cabaret “Tellin’ It Like It Is” at Davenport’s Piano Bar March 11 and 18. The hour-long show featured a variety of rare musical theatre songs about life choices and self-discoveries. She was also choreographing a steam-punk hip-hop version of “The Wiz” at Downers Grove South High School and was assistant choreographer for Lincoln-Way Central High School’s production of “Anything Goes” in spring 2013.

Kirk Overstreet '00

Kirk Overstreet accepted a position as assistant dean of adjunct faculty support at the College of DuPage. He is the second of two new assistant deans hired to work with the College’s adjunct faculty members. In his new position, he and a fellow assistant dean will work on adjunct faculty recruitment, orientation, professional development and evaluation. Prior to working for the College of DuPage, he served as associate director of human resources in the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Kristina Kaufman M '08

Kristina Kaufman M ’08 is an instructor and doctoral student at Illinois State University. She recently published her first picture book for children, “I Soar,” which is available online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Kaufman is working on her next picture book manuscript while taking classes toward a doctorate degree in education. She is also seeking funding to support dissertation research on the partnership between businesses and secondary level education to equip graduates with 21st century skills.

Thomas Smith M '02

Thomas Smith M ’02 was named social science/world language division head at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, IL. Smith has taught social science courses for 15 years at John Hersey, Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, IL, and Elk Grove High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from North Central and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northeastern Illinois University.

Debra Behrens '97

Debra Behrens was named development director of College Possible Twin Cities. She will oversee strategic fundraising and communication plans to build community support for the mission and programs of College Possible. Behrens also serves on the board of the Stevens Square Community Organization. She previously held positions as the director of development for the Animal Humane Society and associate development officer with the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota.

Aubrey Pauly Secrest '07

Aubrey Pauly Secrest is owner and founder of Bride Meets Wedding, Inc. which can be found at BrideMeetsWedding. com. She began the online bridal resource website in March 2012. The website is aimed at couples in the Galena/tri-state and Rockford areas looking to host destination weddings and have access to vendors and information when planning from afar. Secrest also recently launched an online bridal consignment site called, which allows women from across the country to resell or purchase gently used gowns, décor, accessories and more.

Amy Pietras Newman '00

Amy Pietras Newman received the 2013 Utah Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award from the Utah Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (UAHPERD). She teaches elementary physical education and middle school adventure physical education at Weilenmann School of Discovery in Park City, UT. Newman recently completed her first 50-mile trail race and plans on more races in the future. She and her husband Aaron reside in Park City with their dogs.

Karen Larson Graves M '03

Karen Larson Graves M ’03 is director of the Chester P. Sutton Community Center and East Central Illinois Mass Transit District. She previously served as a technology/ computer coordinator for Paris Union School District 95. The center helps senior citizens fill out government forms and assists with other services. She has taught, worked in the private sector and owned her own business. Outside of work, she operates the Save a Mutt Dog Shelter in Chrisman, IL.